Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Tragedy of Low Expectations, Part 3: The Solution

So we can't lay it all on misbehaving celebrities, and we can't foist the blame on popular culture. The true blame for the waning regard for the institution of marriage lies with private citizens who have entered into marriage for foolish reasons, perhaps never intending to take the commitment seriously, and then taken divorce as the easy way out, passing their example on to their children. A gloomy picture, I will admit, but there's good news: if we have to take responsibility for the problem, we don't have to wait around for the government or the entertainment industry to fix things for us. We can be part of the solution.

As I hinted at the end of my previous blog, when it comes to marriages what we need is quality, not quantity. We need more people who, despite the emotional rush that comes with the throes of romantic love, can approach the prospect of marriage with a degree of maturity. In concrete terms, this means asking the right questions.

First, do you like your significant other? Seems like a foolish question, but the sad truth is that many people enjoy hot n' heavy sexual relationships with significant others with whom they have neither tastes nor ideas in common, and for whom they have no real respect -- but the "chemistry" is there, so they believe they're in love, and they think their "chemistry" is a good basis for marriage. Most people who have lived a little while on planet Earth, however, realize that sexual electricity is mercurial. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes it seems completely gone, and then, without warning, it springs back to life. Those who expect their married life to be one long sexual high are doomed to disappointment. So the wise ask themselves, "Do I genuinely like this person? Do I enjoy his/her company outside of the bedroom? Do I like talking with him/her, sharing space with him/her? Do we enjoy some of the same activities? Do we share interests? Are we friends?"

Those who answer "yes" to these questions have a much better chance of making it as a married couple than those proverbial opposites who attract. Those who answer "no" might want to consider that they'd be better off staying single.

Another important question: Does your significant other have healthy relationships with relatives of the opposite sex? Ladies, does your man like and respect his mother, his sister, his female cousins? Gentlemen, does your woman get along well with her father, her brother, her male cousins?

If the answer is "yes," this significant other might be a safe bet for a long-term relationship. This answer reveals that he/she is capable of relating to the opposite gender in ways other than sexual, and so sexuality may not be the sole yardstick by which he/she is prepared to measure you. Further, the person who gets along well with relatives of the opposite gender is more likely to view those of that gender as individuals rather than as an incomprehensible Type; he/she may be less likely to speak of "Men" or "Women" with that obvious capital letter in the voice, as a blanket group who share the same (usually annoying) traits.

But if the answer is "no," run like the proverbial wind. With very few exceptions, a significant other who has no healthy non-sexual relationships with the opposite gender cannot be trusted. He/she is more likely than anyone else to confuse sex with love and to leave friendship and respect out of the equation altogether.

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