Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Plan B

There’s a long-running joke and it goes something like this: Every woman needs a man who can change the tyres of her car, can make love to her like a rockstar, can look after her when she’s ill, has enough money to leave her in his will. And she hopes they never meet each other.

Every person has a Plan A. Meet someone, fall in love, get married, have kids, be the cool grandparent with adoring families who all get together to do the chicken dance on every wedding anniversary.

But there are some sobering truths.

Many studies state categorically that 98% (I’m not kidding, that’s the real number) of married women routinely think about exiting their marriages. These marriages are typically to “good guys”, the earners, the keepers, the ones who don’t screw around, don’t do drugs, don’t beat up on the people who love them. Close on the heels of the guilt is the whispered admission, “I wish he’d just have an affair!” to give them the easy get-out-of-marriage-free card.

Then there are the men. In an article I read today, it became clear that men find themselves at the disadvantaged end of the spectrum when it comes to having an emotionally open conversation with women – incidentally, a critical requirement within relationships. Most of the guys I know think that women speak in some kind of code, and the pressure to ‘guess’ at the real meaning is just too much. “Why can’t they just chill out and stop being so angry all the time?” is a common thought about the significant woman around them. The easy cop out is agreeing, apologizing and hoping like hell they dodged a bullet.

So Plan A lately seems to be floundering on a global scale. The truth seems to be that marriages and relationships have anger and contempt built into them because they are tied in so deeply to the expectations we have of them. We want that one romantic relationship to have great sex, great conversations, great friendship, great intellectual stimulation, great sitting-silently-reading-different-books-while-lightly holding-hands intimacies, great social skills in awkward family situations, great dependability even in ER conditions, great understanding, etc. It’s a lot, and more often than not, people are living on a fraction of what they think they should be getting. It’s a good case for anger, disappointment or just plain disgust with how things aren’t.

And yet, the solution seems simple. Just like we go to different food groups to get the total nourishment we need, we should, and often do, go to different people to get our spirits the healthy dose of love we desire (along with an inordinate amount of guilt). It’s not ideal, but the ideal is fiction.

When I look around myself, I’m grateful to find that I have people who fulfill all my needs. I have women whom I trust with my emotions, I have men whom I trust with my sexuality, and both to cater to my intellectual needs. And in between those edges of my spectrum of human relationships, I have almost all the people I need to keep me... satisfied and interested. I love them all deeply, uniquely and for different reasons.

But here’s my reality. I’ve been voluntarily single for a long time and even though I enjoy physical intimacies, I’m through wanting to casually hook up any more. I know now that when I’m with someone, I want it to mean something. I want it to be real, I want to be sure that he’s as excited about seeing me as I him. I want to know that I can count on him to be there for me – a guarantee if you will. I want a real relationship otherwise it messes with my head - and that's not acceptable anymore.

But I don’t want to be the ball and chain intent on trying to live up to a relationship model that increasingly doesn’t seem to work. I want my own space and my own downtime to nourish myself as I will so I have something to give back to whoever happens to be in my life and deserving of my affection. And I want to do all this without dealing with the baggage of previous hurts that we all carry around as our personal insecurity blankets particularly when the word “SEX” shows up.

(Note: Need to apply to have “Sex” renamed as “cuddles” or just have it broadly acknowledged as physical demonstration of affection – more on that later. I think things may calm down a bit after that.)

A possible solution? Weekly cuddle schedules.

So here’s my question: How would a relationship chart with the following rules work?

a) Each cuddle partner is given one day of the week – say Monday.

b) The time starts from 2 pm on Monday till 12 noon on Tuesday.

c) During that time, the relationship can be about anything - movies, dinner, wild monkey sex, aches and pains and hospital trips, grocery shopping, get togethers with friends, arguments about which EPL team deserves to win, discussion about the state of humanity, etc. But each partner has to commit to that time to be spent with the other.

d) That day belongs to that partner regardless of whether the partner can make it or not. On the flip side, there will be no substitutions, no interchange of days.

e) Full disclosure and transparency in all dealings is essential.

f) Each partner will know that there are other partners on other days but no specifics can be divulged. There will be no conversations about comparisons – a courtesy extended to all partners.

g) Partners will be referred to as “friends” when in public. Labels are difficult to navigate.

h) Partners’ eligibility to the above relationship will depend entirely on them being “single”. Membership to the club will automatically cease when either partner finds someone they want to attempt Plan A with.

Everyone wants a Plan A. But as we grow older and find ourselves increasingly surrounded by the debris of failed relationships and broken spirits, maybe all we can cobble together is a Plan B from the remains of shattered dreams of anniversary chicken dances.

It has its flaws. But at least it’s something.