Today I read this interview with Michelle Herman about write/life balance and finding a partner that will support your writing. The whole interview is interesting, but I got hung up on this sentence:
After many years of falling in love with precisely the wrong men, and using up the time and energy that I might have spent writing any number of books that will forever go unwritten, I met my husband.
It kind of wormed its way around in my brain for a little while until I realized that I have never fallen in love with the wrong man. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t fall in love very easily, or because I was never much good at dating, but there it is.
I’ve been in love three times. One ended badly, with fear and yelling and a spontaneous cross-country move. It was my fault. I told him I wanted to marry him, but I didn’t. I don’t think I knew I was lying at the time, but sometimes that is the worst kind of lying. When I finally told him, it broke him in half. He hated me for a while and then, I think, convinced himself he never really liked me anyway. Now he’s getting married for real and I’ve heard that he’s happy. I hope so.
The next one ended beautifully, with a night of tears and long, sweet hugs. We told each other everything we loved about each other, everything we would miss about each other. When I started to cry, he brought me a towel. We spent the rest of the weekend together as planned and then gently parted ways. I still count him among my very best friends. The love there never went away; it just changed a little bit. He will continue to fall in love with a series of amazing women and then, if he decides to, he’ll pick one and live happily ever after.
One hasn’t ended. Some people might say it ended in marriage, but I don’t. He’s still my boyfriend, I still have a crush on him. I still giggle when I catch him getting out of the shower.
None of these was perfect, but none of them was wrong. In fact, I think they were all exactly right. The first guy taught me about poetry, that I am repelled by jealously, and how to fall in love. The second one taught me everything I know about music, that I look good with short hair, and that some things are worth working hard for. My current partner taught me how to cook tofu, that I can ask for things and get them, and that it’s okay to cry even when you’re mad.
All of these men are writers now, but they weren’t when I met them. The “co-writer” relationship went really differently with each of them. One loved everything I wrote, unabashedly and joyfully. One gave me thoughtful encouragement with a critical eye. And one sort of stayed away from my work all together. All of this was okay. My writing is about me. I think I could do it, and do it well, no matter who I was with or if I wasn’t with anyone at all. I hope so anyway.
I’ve been in love three times. Maybe that’s too many. Maybe it’s not enough. Maybe it would have been better for my writing if I’d fallen in love more easily or more often. Maybe a couple of wrong guys would have given me more or better stories. But I think falling in love, like falling generally, is one of those things you can’t really control. And I wouldn’t want to, even if I could.