Dissolving LTRs and knowing

Well jeez.. I thought, upon listening to my friend tell the latest sad tale in the pub.  I wonder if I’m more messed up from my general dearth of serious long term relationships, or if are they by having them and screwing them up so royally?  Realising this was a self-involved moment happening inside my head, I refocused on what he was saying.

It seems that there’s a time between the ages of, say, 25 and 35 when shit has to get real in long term relationships (LTRs).  Females invariably take the lead in wanting to reproduce and men get scared.  They either grasp the nettle and realise this woman probably / definitely is the one.  Or they don’t.  Confidence can falter at these crunch decision times; paralysing fear isn’t uncommon.  When one party doesn’t know or has cause to doubt, all the cards can come crashing down.

Over the past few months I’ve learned that two couples who I and most of the world considered to be solid couples of a good number of years, were actually no longer couples at all.  Yes they lived together, maybe even slept in the same bed from time to time and who knows what else, had been going out for around ten years previously; but in their heads at least, they were no longer a couple.

Case One is the captain sensible of our school friendship group, one of these guys who always seemed to glide pretty effortlessly through life, education, a career and love.  As far back as school he was pegged as the guy who could be depended on to get married and settle down first.  They got a mortgage together reasonably early, then nothing else happened.  She was awkward to be around.  Nice enough, but flighty and unpredictable.  “ISSUES” almost imperceptibly stamped above her sunken defensive eyes.  After a year or so living together under the pretence that all was rosy, they’re now fumbling off in separate directions.

Case Two was only revealed to me yesterday in the pub.  He is possibly the most hypersensitive and indecisive guy I know, whilst being handsome, clever, able and acidly funny – happy to dish out but rarely take.  They also got together young: he in his early 20s, her in her mid 20s.  With a couple of years on him, she seemed to care less for marriage but has been crying out for kids for some time.  He has been indecisive, nervous, scared.  In more ways than one it requires a set of balls he’s never demonstrated.  Her clock is now ticking with more urgency.  He has admitted to depression but is only just beginning to seek help.  Now it transpires that in their own heads they too haven’t been a proper couple for several months.  They are, my friend believes, on the cusp of probable separation with tangible consequences.

While the guy of the latter couple never won my sympathy and from my limited experience in recent years I’ve often considered him hugely selfish, these are all fundamentally decent people.  Of all parties, it’s him I fear for the most.  From a privileged background, he’s arguably always been used to a bubble of protection, mollycoddling, mothering and dependency.  Not having the courage of my convictions and giving up too easily is something I loathe myself for, but this guy makes me look like some kind of Richard Branson impresario.

It seems to me that rational, clear-cut decisions need to be taken in LTRs, however difficult they are to make – although I’m clearly no expert in such matters.  Otherwise the festering stench of malaise can become heartbreaking and send people mad.

“How do you ever know?” is a regular question, one memorably discussed with another friend (and represented somewhere in these pages) before he separated from his wife and emigrated to Australia with the female subject of an office affair.  He was more confident of knowing after being intoxicated by everything about a new colleague, than he was when he was obliged to marry his young wife.

*

We parted outside the pub in the early evening, my comparatively happy married friend and I.  His reasoning about knowing was typically pragmatic and well-reasoned:  I knew I never wanted to be apart from her for the rest of my life.  It sounded so simple.

He hadn’t been persuaded to buy a few more minutes by asking his wife to simply pick him up from the pub, steadfast about walking back across town to meet her at the multi-storey car park.  It reflected his easy-going nature and antipathy towards any kind of confrontation: something we’ve sporadically argued hard about over the years.  Maybe his way was best.

We mumbled halfheartedly about dinner sometime, took a brief manly clinch and pushed each other away before fuzzily pacing in opposite directions.

It was a sorry state, those disintegrating relationships, but probably not untypical of people our age.  As our friendship group begins to nibble into the 30s, I came back to my earlier question and wondered at our relative baggage.  Is it harder to be optimistic about domestic life after going through a traumatic failed LTR of nearly a decade, or harder having been alone for more or less that whole time?  Is less baggage more baggage, or is it less baggage?

I was drunk.

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