The Expense of Joy

I Still Believe In Love

Aug 8, 2011 by

There ought to be some joy in all this.

Dating in middle adulthood is all confusion.  Everyone I meet has been wounded, one way or another.  The formerly married endured divorce, the never married endured someone who left or whom they had to leave.  Everyone fears vulnerability.  They question whether the benefits of partnership are worth the potential expense.

I’m not saying dating in young adulthood is any kind of picnic by comparison.  I remember it as an anxious, stressful endeavor; the part of my life that causes me to say things like, “Every boyfriend I ever had, except for my late husband, made me miserable”. 

I did, in fact, marry Dave because he didn’t drive me crazy.  He made me calmer.  I saw this when I picked up a journal I’d written in my early 20s.  Reading from start to finish made it crystal clear that I was genuinely happier without one of those young boyfriends.  My life was perfectly fine, except with them in my life.

I thought I had that figured out, but today I explained it to my housemate and she asked a very reasonable question.  “If you value autonomy and freedom above all else, why do you want a partner?”.

I can only answer with an example.  My late husband single handedly influenced my adult life more than any other person I ever met.  He taught me how to be calm, he provided emotional stability from which I was able to launch myself into graduate school and a successful career, he stood strong in our marriage while I grappled with my identity and independence.  He taught me how to live a life not driven by anxiety and he taught me how to accept disaster with grace.  He taught me how to live and die with a patient dignity, unlike anything I had ever imagined.

I’m not saying everyone should seek a long term relationship, but my experience was that a good partnership facilitates a lot of joy.  Despite the struggles, the traumas and the tragedies, a good partner helps me grow like nothing else.  A good partner helps me find a balance between autonomy and obligation.

It’s like my friend Beth used to say, “We show up, we burn brightly, and when the moment is over, we step back gracefully.” 

I claim the freedom to step back gracefully and accordingly have some things to say.  To all my exes, I wish you the best and please excuse me if I don’t think about you anymore.  To Current Potential Boyfriend #1, please forgive me if I focus on the pleasure of getting to know you while declining to own your fears.

To Dave, thank you for breaking down so many of my barriers to joy.  I know you’ll be fine with it if I carry your vibrancy with me and leave our conflicts and traumas behind.  I remember what you said.

“If there is fun to be had, it’s worth the expense”.

Photo credit: By Dave Flarsheim, who left a legacy of beauty retrieved from the ordinary

About the Author

Bonnie Simon Has Written 35 Articles For Us!

I am an urban homesteader in Colorado Springs, CO where I raise chickens, make my own yogurt and am learning to grow some food, all within sight of downtown in a 1950s era neighborhood. I am starting a small business designed to fill the gap between local farms and local dinner tables.
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