This week, my friend Adam got an ultimatum from his girl: marry me or I’m out. I’m on Adam’s side on this one and not just because he’s my friend. Adam isn’t ready. After years of navigating the peaks and valleys of romance, I finally get what this means.
“I’m not ready.” One of the most mystifying sentences in the English language. If you’re about to jump out of an airplane with a busted parachute, or you’re a scallop that hasn’t been cooked all the way through, then by all means, you’re not ready. But not ready for love? Not ready for the comforting bonds of relationship? What kind of horse poo is that?
For most women, love is not something which requires preparedness. Love pours down from the heavens out of the blue, nullifying anything else in life that holds meaning and merging the lovers in the highest state of existential bliss, of which a committed relationship is the ultimate expression. Who wouldn’t want this?
But guys have to be “ready.” I finally understood this last year, when Matt the Moody Chef hit me with an unexpected “I’m Not Ready” after a prolonged period of becoming intimately enmeshed.
“Relationships don’t work out for me,” he said the night of our romantic demise. “This is too intense. I can’t do it right now.”
Later, after chugging an entire bottle of Chianti, I got to thinking. Matt had signed his divorce papers less than six months before we met. His apartment was a barren crypt, stripped by his ex-wife of any furnishing that might make it seem like a home. Entering into another relationship then would’ve been like sticking his tongue back on an icy flag pole ten seconds after he’d yanked it off.
A few months after separating from my own ex, I dated a sexy lawyer who in every way was a super catch. But once he started asking how my day had been and stroking my cheek, I recoiled as if he were a slobbering bulldog licking my face. A relationship was not something I could handle. I needed to heal, needed space, needed my life to become mine again after giving it over to the entity that was my marriage.
I wasn’t ready.
Indeed, love comes whether we have braced ourselves for it or not. But commitment offers a choice, tapping us on the shoulder to say, “sorry to bother you. Is this a good time?”
Adam has never been married but wants to be one day. And he loves his gal. But his finances are in the crapper, his job is shit, life isn’t matching up with his goals and he just wants to flush the whole thing. Wherever he ends up, Adam wants this woman there with him. He’s just not sure where “there” is.
We gals always make men the nucleus around which the rest of our lives float. But a man wants to invite a woman into a life that has already been made whole without her, perhaps even, in anticipation of her arrival. “I’m not ready” doesn’t always mean, “I’m not ready to stop chasing tail and playing beer pong with my buddies.” Often it means, “this table has not yet been set for two.”
And sometimes it means bigger questions are being asked. Am I ready to drop my defenses and let this other person see me warts and all? To feel so profoundly concerned about someone else’s well-being and allow this person’s presence to become necessary to my happiness? To surrender to love and risk losing it?
While Adam considers this ultimatum, I hope his girlfriend sees how his mulling it over demonstrates the depth of his feelings. I hope she understands she’s not only asking for a wedding ceremony, she’s asking for a lifetime. And mostly, I hope she doesn’t push. Like jumping out of an airplane or eating seafood, if you act before the time is right, you’re only going to puke.