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Finding The 4 AM Man

Who is the 4 am man? Is he the dream guy, or just a glitch in perception?

Have you ever had a memorable life moment at 4am? A first date? News of admission into your cherished Ivy League school? Your child’s first word? A promotion perhaps or a NASDAQ listing for your startup? I can safely say I haven’t (if one discounts one’s first spliff, which is pretty memorable)

However, most people are asleep at 4am. Or, cramming for an exam. Or, bleary-eyed at an airport catching an international flight. The most important things we need around us at that hour are quiet and caffeine. Hence I am routinely baffled as to why the most important life decision one makes regarding a life partner hinge upon finding the ‘4am guy’?

And, yet, l routinely see women sing odes to this mythical man as they search for him once they are done dating the ‘bad boys’. His ‘4am-ness’ is probably right on top of The List – which among other things comprises sense of humour, nice eyes, financial stability and good family. How the presence of this quality is ascertained I’m not quite sure. Is it a firm handshake? Or him remembering your school best friend’s favourite drink?Or touching your mother’s feet at their first meeting? However most often it’s a quick shortcut of displayed mnemonics of reliability, consideration and cultural values that translate into a man who will always be there when the proverbial shit hits the fan.

And yet so many marriages and relationships crumble whether they are in their first few difficult years or well into their first decade. What gives? Surely no one morphed into a monster overnight? Whether it’s the cruel words, or the lies, the inflexibility or the coldness, they emanate from the same 4am guy (with some help from our end sure, but it’s still there).

I’d be brave and venture to say that maybe we’ve been looking for the wrong guy all along. In our search for ‘settling down’ and doing the ‘right thing’ and finding the ‘right guy’ we have chosen the list over our instinct and followed the herd rather than our heart. Because our hearts are actually looking for the 4pm guy.

Allow me to introduce him. He’s the guy you like to share a post-coital cigarette and some bad TV with. He’s the guy you want to have a heated armchair political debate with and then end it with a stiff drink and a hearty laugh at your silly passionate declarations. He’s the guy you want to play hooky from work and come home and have lazy sex with. He’s the guy you want to spend time with even after the party is over, the guests have left, there are no big occasions around the corner and things are coasting along. Somewhere between the good news and the bad news, he’s the guy who makes the interim a fun ride, who makes the everyday the best place to be in.

Because let’s face it. We all have some 4am times in store for us whether it’s that dreaded middle of the night call to announce a loved one’s passing, that surreal trek back from the doctor’s clinic with a damning report or a lightning redundancy we didn’t see coming. And we hope to mitigate some of that pain with a person who will be a lover, counselor, soothsayer and financial bailout rolled into one. However the truth is that, men are only human and they will probably fail this test of superhuman-ness because no one can be all these things rolled into one (life is not a Nicholas Sparks novel).

But the real trouble starts when we discover that not only do we have to save ourselves, we don’t quite like this person we’re married to. Not just as husbands but also as human beings. Whether it’s their sudden pettiness, vicious temper, callous words or social awkwardness, all the things we had brushed under the carpet in the name of marital adjustment suddenly comes tumbling out. But, in reality, he really hasn’t changed. Our way of seeing him has. And suddenly we’re left with neither a 4am Superman nor a 4pm Everyman – just a big hole waiting to be jumped through on to D other side. Divorce.

Moral of this cautionary tale? Settle for that guy you have fun with in the Now and chances are you’ll muddle through life’s myriad crises armed with a joke, a drink and mutual kindness. Unlike the wisdom of financial planning and insurance planning, relationship planning peaks in the Now. The Happily Ever After is just overrated clever marketing.