To all my happily married friends: I see you on Facebook. Some of you have been together ten years; others, 20 or 40. You have no kids or little kids or grown-up kids. You also have bad days and fights, but there is something fundamentally different about you from the unhappy couples and my fellow singletons: You count on this person to be there, and together you form the center of a new world, more important than any of the other worlds you inhabit.
As we have gotten older, we have all begun to calcify, whether we like to admit it or not. We don't plan to leave Indiana or wherever it is we live. If you love me, you have to love my cat. We have children. We have a system for doing laundry, a philosophy of breakfast, and a habit of vacations. Some of this is justifiable, like the children coming first, and some of it is arbitrary. Those of you in happy marriages are no less creatures of habit, but you have at least one other person who is growing along the same strange path as you.
Those of us who are single find that there isn't really room for someone else in our lives. They have to fit in the cracks. They can't have a different laundry system or breakfast philosophy. Their other worlds - their jobs, their family of origin, their Everest climbs - all come first for them, as ours do for us. We don't dare throw away the self we've been developing for the last twenty years to create a new world. We just wait for the near-impossible, that one other person whose puzzle piece is twisted just like ours, to come along, and then get frustrated when no one quite fits.
So happily married people, believe me when I tell you I have no idea what it is like to be in your shoes. I can imagine talking bears and mass zombification and a female president, but I can't imagine what it is to be a binary star system. I literally can't imagine someone who relies on me, compromises for me, gives things up for me, all while I do the same for them. The best I can see is one partner willing to compromise for the other, and the other willing to accept it. And I see a lot of relationships like that, too. They're not unhappy, but they're not exactly happy, either.
I don't think most of us have what it takes to enter into a successful marriage. Few enough have it when we are young, daring, and carry light baggage. We get older and build up more of everything - except nerve, which dwindles.
To my fellow single people: Are you willing to give up your house? Your city? Would you give up your job? Your career? Are you willing to be separated from your parents, to quit your favorite hobby, to stop cooking your favorite food? Are you willing to spend money on things you've derided and curtail your spending on little luxuries?
No happy relationship would require someone to give up all those things, but if we say "no" to most of these, we need to face the fact that we don't have what it takes. We will never have the successful relationship we think we want. And maybe that's okay - if we can figure out what we want live for instead.
But for those of you who are happily married, remember how lucky, and how unusual, you are.