Thursday, November 10, 2005

Thirty Something—or Other

I have some acquaintances: a man and a woman. He’s in his mid-thirties and she’s just entered her thirties—they’re about the ages of my two sons. He lives at home with his mother and older—also unmarried—brother. She’s divorced and has four children. She’s employed; he’s supported by his mom. They’ve known each other a couple of months and have been sleeping with each other—non-monogamously—since their second meeting.

I’ve known the woman considerably longer than I have known the man. Come to think of it, I primarily know the guy from what the woman had told me about him. A couple of days ago she informed me that the guy was expecting a large insurance settlement from an automobile accident and they planned to use the money to rent a house and move in together.

Just from the little I know about this couple, if they had come to me for pre-marital counseling, I would see several red flags. I didn’t tell her about the red flags. After all, they aren’t getting married and I—thank God—am not officiating their wedding. I simply asked her, “Do you love him?”

She was silent for a rather long time. Then she replied, “I can handle him.”

Let me repeat that: she said about this guy with whom she’s about to live: “I can handle him.”

Although I never thought about it before in these terms, I may be old fashioned. I am old enough to be their father; I am thankful that I am not. I never was nor am now a sexual prude. If two unmarried folks want to live together, that’s a matter for them and them alone. Yet, when two people make the type of commitment it takes to live together, I would anticipate that their relationship would be based on something more than I can handle him.

Living together is never easy—whether the relationship is a couple in a sexual relationship or college roommates. It is not long before one of them feels like his or her toes have been stepped on by the other. For this couple, it may be especially difficult because there is not only the two of them, but there is also the woman’s children. The man, whether he realizes it or not, is going to play the role of “father” in this family. And for one who has only played the role of a son—who has never before left his mother’s home—being the father of four preadolescent children is going to be more than a little tough. If their relationship is based primarily on sex, some expected money, and that she can “handle him,” I forecast major problems just over the horizon.

So I admit I do not understand these thirty-something folks. Maybe it is an age thing. I don’t know. I suppose I’ll just wait and see what happens.


  1. Not everyone is looking for love. For some, just not being alone is good enough. I think it would be more worrisome if she did claim to love him - at least she has some perspective on the situation.

  2. well, I'm a thirty-something person and I think it has disaster written all over it. And I think it's especially terrible because four children are involved (even if there was only one child involved, it would be terrible). We can be such experts sometimes at messing up our lives.

  3. It's not an age thing. That is just a sad thing.

  4. Thanks for your comments.

    Jay: As one who has basically lived alone for most of the last five years (since I 30-year marriage ended in divorce), I truly hear what you are saying. For the woman, at least, I don’t think the issue is one of loneliness. In the 2 or so years I have known her, she has probably had a couple of dozen “relationships.” Those seldom lasted more than a few weeks. This one may be different, since she’s been with this guy a couple of months and living with him, his brother, and mother for about ten days. Still—to me at least—she has never expressed anything about the relationship except that she can “handle him” and her hope that the guy gets the money so that they can move out of the crowded house.

    Jay Are: I agree. I do see disaster in their future. I can’t, however, predict what form that disaster will take. Where the kids are concerned, I truly would hope that it could give them some stability. By my count, they have lived in six different places in the past five months. Maybe—just maybe—this will work out, if she can truly “handle” this man. However, based on her history with men and his lack of history with women, I rather doubt that it will last.

    Southern Fried Girl: You may be on target that it isn’t an “age thing.” It may be the only thing she knows how to do. Since she was 15, the woman has had a 7-years relationship and a 5-year marriage. In the past four or so years she has had dozens of relationships plus—as her 11-year-old son calls them—lots of “sleep-overs.” In most cases she has supported the guys. I can foresee her doing this for years to come, especially since it seems to be the same thing her mother has been doing for about thirty or so years.

  5. I worry about what her four children are learning about love and relationships.

    And what happens when the man no longer wishes to be "handled?"

  6. Thomas, I agree with you 100%. At the moment I wonder even more, because I understand that her kids haven't been in school the past two days.

  7. my bf & ne talk about living together when we get out f school but we love each other

  8. That's an interesting problem. I would also worry about the kids. I do not think the relationship will last.

  9. Jody: I think love is fundamental to any relationship. Of course, there are many different kinds of emotions that go along with the English word “love.” Perhaps someday soon I’ll put up a post about that.

    Mike: Again, we agree.

  10. Nick,
    Loved this post. Some people teach us how to live and some, how not to live, through their own examples. I have a friend who's constantly hitting roadblocks, who messes up everything but yet refuses to acknowledge his faults. I've learnt more from him than from anyone else.