Girl Talk: Should You Mercy-Kill A Dead-End Relationship?

Bad Band. Jew Joker. Sandwich. The Brute. AwwMike. Babycheese. My laundry list of discarded loves reads like a storyboard of comic book villains, each nickname a clue as to their respective fatal flaws. Anyone who knows me well knows I have a history of dating men who are wildly inappropriate for me. It’s been a quirk I myself was willing to accept, further proof of my fun-loving, devil-may-care spirit (this despite the days and weeks of sobbing and agonizing over wholly ridiculous relationships when they inevitably ended).

I had to face facts: I did want to settle down. And even if it was still vague, fuzzy, and several years off, I had to start making decisions that would allow that to happen instead of wasting emotional energy on fun, ultimately unfulfilling trysts.

The older and more self-aware I became over the course of my 20s, the earlier on in these relationships I was able to detect the warning signs that [insert name here] was not the fellow that I was meant to end up with. But that twinge of uncertainty, that psychic glimpse into our non-future, wasn’t enough to stop me in my tracks. The deeper I entangled myself, the easier it was to convince myself that I just wasn’t working hard enough at the relationship, that huge compromises were a given in authentic partnerships. Forget that said partnerships might have been a mere 2 weeks old and forged over a night of too much whiskey.

I prided myself on the fact that I was not “that girl”: the one with the agenda, the one with a check-list of dealbreakers and the pathetic, single-minded goal of finding the perfect future husband. I was just livin’ life, man! I was going with the flow, letting my heart (and loins) lead and consulting my head only when things got unavoidably dire.

Living in New York, surrounded by mostly single (or at the very least, unmarried) peers, it was easy for me to take comfort in knowing that I wasn’t the only one who’d yet to settle down. And anyway, “settling down” was still an abstract idea that seemed destined to happen at some vague future date.

But when I turned 30 and found myself dating – and falling in love with – a 23-year-old dude whose understanding of relationships seemed cobbled together from a clip reel of romantic comedies,

I had to face facts: I did want to settle down. And even if it was still vague, fuzzy, and several years off, I had to start making decisions that would allow that to happen instead of wasting emotional energy on fun, ultimately unfulfilling trysts.

In many ways, my young suitor was more mature, attentive and grounded than the 30-somethings I’d dated over the last five years. But I couldn’t get away from the nagging feeling that even if things proceeded apace, in one or two years, I’d be ready for a major commitment and he’d be …. 25. The age gap forced me to admit that that was something I wanted, and wanted sooner rather than later.

Still, after several months of gliding blithely along despite the all the red flags, it took a major dust-up — a persistent, shadowy “ex”-girlfriend — to get me to end things with the young’un. And in the wake of that most recent breakup, I found myself wishing that I’d been smart enough to relinquish the laissez-faire attitude I’d had about relationships, letting things float along until something truly unforgivable or irrevocable happened. I wished I could’ve been more “that girl.”

There’s still part of me that clings stubbornly to the belief that being cautious and practical in love means being rigid, militant and unromantic. There’s a part of me that’s indignant over becoming a cliché, a prisoner of my biological clock. But I also think getting older is as much about identifying, accepting and pursuing your desires as it is about those very real biological imperatives. And what I want – in two or three or five years – is a real adult relationship with a partner I can lean on and, yes, possibly even a rugrat or two. Much as my collection of doomed, short-lived romances has made for anecdotal comic relief, I’ve come to realize that I don’t want to be THAT girl – the one with a treasure trove of dead-end relationship stories, whose married-with-kids girlfriends look at her with a mixture of wistfulness and sympathy. I don’t want to be the girl who keeps making the same mistake over and over again.

Photo: iStockphoto

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