In a recent episode of The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert discussed his hesitancy to support Mitt Romney as his choice for a Republican president candidate. He cleverly compared this decision to a person having to figure out if he is settling for love, which surprisingly struck a cord with me as my former FWB (FFWB) recently announced once again that he has decided to give it a go at marrying a woman he’s struggled to convince even himself he truly loved.
Describing his feelings about Romney, Colbert says, “It’s not fireworks.” However, he’s there, Colbert says. “Maybe I should just grow up and accept it.”
“I’m 40, she really loves me,” FFWB tells me about the woman he has decided to marry. “Time is running out. Maybe it can work.”
Over the four years of their tumultuous relationship, they have broken up several times, for as long as a year at one point. During their six month “engagement,” she has threatened to leave more times than I can count, purchased plane tickets, given the ring back and thrown temper tantrums over ridiculous things. FFWB has told me he finds her immature, dramatic, unpredictable and volatile enough that the idea of having children with her frightens him. They don’t share similar interests, don’t connect on an intellectual level and at least half the time, seemingly don’t connect on an emotional level either.
I asked him if he loved her. He said, “There’s a difference between being in love with someone and loving someone,” as if I haven’t been in more committed relationships than he has. “From the married couples I’ve talked to and my own sense, the in love period wanes after two to three years…”
“I didn’t ask if you were in love with her,” I said. “I asked if you loved her.”
FFWB paused. “I care for her very much. I would miss her terribly if she left,” he said. If he doesn’t marry her, she will have to leave the country, and he doesn’t know when or if he would ever see her again. “I suppose under all my conditionals and caveats, I could say to myself that I love her.”
Wow, fireworks. Poor girl. “Have you ever been in love with her?” I finally asked.
“There was a period of infatuation for a few months in the beginning,” he said.
When I asked if she is his best friend, he quickly said, “No, that would be T.”
Like so many of us who try to fight, and sometimes ignore, our intuition in love, Colbert struggles to figure out how he really feels about the stiff Romney. “I can’t tell if I am missing something, or if I’m just afraid to let myself be happy,” he says. ”I’m so confused.”
He is also swayed by the opinions of others in his life. “Everyone says he’s the best I can do, but he’s good, not great.”
FFWB’s mom and sister think his fiancée is beautiful, sweet, gets along with the family and puts up with all his quirks. They say he can be difficult to put with—cranky, insensitive, not emotionally expressive, inflexible and maddeningly practical. His fiancée loves him, faults and all. They claim that she has been trying to change—FFWB admits since their last showdown a few months prior, his fiancée has only had two major meltdowns where she would normally have at least five.
His father and mother’s boyfriend think he’s crazy for considering following through on his plan. FFWB knows there are others he connects with significantly more intellectually, including his best friend and myself. He knows he is able to communicate with others with more ease and less drama. While his fiancée obviously loves him and acts with the best of intentions, many of her actions show she doesn’t know him as well as he would hope she does.
This past week, she had threatened once again to leave, reserving a moving van. To paraphrase, he gave the following “romantic” plea:
“I think the right thing to do is let this go. But that is so very hard, and I have doubts both ways. I feel like this is too hard to go through, and like the easiest thing to do is keep you and not go through this. To just close my eyes and jump in still – knowing it’s a huge gamble. And I think you love me, too. And we have something, though we have not managed to connect or communicate or make good on it to this point.”
He explained how they struggled through dating, and then engagement. He hoped that in marriage, they would learn from the mistakes and challenges of what can before. He also said he understood that she explained away some of her outbursts as fear and uncertainty from living an unsettled life and being so dependent on other people.
Despite his “significant reservations and doubts,” he said he would take the “low probability gamble” and hope for the best that this third chapter of their relationship is better. “I’d be happy to see us exceed our four years together,” he told her. He would marry her as soon as she wished.
Finally once he was past the logistics, he added the heart: “I do love you. I do want to provide you all these things you’ve been waiting for so long.” He had high hopes for their engagement, and he had been excited for the clean slate it might provide for their relationship. He hoped they would improve their communication, respect for each other and build a stronger foundation for marriage, but they failed to achieve that.
He told her:
“I could end up divorced and 43, unsurprised. Or, it could work – we both have been unable to leave each other permanently. Nor can I say today definitively, ‘This is over, you can go [tomorrow].’ But, you still can go if this is not what you’d envisioned in terms of “romance,” but it’s the best I can give you at this point…And if you do go, I will not make you sound like the villain but just that we’re two people who really hung in there despite our differences; we respectfully parted ways.”
She was still at the home when he returned from work that next night.
I told FFWB that if he is deadset on marrying this woman, he should stop acting like he’s going to the gallows. I told him to stop acting like, ‘well since no one else will have me, and she’s been here all along, she’ll do.’ Instead, I encouraged him to start moving with the attitude: “This is the woman I choose to be with for the rest of my life. I care about her very much, she loves me, and we are committed to being a family together.”
His sister gave even better advice, telling him to stop mentioning the doubts, have confidence behind the decision he made and move forward. While his relationship will take some work (and compromise, I added, from both of them), FFWB and his fiancée have something special. “I am excited, but really its less exciting for us if you if you can’t see what you have. I’m happy to help you keep those thoughts in the forefront.”
Am I confident about FFWB’s chances? It doesn’t really matter. FFWB seems doubtful, but there is enough hope in his heart that he’s ready to pull the trigger. And maybe he does have a point: they have been unable to let each other go in the four years they’ve known each other. We talked about how that may be habit, something familiar and safe. Yet isn’t that a part of love too? To hear him caught up in the romanticism of his proposal at Disney World made him sound like a completely different man: a man in love, despite his conflicted protests now.
I wish him my very best. I told him I would support him in whatever decision he made. However, I can’t help but hope for myself, that when the time comes for me to settle down with a life mate, it is a decision made of both the heart and the mind…that I’m settling into a joyful life with my chosen partner, and not just settling.