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My Grandparents Don’t Get Along

The way we look at love has changed and not for the better

By Martin VidalPublished about a month ago 6 min read
American Gothic by Grant Wood (taken from Wikimedia Commons)

I recently stopped seeing a woman who I had been dating for the last 11 months. On our very first date, I told her we had “triple sigma” chemistry. For those of you who aren’t math nerds, three sigma is three standard deviations. In other words, it’s something that only has a .3% chance of happening. I was letting her know just how rare I thought our chemistry was.

I was right. A month or two later, we were inseparable. And the chemistry only increased as things progressed. I could pass time with her effortlessly, no matter the context. All of our dates could’ve consisted of waiting in line at the DMV, and I still would’ve had a great time. We spent countless nights just doing what we referred to as “wining and whining” — venting about life over a couple glasses of red. We went on trips together, spent nights at my grandmother’s taking care of her after her knee surgery, and eventually we moved in together.

I’d call her an “emotionally constipated German” (even though she’s Lithuanian) because she would never say a word about missing me or how she felt about me — though showing up at my door every day for months on end made that plenty clear. She’s clever and always has something funny to say; she’s hyper-sexual, which will never be anything but a pro in my book; and she works herself ragged day after day. I really wanted to love her.

There are a few things I’ve always considered necessary in a relationship. For example, I have a brain like a hamster on a wheel. I need constant intellectual stimulation. I’m always analyzing something or reading some dense textbook. I want to argue about free will, the nature of existence, physics, politics, technology, etc., all day long if I can. These things preoccupy my mind on a regular basis, and my previous girlfriends had always been down to join me in those deep dives.

The German has no interest in such topics. I’ve always been worried that if a person wasn’t willing to engage with me on that side of things that they’d never really know a big part of what makes me who I am. Not only that, I already know that there are women who will hugely appreciate that aspect of my personality. How, then, am I suppose to choose as my forever person someone who’s basically indifferent to it?

Another thing about this German is that she’s careless with her words, hardheaded, and doesn’t apologize. The beginning of the end for us came about — like I’m sure it has for many people’s relationships — as part of an argument about Ben Affleck. I was saying he’s a horrible actor, and she was saying she thinks he’s a good one. The back and forth was heated but in good humor. Then, at some point she said, “Look at how little your books have sold compared to his movies, but you think your books are good, right? So who are you to say it’s not good?” Immediately, she saw my affect change, and in response, hers did as well. She instantly followed up with, “I didn’t mean it like that.”

My number one thing in a relationship is that I won’t tolerate disrespect. I hated the vicious arguments I constantly saw my dad and stepmom engage in throughout my childhood, and resolved at a young age to never allow myself to experience the same. And there were multiple times the German said things I found very insulting, though the one mentioned above was by far the most insulting.

She immediately began to walk it back, but she refused to directly apologize. She said that she apologizes in her own way, that she simply can’t bring herself to verbalize it, and she sometimes says “dumb sh*t” without meaning to. I told her that I thought the most important thing in a relationship was the willingness to forgive, but that we can’t even reach the question of forgiveness until it’s asked for by saying “sorry.” I explained that she crossed a hard boundary for me, and that without an apology things were over. She began to cry as I said it.

Soon after, she applied for a job in a different city and moved out and away. Some 6 weeks after the incident, she finally apologized with a teddy bear and a note that came with it. Immediately, I forgave her, but the distance was too far and the apology too late. Even if we both wanted it to, things weren’t going back to how they were.

Photo taken by author

Whether it was after one date or 50, I’ve ended things with so many women in the last year and a half that I’ve started to question if my standards are too strict. The German is a good woman and someone whose company I could’ve probably enjoyed for any amount of years. But with tears in her eyes, I ended things. What should I have done — held fast to my standards or prioritized the possibility of really falling in love?

As I was mulling over that question, I returned to thinking about how she doesn’t really share my interests in intellectual subjects, and it occurred to me that my grandfather worked as an engineer until he retired and my grandmother, who is not an engineer, probably knows almost nothing about the field. I’m sure, before he retired, he was just as passionate about whatever he was working at on a daily basis as I am about my interests. They’ve probably never gotten deep into the weeds of it together. She probably doesn’t really understand or have much interest in that side of him; even though after decades in the industry, a lot of his thinking life had to have been spent on just that.

And frankly, they don’t seem to get along too well either. She’s always criticizing him for something or the other every time I see them. But they’ve been together since high school, for over half a century. They never want to go anywhere without each other. They’re happy together.

That’s it, isn’t it? Love isn’t a checklist. It’s not about who’s the “perfect match” and likes all the same things you do. It’s not about being treated like a queen or a king — or whatever else Instagram would have us believe about where our standards need to be. It’s about exactly one thing: Who are you happy with?

I was happy with the German, and I could see the remorse in her eyes instantly after she said what she did. I could tell from her words and actions over the next few weeks that she was truly sorry, even if for some emotionally constipated reason she couldn’t voice it. But I remained inflexible. Now, she’s gone.

I’ve always wondered how people back in the day would meet their spouse for the first time and instantly know that’s who they wanted to spend their life with. I was listening to a podcast the other day about a famous, now-deceased war hero, Edward “Butch” O’Hare — the man the Chicago O’Hare Airport is named after. During the story, it was mentioned that he proposed to his wife the very same day he met her, she said, “yes,” and that was that. Hell, I’ve had intimate encounters with dozens of women at this point, and I still haven’t found my significant other!

Marriages used to be arranged for just about everyone. You’d hardly get to know each other before it happened. People, like my grandparents, made the decision when they were in high school! Choosing your life partner before you can even drink seems like an absurdity to me, and maybe it is. But I think an overabundance of options and a culture of entitlement has made us feel like we need to find someone who fits the exact mold of how we envision our partner should be.

I’m coming to realize that everything but the question of whether or not you can be enduringly happy with that person is all that matters. When I type it out like that, it seems so obvious, but it’s another example that common sense isn’t all that common — because a lot of people, me included, have been going about things all wrong.

If all that matters is if you’ll enjoy the time you spend with them, I can probably pick out my wife on the first meeting too. Only thing to be on the lookout for is that we have triple sigma chemistry.

Enjoy this article? I’d recommend following it up with this one: “I Went on 57 Dates Last Year


About the Creator

Martin Vidal

Author of A Guide for Ambitious People, Flower Garden, and On Authorship

Instagram: @martinvidalofficial

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    Martin VidalWritten by Martin Vidal

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