This story comes from an older friend.
Why did you settle for your partner when you could have done better? Here’s Michael’s story.
“You’re 34 now, Mike. Am I ever going to get my grandkids?”
I nodded my head to mom.
“No laugh? Does this mean you’re serious?” she quipped back at me.
This time she was right. As I sat there in mom’s driveway, the car idling, I realized I do need to find a girl and start a family. I was never really sure how I got to this point – thirty-four and 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 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. That’s how it went for me, at least.
Over the next week, I asked out the girl at work. Sharon is her name. I knew she has always wanted to go on a date, constantly hinting while I played the naïve, clueless guy. She was always too shy to be obvious, and so it never went anywhere.
Weeks turned to months and months to a year. Before I knew it, we were having dinner at Georgio’s, the same little Italian joint where we first went; only this time it was to celebrate our first anniversary. A year became years, and mom finally got those grandchildren she was after. Five years on, we were happily married with two kids. Things were good. It was the typical family life.
It was a Saturday night and I was out on the town with the guys. We were all the same age. Thirty-nine, the lot of us, and all teetering on the knife’s edge of a midlife crisis. Who am I kidding? We were over the edge. Tony and I each purchased a Harley last year. For Matt, it was a 33 ft yacht. He was always specific about the size.
We often took our partners with us when we went out. Matt and Roger were divorced, so usually took along their new dates. This changed frequently over the years. But the girls were always easy on the eye. Tony was the life-long eligible bachelor and showed up with a new girl every time.
Over the years, I began to look at their dates with a hint of envy. I have always taken care of myself and exercised often, while Sharon was never interested. Even when we first met, I always thought I settled for her. Time snuck up, and I had to act.
Every catch-up seemed to confirm my opinion. As the kids came, Sharon put on extra weight. She was also 42, while my friends’ partners were barely hitting 30.
Don’t get me wrong, I still loved Sharon and would never do anything to hurt her. I just believed that I had settled when I could have done 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 drizzle, so I walked over to the covered porch of the bistro beside Matt. I gave a smile and shook my head with admiration as I looked at him.
He was perched against the wall; one foot placed back on it while he took a drag of his cigarette.
“Look at that James Dean son of a bitch.” I thought.
I was always impressed how he still seemed to look as cool at 39 as we were back in the day. Before I could give him another smart-ass comment about smoking, 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 me, keeping those girls happy is like running the gauntlet.”
The days went on. Nothing changed straight away. 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 eggshells or on the receiving end of an ice-cold stare like the other guys and their partners.
When I cancel our plans for work, she gives me a hug and says she understands.
When meeting new people, she makes the experience all the better. She is kind and caring. People see that, and they’re drawn to her.
When my friends’ partners are cutting them down, she is building me up. Not once, never has she said a bad word about me openly.
When I’m down, she has always picked me up. Just listening. Being there when I needed it.
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.
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.Published in