What does it mean to settle for someone?
This story comes from an older friend. It is one of the most impact relationship stories I have ever heard.
“You’re 34 now Mike. Am I ever going to get my grand kids?”
I just nodded my head to mom.
“No laugh? Does this mean you’re serious?”
I laughed and finished up seeing mom. This time she was right. I sat in the car realizing that I really do need to find a nice girl and start a family.
I was never really sure how I got to this point. Still on my own. Time seems to sneak up on you until it’s too close to ignore.
I have always been a sensible guy. I threw myself into work. It paid off with a stable and comfortable living. The problem with work is that it makes time go by too fast. The more you do, the more there is to do. This is how it went for me at least.
Over the next week I asked the girl out at work. Sharon is her name. I knew she has always wanted to go out with me, constantly hinting while I played the naive, clueless guy. She was always too shy to be obvious and it never went anywhere.
Weeks turned to months and months to a year. Before I knew it, we were having dinner at the same little Italian joint where we first went; only this time it was to celebrate our first year anniversary.
A year became years and mom finally got those grandchildren she was after. Five years on we were happily married with 2 kids. Things were good. It was the typical family life.
One night I was going out with my friends. We were all the same age. Thirty nine the lot of us – teetering on the knife’s edge of our midlife crises. Who am I kidding, we were over the edge. Tony and I purchased two new Harleys the year before. For Matt, it was a 33 ft yacht. He was always specific of the size so it’s only fitting to give the detail.
We usually took our partners with us when we went out. Matt and Roger were divorced, so took along their new dates. This changed frequently over the years. But the girls were always easy on the eye. Good looking and in good shape. Tony was the life-long eligible bachelor and showed up too with very good looking women.
Over the years I began to look at their dates with more and more envy. I had always taken care of myself while Sharon began to put on weight. Even when we first met, I always thought of myself as “settling” for her. Time snuck up and I had to act. I always thought I could have done much better.
Every catch up seemed as though my opinion was confirmed. As the kids came, Sharon put on extra weight. She was also 42, while my friends’ partners were not even hitting 30.
Don’t get me wrong, I still loved her and would never do anything to hurt her. I just believed that I had settled when I could have done much better. It’s not a noble thought, but it’s what I thought. After five years, the honeymoon period was well and truly over.
A few months on, we were all together at our usual bar, just us guys. I waved off Tony and Ray as they took the first two taxis. There was a light drizzle so I walked over to the covered porch of the bistro with Matt. I gave a smile and shook my head with admiration as I looked at Matt.
He was perched against the wall, one foot placed back on it while taking out a cigarette.
“Look at that James Dean son of a bitch.”
I was always impressed how he still seemed to look as cool at 39 as we were back in the day.
I was just about to give him another smart ass don’t smoke joke as he took a drag of his cigarette. But he got in first.
“You’re lucky, you know, Mike. To have Sharon.”
“She is always happy and gets on well with everyone. Not like our partners.”
“No. With Sharon, everything’s easy. As for Tony and I, keeping our partners happy is like running the gauntlet.”
The days went on, nothing changed straight away. But, I started paying more attention.
When I come home from work each day, she is there happy to see me with a smile, still five years on.
When we go out with our friends, it’s always pleasant. I’m not walking on egg shells or on the receiving end of a passive aggressive play like the other guys with their partners.
When I cancel our plans or holidays for work, she gives me a hug and says she understands.
When meeting new people, she makes the experience so much better. She is kind and caring. People see that, they are drawn to her nature.
When my friends’ partners are cutting them down in front of everyone, she is building me up. Not once, never has she said a bad word about me openly. Heck, even when she could and even should have.
When I’m down, she has always picked me up. Just listening. Being there when I needed.
When we fight, never once has she held it against me or thrown it up in my face. Instead, I get genuine forgiveness.
Everything I do, she is as grateful after all these years as when we first met. Even when I rarely reciprocate.
So, why did my partner settle for me when they could have done better?
I don’t know.
What I do know is to never take her for granted again.
I opted to use first person to enrich and personify the story a little better. Hearing this story first hand was both inspiring and humbling. As such, I focused on keeping everything as is to the detriment of answering the question completely.
Mike and Sharon are both still happily married!
Realize what you have before It’s gone. Hindsight isn’t as forgiving as foresight.