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Why do people bet on love?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  February 13, 2009 10:55 AM

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This one’s not really a problem. It’s more of a philosophical question. Can you help me answer it for him?

Q: Hi Meredith --

I enjoy your columns & chats. I would like to know why singles in their 20s and 30s cling to this outdated romanticized notion of "finding your perfect match and spending the rest of your life with them" when the reality is, that idea fails 50% of the time. I understand this idea is constantly promoted throughout popular culture & the media, but in any other field, a process with a 50% failure rate would be discarded in favor of something better. Would anyone ever seriously consider making other important decisions in their life by flipping a coin? Of course not. So why don't people wake up to the truth? Or is it, as Jack Nicholson said, they "can't handle the truth"?
-- Just Wondering
Natick, MA

A: Hi Just Wondering. So, you’re not so hot on love these days. Anything you want to tell us? Recent break-up, perhaps?

I don't have the most recent divorce statistics in front of me, but let’s say you’re right. Let’s say 50 percent of marriages fail. Doesn’t that mean that 50 percent succeed?

It’s true -- most romantic relationships end. That doesn’t mean those experiences aren’t worth having. Would you suggest that people don’t have long-term relationships? That they begin every relationship with an exit plan? You say "a process with a 50% failure rate would be discarded in favor of something better." Um, what other process would you recommend?

I’m with you – I think most people have over-romanticized the soul-mate concept, and that movies with perfect, happy endings have warped our expectations. That said – it’s human nature to want a partner. To want security. To want commitment.

I don’t think you can compare participating in an adult relationship to flipping a coin.

Lighten up, Just Wondering. It’s Valentine’s Eve.

Readers? Can you explain why people make lifetime commitments? Do you believe in the concept of a “soul mate”? Share here. Send your problems here. Help with yesterday’s problem here.

-- Meredith

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7 comments so far...
  1. I personally prefer to live my life around hope instead of despair. I also know I can gain strength from any negative or positive experience. So I go for it in my relationships and focus on being able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and know I did my best...

    Posted by not wondering February 13, 09 11:11 AM
  1. 100% of all marriages end in death or divorce...how about that statistic???

    You couldn't come up with a better question to discuss today?

    Posted by Rico February 13, 09 11:35 AM
  1. Not against LTRs. Just the continually perpetuated idea that you search & search and then ultimately find the one right person to make a "lifetime commitment". The real world says otherwise. So is there a better system? That's what I'm seeking...and also and end to a perpetuation of the myth. And no, no news to report on my end. Just me thinking too much perhaps!

    Posted by Just Wondering February 13, 09 12:05 PM
  1. I just imagine that no one wants to hear from the one they love "I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you. But, since the statistical possiblity that our marriage would fail is high, let's just not take the leap of faith, 'kay? I'd rather be safe than sorry."

    "Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all."- Alfred Lord Tennyson. He was right.

    Posted by Noel February 13, 09 12:19 PM
  1. I think the first thing to look at is why most relationships fail.

    Confusing Lust for Love: This is a big one. Most people fall in lust and think its love. Lust can grow into love, or it can stay lust forever. But when the object of the lust (i.e. – youthful, model-like looks) vanishes you end up stuck with someone you really don’t know and are no longer attracted to. There is nothing wrong with lust – just see it for what it is. Women are more guilty of this than men are, in my observations. Women tend to feel that you must be in love with a man in order to desire him, and tend to transpose that thinking onto men: he wants me, therefore he loves me. Men can separate lust and love: I want that one, but I want to share my life with the other one.

    Sacrificing self: whenever you give up your core values in order to please your mate, you end up loosing what makes you, well, you. For example, if family is important to you but your mate hates your family…so you cut all ties with your family in order to please your mate. Eventually, you become unhappy and resentful, arguments follow, and the relationship fails, with you angry over giving up everything (in reality, your partner probably never knows or understands the sacrifice, so when you throw the “I gave up everything for you” statement out, they probably come back with “What everything?”… yeah, you see where it would go….)

    Belief that Love with Conquer All: yeah. Er, simply loving someone too much will not cause them to change into the person you want. Sorry. As I’ve stated over and over (though probably not here), you can love your VW all you want…but it still won’t turn into a Limo.

    Fear of Being Alone: some people will settle for ANYONE, just so they won’t be alone. And as each successive relationship fails, they find someone pretty close to the person they just broke up with/broke up with them. And the cycle starts again. For those who don’t want to be alone, its down to really, not liking yourself and needing another person to validate your own sense of self-esteem. There are people out there that will like you if you don’t like yourself: they are the abusers, the ones that bleed your bank account dry, the users….so, in order to avoid people like that, get a good sense of self-esteem going on.

    Romantic Notions: we’ve all falling in love with the poetic idea of “your soulmate” or “your other half” …so much so that we try to assign these ideals to a mate…even if it isn’t possible. See: Belief that Love Will Conquer All or Confusing Lust for Love.

    All that being said, is it even possible to find a partner for the “ever?” Of course it is. One must first develop a strong sense of identity and self. And remember, everyone is allowed to make one mistake…maybe even two. But when you keep making the same relationship mistake over and over, the problem isn’t “no good men” or “crazy women.” The problem is you.

    Posted by yoshimi February 13, 09 12:37 PM
  1. Excellent advice Yoshimi. You need to get your own blog!

    Posted by DI$CO February 13, 09 02:48 PM
  1. Hmmmmmmm, well - put it this way......
    Being a worldly woman and getting married to a man I was crazy about - and just when I was enjoying our happy, trust, content & secure & our little family (animals instead of kids); it was like BOOOOOM - out of left field - he wants OUT!!!!!! There was no way of seeing that coming.......After that - if that can happen after all that......I do not trust in that type of "soul mate" situation ever. Cause when you get "burned" - you just cannot take the chance of that happening again - it's too horrific, like the worst horror movie come true.......

    Posted by Never Again February 13, 09 06:05 PM
ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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