What the Dating Lives of Goats Can Teach You About Relationship Expectations
The age-old question: should I really get into a relationship right now?
“Are there any women out there who aren’t on drugs, don’t cheat, and are willing to be loyal with me until the end!?” the post read. My eyes scrolled across it as my heart sank. My friend is going through the single man’s crisis — again. He was having himself a man-outburst.
He’s “got the itch” for a new relationship. He wants a woman to hold in his arms, someone to talk to until the wee hours of the morning before the sun comes up, someone to share his inner world with, and someone to be his companion. Hey, there’s nothing wrong with this.
We all want love. We all want sex. We all want affection. And I’ll be the first guy to tell you that there’s something seriously wrong with a society that’s so aggressive that it reliably deprives large swaths of the population of each, a society that eschews love (and sex) and makes each of them into verboten taboos and things to be ridiculed.
But setting society aside for a moment, is he doing himself any favors here?
He wants all of these things so badly that he’s torturing himself because he doesn’t have them. He’s manufacturing his own stress. He’s setting his expectations way too high. And it’s not hard to figure out why. He doesn’t have a Juliette to his Romeo. And more than that, he wants it right now.
But at the same time, he’s not ready. No, he’s nowhere near ready. He’s living with his mom and job hunting while trying to get his act together. It’s the same tragic story of countless millions of people. From Millennials to Generation X, many of us have been left out to dry in the brutal economy of America. And our relationships, whether we’re in one or not, have suffered as a consequence.
He’s also still very early in sobriety. After years of hard drinking and occasional drug addiction, he’s cleaning his life up. Honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of him. But from an objective standpoint, he’s nowhere near ready for the responsibility of a full-blown relationship. He’s got enough on his plate.
He knows it. I know it. We don’t even have to say a word to one another at this point for it to be understood. He and I have been down this road many times, and he usually comes to see the light.
As his bromance, it was my responsibility to honestly tell him how I felt. I waited until he calmed down a bit, and the stress subsided…
“You know you’re not ready for a relationship. You’ve got a lot of stresses in your life right now, a lot to focus on, and a lot to overcome. You know as well as I do you’re funny, smart, witty, and motivated, and the best relationship for you will come in due time. You’ve got a ton of attractive traits but now’s not the right time. It’s just a matter of being patient.”
I know how hard that can be. I experienced this conflict a lot, especially when I was young. In my 20s, I didn’t have my life together quite yet. But I felt a persistent and burning desire for a happy relationship with a fairy tale ending. I would close my eyes and imagine myself in it. I would convince myself that if only I were armed with a relationship, all of my other problems would somehow magically disappear.
In my 30s, I got my life together, and relationships became much easier. They don’t overwhelm me with stress. I don’t have to juggle insane responsibilities that feel crushing. I’m able to take things much more in stride. And I didn’t cross some magic number at thirty years old that gave me some magical gift that fell from the heavens. I grew as a human being.
For everyone, these age ranges are different. So long as you’re an adult, what matters is maturity, not the arbitrary numbers of age.
Needless to say, I was tickled to find out we’re not the only species to go through this conflict. Certain species of goats employ different strategies for selecting a mate. That’s right. They calculate when they should seek companions in life.
Full disclosure: some strategies of goats sometimes seem infinitely more well-thought-through than me trying (and failing miserably) to find and keep love in my 20s.
Chamois is a species of wild antelope-goat that inhabit Europe, particularly in and around the Alps. They live in and around the mountain ranges they climb, and these ranges can provide a variety of habitats for their hopefully happy goat lives. And it’s here that researchers have discovered this same plight among them.