Thursday, March 24, 2016
How many reels in your slot machine?
I was listening to a friend who was feeling a frustrated by her significant other. She noted that everything was great, but.... And how much of a problem was that deficit?
And the issue made me think of slot machines.
You know how slot machines have big reels with many visual elements—from cherries to lemons, and all the fruit and symbols in between: melons, pineapples, plums, oranges, strawberries, lucky sevens. And the more reels you have—three, five, seven, or whatever random access the electronic versions allow—it becomes exponentially less likely those reels will line up and a payout or jackpot will be reached.
And, over the years as I listened to single female friends, I realized that for some, the longer the wait, the more reels were being added to their required 'jackpot.'
One friend had an increasingly long list of requirements: successful, well educated, attractive, interested, interesting, appealing social circle, and given her age, he would have to have had a substantial prior relationship (no 50+ perennial bachelors, please) yet ideally without a crazy ex-wife popping out of the woodwork. And if there were children: independent and delightful.
Well, after a lot of pulling of levers and spinning of reels, things actually lined up (a widower, but enough years away from his loss to be ready to begin again, great adult children, everything else checked out). If seemed a miracle. Cha-ching! Payout.
But ultimately, it didn't work out.
Why? we wondered. Well, once all the external requirements had been met, suddenly the intangibles manifested themselves. Yes, those pesky feelings. And she said, everything was great, but..."we didn't have emotional intimacy." And ultimately, that was the key element for her to make a lifetime commitment.
Now, don't get me wrong, that connection is enormously important, perhaps one of the most important aspects that needs to be felt before you make that kind of commitment. But her realization didn't re-prioritize or diminish the importance of any of the other reels/requirements. I knew if she found someone she connected with, trusted, was capable of sharing herself with...he would also need to be successful, well educated, attractive, etc. Each additional reel or requirement added isn't just plus one. The incremental difficultly to get all those elements lined up is exponential.
So it behooves us all to understand what is truly essential. What can't be compensated for. What can't be 'contracted out' or lived without. And try to let go of the rest, at least if you want a reasonable chance for a payout.
Romances for me have always provided wonderful, illustrative stories of what appears important...and was is truly important. And by sharing the stories of the difficult process we have to go through to determine that complex algorithm for ourselves, they offer insight and examples. What is a worthwhile compromise? What offers a sense of balance, yet gives each party the essentials they need to thrive in the relationship?
It is an endless and ever changing conundrum—and is it any wonder we hope for and delight to find a happy ending?
I think not.