Some people are reachers - ever onwards, ever higher, they’re the sort who can’t stop. Other people are settlers – they find roses, stop, smell, and stay the hell put.
There are upsides and downsides to each orientation. But when it comes to relationships, who wins and who loses?
A few years ago, a mate’s cousin got married. She had been a reacher in her work and in her relationships until she met a fellow, got married, and settled down. Note, the settling was so much more than a fixed home address. She settled in every sense of the word. Or, as my mate saw it, she ‘copped out’.
“So what did you tell her?” I ask. “Don’t you have an obligation as a friend to make sure she’s making the right decision?”
“She was the one who told me she was settling,” he said at the time. “She just wanted to get married, and he was the right-enough guy at the right-enough place. And she just turned thirty.”
Now. There’s a lot about above scenario I do not like. The perpetuation of the notion women who aren’t married at 30 are somehow desperate or have somehow lost out for one.
But I also don’t like the way I reacted. I’m someone who tries not to judge, but it’s clear that I had – and probably still have – a bias against people who I believe have settled. People who possibly ‘could do better’ but say they don’t want to. Are they scared? Are they soft? Are they incapable?
Or am I too hard?
I’m a reacher. Always have been. I’m motivated by achievement. This is brilliant when it drives me forward. Though, as I mature and reflect, I realise my reaching can get in the way. I recognise there’s merit in the settler’s strategy. Settling doesn’t have to mean cop-out, it can mean contentment.
So I chased up the friend of the friend, and asked, was she happy?
“I got what I wanted, so yes,” she said. “I wanted to get married, I wanted a baby, and I wanted to put aside my work for a while – I’m not complaining.”
I wasn’t convinced.
“But don’t you wish you’d reached for something more? Someone else? Some other life?”
She thought a long time before answering me.
“No,” she said. “But...”
“But I do wonder whether I’ll feel this way forever.”
And there’s the conundrum, isn’t it? The biggest ‘f’ word of all. Forever is a very long time, especially in a world where, increasingly, time seems to be getting smaller and smaller. I can understand the appeal of settling for something, even if it’s not everything you wanted, just because it’s there, and it might be the best you’re going to get.
Though I’m not sure I could stand to spend my forever with something less than wonderful - something that would leave me wanting more before the end. I want to reach for the stars, and if it means I’ll never be satisfied, sobeit. At least I’ll die knowing I darn well tried.
For, if there’s such a thing as true love, why would you bother with a lie?