Q: I’m an Occupy girl, age 45, into eco-shamanism and planetary consciousness stuff. I’ve mostly dated engineers with a playful side who initially seemed open to my interests but quickly became resentful of them. My boyfriend of two years is different — easygoing and willing to expand his horizons. He actually reads the articles I post on Facebook and discusses them with me. We laugh effortlessly and are very giving to each other, but I can’t shake the feeling that I should look for somebody more my type (more artistically, politically, and spiritually inclined). I fantasize about meeting an artistic shamanic guy who is gorgeous and open and shares my sense of purpose, but the truth is, guys in my social milieu can be very competitive, neurotic, and immature. I guess my question is: If you can IMAGINE a better partner, does that mean you should break up?
A: These guys you dated probably believed they were open-minded…until they were invited by their eco-shamanistic girlfriend to something like the “Embrace of the Earth” rite, in which participants spend the night in a grave they dig themselves. As refreshing as you may find it to “tap into the earth’s restorative energies,” their first thought probably went something like “Thanks, I’ll take the night on the 800 thread count, slave-labor-made sheets. Could you turn on my electric blanket, please, before you go?”
If a guy thinks a girl’s hot, he’ll buy into whatever her trip is for as long as he can. My steak-loving boyfriend once dated a militant vegan. (He’d hit the Burger King drive-through on his way home.) Obviously, it’s a problem if you go out with some engineer dude, tell him you’re an “Occupy girl,” and he says, “Wow, my company designs the water cannons the police use to spray you people.” But, your current restlessness may stem from the notion that it’s a great big drum circle out there with a lot of chakra healer-boys and past-life counselors in it.
Having a lot of choice sounds great, but research by social psychologist Dr. Sheena Iyengar suggests that most people get overwhelmed when they have more than a handful of options. Essentially, when it seems the sky’s the limit, we’re prone to keep looking skyward. We end up not choosing at all, or we choose poorly and end up dissatisfied. A solution for this is “satisficing,” a strategy from economist Herbert Simon of committing to the “good-enough” choice — instead of marching off on a never-ending search for spiritually evolved, Burning Man-certified perfection.
Sure, you can probably find your eco-shamanistic cloneboy — a guy who’ll take the initiative in signing you both up for “soul retrieval training” when you worry that you forgot yours at Macy’s in a past life. But then maybe he’ll go all hateful on you on the way home about whether to save the whales or go to the movies. The longer your list of must-haves in a man, the more you shrink your pool of potential partners. Your own appeal is also a factor, and it’s probably narrowed by things like not being 22 and your plumpitude, if any. Consider whether it’s possible to have friends be your spiritual colleagues and have that be enough. You can wish for the gorgeous, artistic, shamanic perfect man — along with world peace and all the hemp bacon you can eat. But, maybe the realistic man is your sweet spiritual trainee who is fun and giving, dutifully rinses off his used foil, and smiles and pulls the Prius over when you tell him that your spirit animal needs to pee.
Q: I’m a 32-year-old woman who doesn’t particularly like kids. I told my last boyfriend I didn’t want kids, but three years in, he said he wanted a family and left. He said he thought I’d eventually change my mind. How do I keep this from happening again?
A: You can’t just sit down on the first date and ask a man if his semen has a lifeplan. But, let a kid-wanting man get attached (even second date-attached) and he’ll want to believe you’ll eventually mommy up. So right on date one, you need to drop into conversation that you aren’t a “kid person.” Make sure a guy responds like he’s gotten the bottom-line message: His sperm, your egg, they ain’t gonna party. Now, some guys might not have fully considered the issue of kids, so you might weave the subject in on subsequent dates for reinforcement. If you’re 22, a major compatibility issue is “Eeuw, you like Coldplay?” At 32, you really need to know up front if one of you is musing “I wonder what we’ll name the twins” and the other’s thinking “Whatever they called them at the pound is fine by me.”