In July 2013, I wrote an article about not settling for less than exactly what I wanted in a relationship. As you can imagine, the reaction from the public ranged from supportive and understanding (thanks, Jezebel) to snarky (fair enough, Bustle), to extremely twisted:
Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if guys don’t want to settle for her.
I only needed one.
Enjoy your cats, sweetheart.
I have dogs.
So what qualities do you possess, exactly, that you feel entitled to be treated like a princess? A six figure income? (Not yet) Superheroine powers? (Don’t mess with me at a sample sale) No gag reflex? (I can deep throat a banana) Get over yourself. Jesus. I hope you enjoy being single! (I’m not)
[Her next article] should be. “My Decision to Live Alone Forever” because no one is ever going to satisfy her.
Well, that didn’t happen because…
I’m engaged, bitches! And I didn’t have to settle for anything less than what I wanted. That’s right, I win! Next January, I’m going to marry the love of my life. And while I plan to take this opportunity to brag (since so many people took the opportunity to bash me), I really want to let others know that if you hold out for what you really want, you won’t have to settle. Trust me, I’m picky.
If you didn’t read the previous article, let me give you a recap. As the title implied, I went on way too many dates (not an exaggeration) because I wouldn’t settle. I made the decision I wouldn’t settle after a brief period of living with a man who treated me terribly. I moved in with him because I thought that was better than being alone.
After the relationship was over, I really put myself out there, scrutinizing every online dating profile, weeding through messages and making more effort to look cute even for a trip to Trader Joe’s. Following months of frustrating serial dating, I realized I’d rather be at home with my dog, Lulu, watching Shark Tank on Friday night than grabbing drinks with another annoying douchebag.
So, I stopped being obsessive about finding a man. Instead, I did lots of aerial yoga and spent more time with my girlfriends. I didn’t push myself to put on makeup to go to the dog park or to get groceries. But I hadn’t lost all hope — I didn’t delete my Tinder or OkCupid accounts (I didn’t go that crazy), but I rarely logged on. I wasn’t rejecting dating all together, I was just over it.
So I became seriously irritated when one of my best girlfriends from New York tried to set me up with her neighbor. She said he was my type, but really, what was the point? She tried to hook us up when I was visiting, but I kind of flaked on purpose. When I went back to L.A., she still wouldn’t shut up about him. In an effort to make her stop, I looked him up on Facebook.
Shit. She was right. He was so my type. But I still wasn’t going to make an effort because he lived ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTRY. I told her to have him add me on Facebook. When he IMed me one afternoon, I was extremely surprised, but I was also annoyed because I was in the middle of cleaning out my closet. I gave him my number and told him if he wanted to chat, he’d have to call me, I was too busy to type. I still have no idea how my attitude didn’t turn him off immediately.
A few minutes later, he called me and we talked for over two hours. I later found out he actually had a date that night, which he rescheduled because he was enjoying our conversation so much. Over the next month and a half, we talked on the phone every day and really got to know each other.
My phone relationship was starting to make me crazy (or perhaps in all fairness, crazier). Every guy who was even remotely interested in me paled in comparison to him. I decided I had go to New York to meet Ethan.
If I were narrating this story in a movie or television show right now, a sound effect with screeching breaks would be inserted here. I’ve documented my dating life online for years and, under 99 percent of circumstances, I would never make such an effort to go see a guy. But because his job wasn’t exactly flexible, the ball was in my court.
When Ethan picked me up at JFK airport and kissed me, all I could hope was that this would be my last first kiss. Almost instantly, the kiss drained me of most of my snark, melting me into a puddle of mush.
So did he meet all the requirements that everyone told me I was crazy for having in my first essay? He did — Ethan has awesome hair, is the most chivalrous man I’ve ever met, is brilliant, well-educated, ambitious, and makes me laugh.
But, to be honest, it was in no way my first preference to date someone who lived on the other side of the country. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t date someone who lived on the other side of town (Los Angeles traffic can be glacially slow), but I fell in love. While I had experienced many emotional challenges in my life, my long-distance relationship was in another ballpark entirely. When we were apart, I felt uncomfortable. My life was with him and it wasn’t about just me anymore.
Ethan asked me to move in with him a few months after we got together, but I said no. Not because I didn’t want to, but after I made that mistake before, I wasn’t ever going to move in with anyone unless there was a ring on my finger.
I also wasn’t going to drop my whole life in Los Angeles for a man, even if I was madly in love with him. If it didn’t work, it sounded like a romantic comedy I didn’t want to star in.
Although it was inconvenient and expensive, we continued visiting each other. We also never spent more than five weeks apart and I would stay in New York for weeks at a time, so unlike many long-distance relationships, through my unscientific estimation, I think we probably spent just as much time together as regular couples. Plus, because we couldn’t be together all the time, we had a deeper appreciation for the time we spent together, whether it was watching a movie on the couch or on a boat in the Hamptons, we really made every moment count.
Ethan told me he wouldn’t be comfortable asking me to marry him if we didn’t live together first, but I knew if he really wanted to be with me, he’d respect my wishes. I wasn’t going to relent and make the same mistake twice.
But I also knew relationships work two ways, and I realized I had to give him something to get what I wanted. On October 18, I flew to NYC without a return ticket. I still had my apartment in L.A. (I was subletting it), car, most of my clothes, etc. I didn’t give up my life in L.A. so much as I put it on pause.
Within a few weeks of my trip, I knew he was going to ask me because we started to talk about getting married. I made jokes about how I wanted the proposal to go — he needed to get down on one knee and I wanted strangers to clap (I’m not narcissistic or anything). He told me to look for rings and tell his sister in law (who I had grown very close to) what I wanted.
On December 21 at 12:01 a.m. (one year to the day we started talking), Ethan got down on one knee and proposed. I said yes. Strangers clapped. I said “Oh, my God,” like, 100 times really loudly. Ethan got us a beautiful hotel suite for the night and had my favorite flowers (tulips) and champagne waiting. He even took pajamas (yes, I sleep in pajamas), allergy meds, and an outfit for the next day, so I would be comfortable at the hotel. One of my closest friends was back at the apartment, watching our dogs for the night. He had also arranged a small, but perfect engagement brunch the next day with just our immediate families. I couldn’t have orchestrated a better engagement myself. The whole thing was magical.
Every single person has their own version of an ideal partner. A lot of people settle for less than everything they want because they believe that person doesn’t exist (not true) or that they aren’t worthy of love (been there, done that, he still won’t admit he stole my dishes). But when you settle for someone who really isn’t the person you want, you don’t end up as happy as you could be.
I discovered that when it comes to love, there aren’t any real concessions to make. When you really love someone and they love you back, giving in or making a sacrifice isn’t really giving in or making a sacrifice — it’s just something you have to do, or a step you have to take to get something that’s more important than the thing itself. So while Ethan met all of my not-so-basic criteria, it didn’t mean our relationship wasn’t a challenge in other ways. But just because everything isn’t fairy-tale perfect doesn’t mean I won’t (or you can’t) live happily ever after.