An ex-girlfriend wants us to go on holiday together this August. The problem is that I’m having second thoughts about saying ‘no’. Bearing in mind that we are both 22 years old and we haven’t seen each other for four years, but do keep in touch by email and the odd text.
But should I bury my scepticism and go ahead with plans knowing that this may create further resentment in our relationship, or do we just keep going our separate ways in hopes of living our desired futures with someone different.
The dream of dating the same person from your mid-teens and then settling down, while a common expectation in life, feels like it comes from centuries ago. It wasn’t just a conundrum for me but for everyone at my school.
The greatest seismic shift in society seems to be not how much longer we’re living but how much slower we’re maturing. Moving out of home, let alone settling down to being a twosome before you’ve hit your 30s, is increasingly unusual. Fifty years ago, if a woman wasn’t married by my age, words like spinster (and lesbian) were bandied about. Nowadays what’s the hurry? We live much longer than we did when the institution of marriage, still our favoured way of pairing up and shorthand for future-building together, was invented. Fifteen years feels like an achievable goal when it comes to sharing a bedroom and bathroom for all but the most mismatched couples, but beyond that the odds of survival are much reduced. With expected lifespans now hitting nine decades and beyond, settling on one person and promising to honour and cherish them, potentially for seven decades, is quite a tall order.
In fact, I can’t help wondering if all relationships desiring that official stamp of approval should be certified on a year renewable basis with an extended warranty available on request. A wedding day and all of the promises made stays fresh in the mind for only a few years. After that, with nothing to look forward to but more of the same, a renewal of vows seems a sensible and salutary reaffirmation. You don’t need to worry about any of that yet, but you do need to bear in mind the hitherto unimaginably long lives you are likely to be living. If you did decide to stick with someone, you could end up celebrating 80 years of devotion. For that to sound like less of a threat you need more certainty about the union in the first place.
Not that I’m unmoved by the potential of extremely young love evolving into long-term unions.
Travelling together will certainly examine our strengths and weaknesses, but with cracks already there it may, turn them into an abyss of no return. But my choices are simple to outline and harder to choose: use this upcoming adventure as a great bonding experience; travel together and see if we can last the course; take a total sabbatical from each other and hope that absence drives us back into each other’s arms with increased relish; or continue to be friendly, on the basis that I’m not planning to make commitments to someone new.