Lousy luck when it comes to love? What would George Eliot tell you to do about it?

June 12, 2019
Lousy luck when it comes to love?  What would George Eliot tell you to do about it?
Monse Monmo
TeaMusic
Green Tea with MintSedona by Houndmouth

Dear Erica,

My best friend always seems to have the worst luck in women. He’s funny, good-looking, a great guy overall, but still single. He always claims its bad luck but I wonder if he just chooses the wrong women. What do you think?

Doubtful in Delaware,

Dear Doubtful in Delaware,

Men are just as prone to bad luck in love as us women. So it’s possible your friend just suffers from bad luck. But I would agree that you’re right, and if your friend finds himself repeatedly disappointed in love, he might want to see if there’s a pattern. As Mark Twain allegedly said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Unless you are a complete idiot(which never happens with a Teatime reader), you are not likely to make the exact same mistakes in love. However, you might find yourself breaking up with your old lover because of his daredevil skydiving, only to find ourselves falling in love with a banker who engages in high-risk trading. You are not making the exact same mistake, but you are following a pattern. In George Eliot’s Middlemarch, she shows this tendency in the character of Dr. Lydgate, a handsome, noble, and intelligent man with terrible taste in women.

In the novel, Lydgate falls in love with a murderous French actress who he believes is nobler than she actually is. He manages to escape her clutches, only to find himself married to Rosamond Vincy, a beautiful, extremely manipulative young woman who he again thinks is more innocent and gentle than she actually is. He transforms these women into “damsels in distress” and envisions himself as their rescuer. His inability to see not only his lover, but also himself with true honesty ensures their miserable marriage.

Many members of the Middlemarch town suggest to him that a marriage to Rosamond is doomed because of their different outlooks and goals, but he ignores them all. As Reverend Cadwallader’s wife says, Lydgate “might have got a woman with good blood in her veins, and not too young, who would have put up with his profession.” After Lydgate marries Rosamond, he makes numerous professional sacrifices to accommodate his unhappy wife, whom he comes to call his “basil plant, a plant which had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man’s brains.” But Middlemarch was written in a time when divorce was scandalous and Lydgate is forced to “accept his narrowed lot with sad resignation. He had chosen this fragile creature, and had taken the burthen of her life upon his arms. He must walk as he could, carrying that burthen pitifully.”

Rather than blaming his lousy luck, I suggest your friend takes a good look at what he is attracted to in the different women he dates, and learn from his mistakes. Because in love, it is rarely luck, but our inability to understand ourselves and our motivations which derails us. And if you don’t think George Eliot will sway your friend, I’ll leave you with some wise words from a more contemporary source. As Bruce Springsteen famously said, “When it comes to luck, you make your own.”

And, I hope your friend, and all my readers are able to make their own luck when it comes to love.

Erica