RELATIONSHIPS

The kind of relationships I'm concerned with here are described by Webster as “romantic or passionate attachments.” I've had many. Most of them have failed. By failed I mean they ended – usually badly. So what is a successful relationship? I would define it as ‘until death do us part' as long as you don't murder the person with whom you are having a relationship. That does happen.

According to that definition, I've had at least 40 failed relationships and 10 successful ones. The successful ones were all animals who died. I love my pets passionately but not romantically. I realize there are people who do have romantic relationships with animals, but I'm not one of them. I loved all of my animals in the traditional sense, but romance seems a bit more involved than the law or good taste allows. So perhaps the definition of relationship should just involve love, commitment, and strong mutual affection. My successful relationships included six dogs, one cat, one golden spider monkey, a bird, and a horse. I also had fish, turtles, a pet boa constrictor, and an alligator, but it's hard to have affectionate relationships with reptiles.

All of my failed relationships involved women except for one. That one was my horse Bubba – who I had to sell because we were incompatible. I would love to have sold some of the women with whom I was incompatible, but there are laws about such things. And unlike most of the women with whom I've had failed relationships, Bubba still likes me and lets me ride him.

I have three current relationships that I expect to be successful because they involve animals. These are my dog (Nina), my cockatiel (Fred), and my horse (Lakota) that I co-own with my good friend Harvey who, by the way, married my exfiance (Fran) who I almost married until it became a failed relationship. If you are still following this, then I will add that Fran is the only survivor of a failed relationship with me who remains friendly towards me. We are best friends. Most of the others don't speak to me and either don't know where I am and/or don't care. That last category includes my ex-wife.

Why is it that relationships with animals are so much easier, satisfying (don't jump to conclusions here) and rewarding?  I suspect it has to do with expectations. Animals don't have expectations that go much beyond dinner. Yes, they expect you to come home to them every day, but they don't care where you've been, whom you've been with, what you did, or who you did. And they don't care what you say as long as you say it nicely. You can tell a dog she is uglier than three-day old road kill, but as long as you say it in a pleasant voice, she will wag her tail and love you. And they don't get upset if you give them an inappropriate gift.

If we speak only of human relationships, I am a miserable failure. I have a zero batting average, but I'm not sure why. I am a very loving person, so I refuse to take all the blame. In fact, being a normal male, I take none of the blame. Oh sure, you scoff. Okay, perhaps I'll admit to some of it. But if I look at all the reasons why women have dumped me, there is no “clustering of the data,” as the statisticians like to say, so I don't know what to fix. Trend analysis doesn't help either except to predict that my next relationship, should I be so lucky, will also fail. But it is better to have loved and lost...

The only pattern I can see is that for every one woman I have dumped, six have dumped me. Either I've been too old, too independent, too far away, too unemotional, too emotional, too open, too closed, or incompatible in a thousand different ways. Marriages (my one marriage included) have been problematic a few times, so I've learned to try and avoid relationships with married women, but occasionally it happens. The few relationships that I have taken the initiative to end were done so simply because I wasn't happy. I didn't place blame on anyone for those failures, because I realize that relationships are like underwear. Sometimes they just wear out or you outgrow them. Just writing this has probably already doomed my next relationship.

I'm still out there looking for that perfect relationship. But like Christopher Columbus, I'm sailing into unknown waters and, as the country and western song said, “looking for love in all the wrong places.” I've also learned the hard way that the farther your search goes, the more likely you are to be hurt. They say that when you are not looking, that's when you will find the one you want. Well, I've got plenty of evidence to refute that saying. Most of my failed relationships were with women who happened into my life when I wasn't looking. Most of them found me and reeled me in like a bass looking for a quick meal.

On the surface I may seem a bit jaded and cynical about this relationship business, but deep down inside I've been hurt so many times that even my doctor noticed things aren't right. Common sense would say that repeated failures should make me more careful and introspective, but evidently I'm not normal. I keep diving into that same pool without improving my swimming ability. But I do have a life vest now. It's called “getting older.” As I age, there are fewer and fewer opportunities for me to have any kind of relationship. But the kind of relationship that I really want – one that will last a lifetime – is becoming more realistic, because the 'till death do us part' requirement is getting shorter and shorter.