Deadlines on Love

If only the barometer of love could be like a pediatric benchmark chart.

It’s been a while since I’ve played hot potato. Maybe an elementary school birthday party? Camp? 

So I Googled the basic tenets of the game and the rules, as a refresher: Get in a circle, toss a small object to each other while music plays. The player who is holding the ‘hot potato’ when the music stops is out. 

Why did I go to the trouble? Well, I wanted to more closely examine what I thought was a sharp analogy by a friend over beers and burgers the other night.

We were discussing relationships. He and his boyfriend are in a longterm relationship. They’re happy, live together, and they’ve really just managed to fuse their worlds and build a life together in a healthy, thriving way with common and independent social networks and job passions.

This seems all well and good to me. But lately he’s been getting outside pressure from friends, coworkers and those around him that he and the boyfriend should get hitched, make it official already. 

“Should.” “Why haven’t.” Using length of relationship as an ironclad barometer. My friend said the judgment was coming from those who have made the marriage leap, as if their way was THE way. They wanted to convert others to the church of “Marry by this point or else.”

And then my friend gave me the analogy (paraphrased):

People make life into a game of hot potato. When the music stops, they’re locked in and sort of stuck with what they have in their words. In other words, once that designated age or period comes, whoever someone is with, they’re stuck with the person and just supposed to get married because the time is preordained. There’s a need to be at a certain point right then.

I think he’s on to something.

We’re a society obsessed with giving deadlines. This can be good in the case of, I don’t know, actually finishing a project when it’s intended and needs to be finished.

A deadline for life milestones, though, seems less necessary and more apt to become detrimental in a hurry. How many times have I seen Buzzfeed style lists proclaiming the “10 things you must do by 30” or the “15 lessons you need to master by 40.” Coming soon: “11 reasons why you suck at being a human person.”

We hardly progress at the same rates. Facebook reminds me this every day when I see the various levels of “success” my college compatriots are having.

And relationship mile markers? I can’t think of a more ludicrous notion. Sometimes a two-month whirlwind romance happens and it makes complete sense to whisk off your partner (do people still whisk?) to begin a whole adventure together in a far-off, happily ever after land.

Sometimes people are together for two, five, 10 years and are not in the right headspace to marry then. Or ever. A lifetime commitment means not only does the pairing have to be right but hopefully both people have their stuff together too—and at the same time. Having your stuff together never follows an appointed deadline.

Just because my friends have been dating for a certain number of years does not mean that that obligates them to a relationship timetable. Can you imagine if we still measured ourselves in the way we do as babies heading to the pediatrician. “Ma’am, your daughter is in the 50th percentile for height and weight.” She’s, therefore, a failure.

We’d need relationship benchmark percentiles and check ups. Hot potato would quickly make way to fiery hell.