Following Your Heart or Chasing the Ring?

They say that those who can’t do, teach. Since I am unsuccessful at dating and relationships, I write about them. Along with having conversations with friends or people I encounter through friends or on dates, I watch TV shows centered around  relationships. (For the sake of research of course.) One of my not so guilty pleasures is watching The Bachelor franchise.

While the success rate of relationships ending in marriage from the show are low, I feel like the more I watch the behavior exhibited by the participants, the more I can recognize and change similar, unfavorable behavior within myself. Recently the season finale of The Bachelorette, notably featuring the first Black woman as the one handing out roses, aired.

It was down to two men. One who had professed his love for her after only one date and constantly campaigned that he was ready to propose from there on out. With the other, their connection was instant and consistent, their similarities and chemistry became more intensified as the season went on, and even in their final moments together she stated her love for him and that she wasn’t ready to part ways. So why did she?

Because he wasn’t willing to propose after having a total of 6 solo dates with her over 3 months.

Granted, that is the premise of the show. You date someone while they’re dating 15 to 20 other people at the same time until you’re the last one standing and are expected to get engaged. However, for this suitor, he wasn’t quite ready to pop the question but still wanted to pursue a relationship after the cameras stopped filming. For the Bachelorette, his postponement of an engagement triggered memories of a previous long term relationship that ended in empty promises.

So she chose the other guy. As someone looking from the outside in, I can’t speak on the love that developed for the guy she ended up choosing (however I’ve never been more skeptical of a couple not making it to the alter). The happiness and love she exuded for the man she sent packing was far more evident than the man who ended up offering her a ring, but that was her ultimate goal, to get engaged, possibly regardless of who the man was.

It was painfully clear that something was unresolved within her based on her defensiveness with the man she let go. As she shouted out that she was currently “living her best life” but instead came off as exceptionally rude and unnecessarily boastful about her current relationship. But for me, the tell tale sign of a crack in her ‘I’m over you campaign’,  was when she made it a point to downplay her emotions for the man she professed her love for just months earlier. Making it seems as if he didn’t cause her tears, her past did.

It’s like when a guy comes up to you and ask for your number, when you respectfully decline, his rebuttal is, “You aren’t that cute anyway.” Obviously I was cute enough for you to approach me but now that your feelings are hurt because of a perceived rejection, you’re trying to downplay your interest in me to make yourself feel better. As if being mean to us will somehow put us in our place.

As the finale continued on and the Bachelorette made it to the finish line to receive her proposal, the center of attention wasn’t their love for each other, instead it was all about the engagement ring. Before it even had a chance to come out of the box she exclaimed, “Yes! Give it to me!” Then once he lobbed it onto her ring finger they chanted together, “Show ’em that rock!” I’ve never before seen such a glorification of the ring itself over the the couple finally being able to say how much they loved each other.

Her emphasis on getting engaged by any means necessary made me think about the goals I’ve set for myself when it comes to relationships, and more importantly what’s the motivation behind those goals. Ever since I was a kid, watching Family Matters as Urkel chased behind Laura, or saw Martin fight to keep his relationship with Gina by proposing, that’s what I wanted for myself. A man who’s love for me never wavered.

I wanted the full package: for the man I loved to propose, walk down the aisle at our dream wedding, then pop out 2 -4 kids by the time I was 25. As other couples were meeting in college and getting engaged, then meeting at work and eventually getting married, I remained single. As year 25 came and went, I began to feel like I was doing something wrong.

Maybe I was too focused on settling down with the man of my dreams and needed to settle for the man who could sell me the dream. It wouldn’t be ideal, but I would get what I wanted: a ring. That was the goal right? Love and marriage.

As the years passed and the dating pool got smaller, it felt like a race had started but I was still at the starting line. So what do you do when you feel like you’re falling behind? You try to take a shortcut to catch up.

That’s what I feel like the Bachelorette did. I watched her turn away a guy who was in love with her because he wasn’t ready to propose. She wanted to cut to the chase, so she chose the man who basically walked in the door with a ring in his pocket. Seeing her pitted against undeniable love or a ring made me take a hard look at my own desire to get married.

Was I in love with the idea of being in love or in love with the fantasy of walking down the aisle? These days more couples are choosing long term relationships without marriage and aren’t any less fulfilled. Marriage shouldn’t be an untimely ultimatum, it should be a welcomed choice by both parties. With engagement rings growing so large that they need a personal handler but those engagements never reaching marriage, the bauble isn’t the answer. Simply receiving a ring doesn’t necessary equal a lifetime commitment.

Research suggests that the older you are when you get married, the higher your chances are staying together. By the end of the year, the Bachelorette and I will be the same age. While my goal is love, hopefully marriage, and kids, at what cost am I willing to have those things? If my partner is perfect for me but doesn’t want to get engaged, does that mean I should let him go? Relationships come in all shapes and sizes these days. Maybe the focus should be more on building the relationship that’s best for you instead of checking some goal off a list. Because at the end of the day, the ring itself has no value if the relationship isn’t built on love.

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