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.


Anonymous said...

I believe Plan A is assuredly attainable and Plan B - in it's millions of variations, is a copout.

In order to be in a relationship that is truly meaningful, one needs to put away childish things like pride and whole-heartedly admit that you need the other person. What makes them the "significant other" is their absolute significance. This means that, at all costs, above everything else, you are admitting that they need to be a huge part of your equation, for now, and for the foreseeable future. Now, if that ends up shortchanging your need for "space" or privacy a bit, you would need to be willing to treat that as a small price to pay for what you fare getting in return. In my opinion, in every "real" relationship, you win some, you lose some, but in the overall scheme, the "deal", if you will, is more than acceptable because you are gaining much more than you are losing.

Simple truth is that just as you are seeking Plan A, so are others. And the moment two people can look into each other's eyes and admit this need, and then fully commit to fulfilling each others needs and desires, you have the beginning of something special.

Don't give up on Plan A. It is out there. And it will seek you out, if you allow it.

Searcher said...

Thanks Anon, I really want to believe you, I really do... Trust me, I write movies and a lot of my income depends on many people holding on to this belief... But stories aside, we all know not everyone gets their "one" (Washington Post "The Single Life" by Ellen McCarthy - the link was too long), we know that "the one" is sometimes the first among many "ones", etc. Speaking as someone for whom Plan A hasn't worked out yet, I'm wondering what could be a possible Plan B (and feel free to offer alternate solutions) that could look after my sanity as well as sexuality...

A-Girl said...

I regularly read your posts (you know that from my comments).

Why has plan A not worked out for you? I know that question has a long answer - but do some math for me please and tell me how many times (what % of times), out of your many relationships have YOU been the one to push the guy away/dump him/cheat on him/ etc?

What is your answer? 60%? 70%? 20%?

Searcher said...

Ah A-girl, has Plan A worked out for you? I hope it has... though going by our last few interactions, I doubt it. And that has nothing to do with how many times you dumped the other guys, or why, because whatever it was, it sprang from the fundamental belief that he wasn't the "right" one.

Plan B is essentially about questioning the widespread (and socially acceptable) belief of the "one" and considering the possibility of being fulfilled by the "many".

After all, it seemed to work out for Draupadi and the Pandavas :)

A-Girl said...

Well NO, plan A has not worked out for me- thanks for pointing it out.

My point is we should ("we" includes me too btw) be a little more introspective and try n figure just why are we single despite being, sexy, hot, funny and smart. It would be easier to explain if we were ugly or dull. But we are not. The answer may lie in the following - May be *some* of the stereotypes they associate with us singles are true indeed. Specifically (1) She is too picky (2) She is too independent.

The first is perhaps true in my case, and the second in yours.

I have in my life *really* wanted to be with just about 4-5 men. The rest 30 or so- liked me, but I didn't fancy them. I can't blame anyone for the guys 'I' pushed away, can I?

In your case (and part of the reason for my singledom) - you have 'room-mate' issues. I can not live with roommates anymore, I think I am too old to live with roommates for god sakes! I think what we want is our own big living-room, our own kitchen, own bathroom, but are wiling to pay only half the rent. That's a part of what some single independent women envision an ideal relationship to be. They don't want to share space, compromise, adjust or change, but expect the guy to "accept me for who I am"....yes that would be fantastic! but Utopian. Perhaps the only people who accept us for who we are, are parents (despite most families being dysfunctional).

I am realizing as I grow wiser is that unfortunately, having a lasting committed relationship is very much like living with roommates when we were in first year of college. We 'chose' a buddy we like to room with, but then we *needed* to adjust to his habits, make room for him, divide duties, share space, tolerate his quirks - if we wanted that arrangement to work. Giving anything less to this arrangement meant living alone.

In fact my unscientific research has shown that among all my friends, the one who have the most loving and stable marriages are the ones who were once fantastic roommates when they were single.

Searcher said...

I think we're all control freaks. We honestly believe that if we could "fix" ourselves somehow, we'd get a partner. The fact is, no matter how much you fix yourself, you'll meet a lot of people you won't be a fit for - and the person you ARE a fit for? The variables of geography, age, timing, etc are so many that that's why it's always a miracle when two people who love and are attracted to each other do find each other.

In my case, yes, I'm independent, yes, I have space issues but if these things seem like stumbling blocks to someone, then the chappie deserves to trip up.

My Plan B suggestion is actually like your roommate analogy. But instead of having just one roommate and one house, whom you're committed to, and who is committed to you in terms of rent and groceries for the whole week, I'm saying rent the apartment for one day of the week. Give each other physical space, and the freedom to invite whoever else you want over the rest of the days. So long as the house is clean when you get there, and you get to have your laughs, and true affection while you're there... Does it matter?

A-Girl said...

"Miracle" is the perfect choice of word for describing it. When I do see couples that are truly happy 'inside', the ones who have known each other 'forever', and are still in love, happily married, lucky enough to travel the world together, give each other the right amount of space, miss each other when away, respect one another, are free from insecurities - I see that as nothing short of a miracle. I tell them how they should not take this for granted and should realize that they are god's chosen ones. How fortunate does one have to be 1st to find love, and then to actually have a dream wedding and marry the person you love living with. Its like hitting a jackpot, or winning a billion $ lottery, doesn't happen to all of us - and they make me jealous no end. And that's because there is nothing special about him or her per se, they just have luck on their side! And that is why it makes me sad and angry when these people (friends) ask me- So, why are you still single? assholes.

Searcher said...

Aww... Next time, you should tell this to whoever asks..

And tell them to suck it.

A-Girl said...

...about your plan I would love to indulge in this imagination. In fact I have seriously had long discussions about this with my friends....actually hoping that the government would one day (in my time) make Polyandry legal :) . I really envy those Saudi men sometimes.

When I am single (which I ve been lately), I firmly believe that humans are animals, and thus by nature it is unnatural for us to be monogamous. Monogamy is unnatural and artificially imposed on us (for the sake of kids as we all know). I exactly share your views on having multiple partners and space. I day dream about a life when I will have a cuddle partner for talking science and politics with. Another, a hockey player to go out with on late night dates (he will be tall and big so that he can protect me :-). A poet, an artist, a guy who is romantic and brings me flowers, and another one who is a bad boy. The only catch is that in my plan B, all these men are monogamous and faithful to ME :-). Now THAT plan B seems next to impossible. So I have two plans, Plan A - which is purely at the mercy of luck, Plan B- which is next to impossible.

I have recently started thinking of Plan C- settling. Settling for a 'nice enough' guy. Though I think about it, I know I will never have the courage to take that leap. If I settle I will have someone to spend NY's eve with, my bills will be halved and will not have to explain to people why I am single. That's the only 3 benefits of it. But I know I will be very sad inside. Equally sad as I sometimes get being single, minus my freedom...and yes boring sex! Na na bad idea, cancel!

And there is Plan D- the default, if the status quo is not changed....old but sexy single, living alone in my apartment with my cat.

A-Girl said...

ok just saw your post.... Loved the huffingtonpost link you sent...for me point # 4 and # on! Thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

ok, I read the huffingtonpost article and here are my two cents...

RE: 1. I'm not ready.
No one's ready. ever. Nothing is ever "best" or "amazing". Superlatives are wholly unrealistic. No amount of "network spinal analysis" or any other mumbo-jumbo spiritual adjustment/alignment will help you get there. In the end, it's about having the courage to take the plunge, and faith that everything will well.

RE: 2. I'm not willing to settle.
Accepting less than 10 out of 10 in a mate is not "settling", instead it is embracing that everyone is less than perfect and that is what makes us that special unfinished canvas. We are all wonderful works-in-progress. And another thing, there is no such thing as a "successfully negotiated conflict". I'm surprised that she thinks that is possible at all. Every conflict shortchanges both parties, no one ever comes out unscathed. And your battle scars are just as much your own fault as anyone else's.

RE: 3. I haven't found the right partner.
I'm with A-Girl on this one. How many reasonably suitable partners has she already rejected? 5? 10?
That's akin to the person who says they choose to be unemployed and poor because they "haven't found the right job yet.". Well, it's your choice to be hungry and poor. but if you're the one turning opportunities away, then who is to blame when you going hungry?

RE: 4. I don't want to rush into marriage.
You can do all the risk analysis you want, but at the end of the day, in spite of all the information laid before you, you will be more unsure than ever. I went zip lining at a high altitude a while back and I remember, in the end, it came down to a simple "leap" of faith. That is all. (Forgive the pun)

RE: 5. I actually do like being single right now.
RE: 6. I don't want to get married just for the sake of getting married.
All single people have sung the words to this familiar song at some point or another in their lives. I know I did. They all have different reasons for singing it - parents' divorce, other poor examples of marriages, some misplaced sense of idealism, or some fruitless search for perfection, but essentially it is one thing alone... fear. Fear of losing control, fear of encroachment, fear of losing one's identity, and of course, facing that ultimate oh-so-scary abyss - the fear of losing everything.

And, in the end, you'll have to decide if you are willing to overcome these obstacles or do want your own cowardice to get in the way of enjoying potentially wonderful life experiences. It's our choice, and we make it everyday.

Hopefully we'll choose wisely.

Searcher said...

Wow Anonymous... Thanks for taking the time to react at length to a Hufpost article (meant to give A-girl some ammo for annoying questions) that I've not written :)

That said, you're not the first one to level the "you just don't have the guts to go for what you want" response to the Plan B idea.

I did write a long answer... but then I figured, this is worthy of a new post :)

Anonymous said...

I think you've come up with about as good a Plan B as one could, given the parameters you've chosen. I guess I just have one comment: I couldn't help but notice the slicing and dicing of the week felt a LOT like how divorced parents manage sharing time with kids. Take it as an inexact analogy, and maybe it's because I'm from divorcedlandUSA but...if a child isn't going to be raised in a 'nuclear family', then you have to come up with SOME way of raising the kid and -- as you put it -- "It has its flaws. But at least it’s something."

My take? Plenty of kids in America get raised under a time-sharing-style Plan B. I did. And, knowing my parents, there is no way they should have stayed PlanB-style managing my week it was. And it's not the worst. But, it's not the best.

Searcher said...

You know, I didn't think of it as a child-rearing analogy... but you're right. I come from a scattered family.. I guess that's why Plan B doesn't seem so shocking for me. Oh well.

Staci said...

Wow, this is really interesting discussion! I have far from given up on my Plan A for the future but as a 19-year-old college student, I don't see why Plan B can't be a transition to monogamous bliss. My guy group of friends sleep (in rotation!) with me and my college roommate (we're fortunate to have gone from strangers to best friends). I think our "platonic sleepover" and cuddling are a safe, wonderful way to satisfy our cravings for intimacy without sacrificing our dignity, virginity and friendships. So I strongly recommend Plan B, but I have stopped my Plan B when I found someone who I wanted to spent every night with. :)