- Financial and career success. ✔
- College education (including multiple degrees) ✔
- Strong nuclear families. ✔
- Health and wisdom. ✔
- Worldly view. ✔
- Food on the table and a roof over our heads. ✔
- Romantic partnership bliss 🚫
All three remaining generations of my maternal line suffer from the same ailment: They are awfully unlucky at love. A lack of options in the dating market isn’t necessarily to blame for our inability to choose compatible partners, although our attractive brains and bodies have been considered intimidating by many. Regardless of how good we look on paper and in practice, it just never works out. We are officially cursed!
A perennial timing issue cloud hangs over the family, increasing the difficulty level of our romantic endeavors.
It all started when my grandfather decided to get married before being shipped off to the Korean War just so someone could receive the benefits of his service if something happened to him. Ironically, getting and surviving hypothermia saved him from combat, resulting in an honorable discharge and subsequent divorce. My grandmother, Delia, who had move all the way to NYC in 1953, met him serendipitously at a wedding. She was sick. A fight broke out. Grandpa fought the crowds to get her her jacket so she wouldn’t get hypothermia. Full circle!
Their 54 year long story included a divorce that led to a catholic wedding in the mid 1980s. Few people can say they saw their grandparents get married, and the event didn’t disappoint! I admired their ability to romance and love each other in spite of their differences but deep down, I knew their story provided a sense of false hope; most partners out there wouldn’t be as forgiving or open to the possibility that sometimes a break is needed to strengthen the ties that bind us. Despite my grandmother’s mental illness and depression, and my grandfather’s alcohol abuse, they made it. In contrast, 75% of their direct descendants’ marriages have resulted in divorce. 🤷♀️
Thankfully, love is not the only one dimension of domestic bliss and marker of personal glory.
Our family’s story is full of near misses and almosts. My mom died a divorcée but not from my father – she got tired of waiting for him and stayed single happily ever after. My aunt is 0/2, with levels of drama warranting her own telenovela, and her last serious relationship ended thanks to cancer. She’s still loving life and the pursuit of passionate affection. Rumor has it one of my cousins had commitment issues before his wedding but got married anyway to see if they could go the distance. (Spoiler alert, they didn’t.) I can’t blame ’em for trying. Add to the list the kids out of wedlock and the marriages of convenience and you’ll start to see patterns. Most of us were so lucky to have found “A One” that we just ran with it.
Perhaps living in the shadow of such a daunting yet lovingly humble love affair made us overly optimistic when it came to relationships. Biased by experience to assume everyone else grew up in a similar situation – one where sacrifice and understanding made anything possible. Society doesn’t expect you to think outside the box – the norms – to design and execute a plan that is best suited for the individuals involved. Culture and religion conspire to create an institutionalized ideal that is extremely difficult to achieve and live with. Love, in many cases, does not conquer all.
The only couples left standing after the first round of weddings are my uncle Gogüi and his wife, and my own tumultuous union to the hot mess I colloquially refer to as W – who was my second official boyfriend and third conquest overall, and the father of the only pregnancy I’ve ever had and lost. My sister is holding the lead on the second round, having married a lovely and kind Midwestern soul from Missouri, an angel sent to us to keep us all sane through our recent losses and continued vicisitudes. There’s hope for my teenaged and below nephews and niece, but judging by our collective track record, the odds may never be in their favor.
Playing it safe yields no guarantees.
Currently, we are debating the pros and cons of encouraging our youngest cousin Simba (name changed to protect her identity) to jump into the fray. As the only child of a union that has withstood the test of time and the turmoil of infertility, she’s already got too much pressure on her shoulders to exceed expectations and justify her existence. She is coincidentally the last of our name. We envy her, in many ways, especially since she hasn’t had to endure years of heartache inflicted by the same ding dong. Yet, I know she longs for the warm embraces of strong arms that make you feel invincible; for the beautifully crafted words of poems dedicated to her gorgeous smile and hidden talents. Wanting to be seen and heard is the only true benefit of intimacy.
Sadly, it doesn’t always work that way or is sustainable. Keeping a connection with evolving creatures of habit is not as simple as one would assume. I long for the day our worth as women and humans transcends our ability to legitimately reproduce and/or receive praise for how long we make a marriage or civil union last. With longer life expectancies, multiple online and offline platforms to find companionship, maybe we shouldn’t be so focused on measuring worth as a function of belonging to someone else. We are whole. We are enough. And, most importantly, we don’t need outside validation to be joyful and fulfilled.
Fail quickly and often, even in matters of the heart. Never settle for less than you deserve. Perhaps the luck that doesn’t run in our family is a blessing in disguise, a tale of triumph in the face of adversity – of children thriving in non-traditional definitions of home. There’s no one size fits all solution for those unlucky at love. You have to pave your own path. For some of us, finding a soul mate will comes down to values, commitment and faith – serendipity. Opportunity will manifest as the universe obliges.