In an update on the story of Clint and Margaret, the breakup went surprisingly smoothly. After I left and Margaret returned, she announced that he needed to find a new place to stay while they try to repair things. He stayed in an extended stay motel for a couple weeks and then landed into a really sweet in-law suite in the suburbs of Shaston. Predictably, it did not take long for him to be more officially partnered up with Kirby.

There are a few aspects of this uncoupling worthy of discussion, but today I am going to focus on a romantic partner as an individual and a romantic partner as an office.

Clint stopped by and picked up the remainder of his stuff from their old apartment the other day. He couldn’t help but notice an engagement ring on her left hand. It wasn’t just an engagement ring, but it was the exact one that she had been needling him to buy her. Further, as he looked around the apartment, he couldn’t help but notice how much everything was the same. Where his XBox used to be, the new guy’s was. Where his Playstation was, the new guy’s was. Where pictures of Margaret and Clint used to be were pictures of Margaret and the new guy.

The fact that there was a new guy was not a surprise. Shortly after they part ways and it became bleedingly apparent that reconciliation was not going to happen, she met some dude online who was living in, of all places, Delosa. He was a military man whose contract with the government was set to expire and who was already interested in relocating to Shaston, where he was raised. Notably, they’ve met maybe a half-dozen times.

That some guy picked up right where Clint left off is really unsurprising. What became apparent in the latter days of their relationship was how much Margaret wanted Clint to be someone that he wasn’t. It’s not that she didn’t love Clint, but she was just as infatuated with the idea of finding that person and having the romantic proposal and playing house with the adult life and all of that.

It’s not entirely correct that she would have taken anybody to fill that roll, but it is correct to say that the willingness and ability to play that roll (a role which Clint was, in the end, ill-suited for) was perhaps the most important thing a guy had to offer. She barely knows the guy, but then again I’m not sure the degree to which she has to.

It’s not all that unlike how after my breakup with Julianne, she was living with Tony within three months. Tony had a vacancy in his life, a wife that he had been forced to leave. She had a vacancy in hers, a Trumwill that had left her. And unlike me, Tony was willing to take things to the next level of cohabitation. It was a perfect (unmarried) marriage of convenience. It took Tony four years to realize that she was a person playing a part and that, no, that really wasn’t enough for him. It was enough for her until the very end, though.

It’s impossible to say whether Margaret and her new guy will work out. But it’s part of a real phenomenon that I’ve noticed as I get older. Everybody wants that great, special person in theory. In practice, though, people often gravitate towards finding someone willing to meet certain benchmarks and then will fall in love with them. That’s what I mean by “love as an office”. It’s sort of a professional relationship.

Maybe for a lot of people, that’s the best kind. There’s certainly something to be said for settling with someone that shares your values and priorities over someone that doesn’t but makes your heart flutter. And as I’ve come to realize that I’m just not like most people, maybe my own neurotic and existential needs simply don’t apply to the people that really don’t spend all that much time thinking about things.

When I look back at my time with Julie, I still see her as the perfect candidate for the job that I was looking to bring her on for. The loving, devoted wife. Pretty in a wifely sort of way. Willing to indulge my interests and willing to bend to my preferences whenever she could. But that wasn’t enough for me. One of the hardest things I had to learn was that there needed to me something – something – more. I still can’t entirely define what.

Of course, on the other end of the spectrum was Evangeline who had that something but who was extraordinarily ill-fitted to be my partner in the respectable family I was looking to start.

Things often have a way of working out in the end. I found Clancy, who is both a well-suited partner and someone that has that ethereal quality that Julie lacked. Evangeline found a guy that was happy to live the sort of life beyond the guard rails where I was never comfortable. I don’t know if Clint and Kirby are going to work out, but I’ve spent time with her and like her a great deal. If Clint is consigned to a life of debt and relative squalor but also a life on his own terms, he could do a lot worse than her. The jury is still out on Margaret, but her new guy seems to offer her the sort of life that she wants. Julie and Tony… well not everything works out for everyone.

What do you guys think? Do you think that these sort of vacancy marriages can work? Where you just find someone with whom you are compatible and disregard everything else? Or do you see relationships like Margaret and The Officer as being a sort of rebound thing that is inherently weak and due to rupture unless it turns out that they really just correctly determined that they were perfect for one another within a few months and a couple visits?


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15 Responses to Filling a Vacancy

  1. stone says:

    Will wrote: “There’s certainly something to be said for settling with someone that shares your values and priorities over someone that doesn’t but makes your heart flutter. And as I’ve come to realize that I’m just not like most people, maybe my own neurotic and existential needs simply don’t apply to the people that really don’t spend all that much time thinking about things.”

    Sorry, nope, I am NOT buying this from someone who married a doctor!

    I might take it from my brother, whose current girlfriend is a pink-haired vegetarian masseuse. But I’d bet he’d prefer she be a doctor, if given a choice.

  2. stone says:

    By which I mean, I think you knew you could do *better* than Julie. Or, you weren’t motivated enough at that time to stop trying to do better. Which I think is absolutely fine. Just don’t get all chick-like and pretend there was some magical soul-mate thing missing and THAT’S why you’re with the better catch.

  3. Peter says:

    It could be an age-related thing … as people get a bit older, nearing and past 30 or so, many will realize that perfect compatibility (or the “spark of love”) isn’t a very realistic possibility and that a vacancy marriage isn’t necessarily a bad idea.

  4. stone says:

    Will wrote: “Where you just find someone with whom you are compatible and disregard everything else?”

    I guess I don’t see how this is so minimal, and what the “everything else” is. Compatibility is a high standard to meet.

    It seems like the real question is whether rebound relationships work, not whether compatibility works. Some people have a list that’s easier to fill than others, so it’s not hard for them to find someone quickly when they start looking again.

  5. trumwill says:

    Sheila,

    Compatibility is an approximate similarity in priorities, desires, and desirability. And someone you get along with. “Perfect on paper” or at least “good enough on paper”. The kind of person where when you put down to paper what you’re looking for, they fit the bill. Julie did that for me, as did Dharla, Carla, and a few others.

    I don’t believe in “soulmates”, but I do believe in chemistry. I think going off chemistry alone is a terrible idea, which is why I didn’t end up with a pink-haired messeuse. But without something there other than compatibility, I’m not sure if it can work. At least not for me, which is why I didn’t end up with Julie.

    With Clancy and I, there are similarities in the way that she and I think about things that I think contribute to the chemistry that make us something that can withstand some incompatibilities. Because there was nothing else between Julie and I but our compatibility, Julie and I were on the bring of falling apart due to some pretty frivolous things.

    The biggest example is that Julie wanted to move to Charlton for a while and I was absolutely, positively unwilling to go with her. Then I moved to Deseret for Clancy. Because she was a doctor? That played a part (it made moving necessary). But had Julie been a veterinarian, I still wouldn’t have gone.

    That’s why I think that for me there had to be deeper things there. Some intangible connection. Clancy is not the only person I have felt that sort of connection with, but it’s not the same group as the group that I have been compatible with. She’s the one that occupied the common area of the venn diagram. Or the first one I met or the one that I met in the time of my life that I was ready and willing to act on it.

  6. trumwill says:

    Peter,

    Hey! Where’ve you been, man?

    I think that age does play a role sometimes. I think we scale back our expectations both in terms of chemistry and compatibility. Maybe to the point that we just stop asking for one or the other.

  7. stone says:

    Maybe my reaction is caused by my aversion to the term “soulmate.” I see the term as an excuse for people who won’t compromise. As I right this, I’m thinking about a female former friend who, at 39, not only is unmarried and childless but apparently has yet to engage in any long-term romantic relationship.

    I see this as evidence of her rigidity, which is what also led to the end of her friendship. And it’s why the first thing she said after I friended her on Facebook last week was something really nasty.

    I don’t like the idea of her being able to say, “I just never found my soulmate.”

  8. PeterW says:

    I generally agree that the idea of a soulmate is an exaggeration (for “Really Compatible Persons”). That said, what’s it to you what other people believe? You clearly wish your “friend” to have lower status for holding a belief that, in reality, doesn’t affect you. General rigidity is a character trait and is unlikely to change no matter the surface-level beliefs, so the only reason you’d ever be harmed if someone believed in a soulmate is if it’s a potential romantic partner whose standards are too high.

  9. Will Truman says:

    PW,

    I think that there is a natural distaste for people that make excuses for themselves. I run into the same thing in discussions of obesity (“Why should it matter to you if it’s not really a thyroid problem?”). I don’t particularly share that sentiment on soulmates or obesity, but I do when it comes to would-be writers that don’t ever actually write anything (poetry doesn’t count).

  10. Will Truman says:

    Sheila,

    I tend to get frustrated with people that talk about “soulmates” only when they fall in one of a couple categories. Either I thought that I would be a perfect match for them and they just won’t get their head out of the clouds (though I would be a biased observer) or they’re somebody I actually care for and they seem to alternate between being sad and lonely and talking about how there is just this perfect person out there for them that they haven’t met and won’t bother dating getting any real-life dating experience in the interim.

  11. stone says:

    “You clearly wish your “friend” to have lower status for holding a belief that, in reality, doesn’t affect you.”

    Ironic you should say this, Peter, since the reason I’m upset is she called me a racist. That was the mean thing after 15 years. So this statement of yours could apply to her.

    I do think her rigidity affects me, though. Or at least her general meanness. I was hoping that after 15 years, she’d have made some of the type of mellowing compromises one makes for long-term relationships or children. But, no, she can still criticize freely without having any skin in the game. She’s gotten away with not changing.

  12. Peter says:

    Hey! Where’ve you been, man?

    On a nearly two-month self-imposed exile from the blogosphere. I had come to realize in early November that all the time I was spending on matters blogospheric was interfereing WAY too much with Real Life and decided more or less on the spur of the moment to go cold turkey. I’m now dipping my toes back into the blogosphere’s murky waters, very gingerly, with strict time limits and with certain sites (e.g. a Well-Known Sex Blog) being avoided entirely.

  13. stone says:

    Peter, it’s not well-known (except around here) and it’s not a sex blog. It’s a blog by an attention-hungry poseur baiting angry men with comforting lies. I don’t know how you ever managed to do as much as you did — figured you had a long train commute and were good at multi-tasking.

  14. Peter says:

    I don’t know how you ever managed to do as much as you did — figured you had a long train commute and were good at multi-tasking.

    I can’t figure it out either. Not having the train commute any longer will be a huge plus. It looks as if I’ll be commuting by car two or three days a week, a distance of about 20 miles one-way (traffic can be horrendous, but I should be able to avoid the peak of rush hour), and will be on the road the other days.

  15. trumwill says:

    Peter,

    The break was probably good for you. No longer reading WKSB is also good for you. I’ve found myself taking an extended break from certain kinds of blogs.

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