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"it is wise to be appropriately pessimistic here"
July 18, 2014 7:10 PM   Subscribe

How we end up marrying the wrong people

How do the errors happen?
One: We don’t understand ourselves
Two: We don’t understand other people
Three: We aren’t used to being happy
Four: Being single is so awful
Five: Instinct has too much prestige
Six: We don’t go to Schools of Love
Seven: We want to freeze happiness
Eight: We believe we are special
Nine: We want to stop thinking about Love
The level of knowledge we need for a marriage to work is higher than our society is prepared to countenance, recognise and accommodate for – and therefore our social practices around getting married are deeply wrong. [...]

Presently, we marry without any information. We almost never read books specifically on the subject, we never spend more than a short time with children, we don’t rigorously interrogate other married couples or speak with any sincerity to divorced ones. We go into it without any insightful reasons as to why marriages fail – beyond what we presume to be the idiocy or lack of imagination of their protagonists.
*Recipe For A Happy Marriage: The 7 Scientific Secrets
*The Science Of “Happily Ever After”: 3 Things That Keep Love Alive
*What are the four things that kill relationships? (summary of John Gottman's "Four Horsemen")

The Gottman Relationship Blog:
*The Four Horsemen: Introduction - "The following questionnaire assesses the presence of the Four Horsemen (criticism, contempt, defensiveness, and stonewalling) in your relationship."
*The Four Horsemen: Recognizing Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling
*The Four Horsemen: The Antidotes - "Even the most successful relationships have conflict. Our research has shown that it's not the appearance of conflict, but rather how it's managed that predicts the success or failure of a relationship. We say “manage” conflict rather than “resolve," because relationship conflict is natural and has functional, positive aspects."

Magda Pecsenye (of AskMoxie): Four True Things About Marriage, Divorce and Families
1. There is no such thing as a "normal" marriage
2. The emotional health of the children and parents can't be separated from each other
3. The choice is not between a happy marriage and a broken home
4. The long-term effects of coming from a divorced family may not be negative relative to coming from an "intact" family that doesn't function well

Wall Street Journal: Want great marriage advice? Ask a divorced person
"Research shows that most divorced people identify the same top five regrets — behaviors they believe contributed to their marriage's demise and that they resolve to change next time."

previously on MeFi: How to Pick a Life Partner from Wait But Why
posted by flex (55 comments total) 174 users marked this as a favorite

 
I had a nightmare about this just the other night- walking down the aisle with a coworker I only kind of know, and thinking "oh man why the hell am I doing this I barely know this person oh god but it's too late to back out now!"
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:14 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Nametags are important.
posted by srboisvert at 7:26 PM on July 18 [5 favorites]


My parents were both each other's second marriage. I've been happily (and apparently successfully) married to my second husband for almost fifteen years. The number one lesson from a previous marriage I have isn't in the WSJ list: don't say terrible things to your spouse.

This lesson comes courtesy of a friend of my parents', who told my mom that she was jealous of how pristine my parents' relationship was, because they'd never said the sort of things that stuck with you and soured the relationship. Now that I've been through a divorce, I know what she meant, and I'm really careful what I say to my husband even when I'm angry. You never know what will stick, either. (One of the really bitter ones from my divorce was "but we don't like bacon", which is not a phrase you'd expect in a cautionary tale.)

Also, semi-related, I think I may have a marriage of reason, but that may have something to do with both of us being history nerds.
posted by immlass at 7:32 PM on July 18 [29 favorites]


Not at key parties.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:32 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


What I'm getting from that first link is that self-awareness is important. Yeah, if you've reached a marriageable age without knowing yourself or being able to understand other people, and none of your friends care about you beyond "a nice evening out," no wonder you'll end up having unhappy relationships. This is where the Ask maxim to "sort yourself out before jumping into a relationship" comes from.
posted by you're a kitty! at 7:34 PM on July 18 [3 favorites]


I'm a total fan of John Gottman and his research, even though my parents have completely invalidated his work for the past 50 years of their marriage. They ride the four horsemen round and round, from the laundry room to the kitchen and rooms beyond, dawn to dusk.
posted by Auden at 7:35 PM on July 18 [7 favorites]


Thinking of your marriage more as business arrangement can help. Love waxes and wanes, but getting up connections with a business arrangement is an ongoing process, yet you don't rely on that business partner for everything. You nurture other relationships and concentrate on making that business arrangement as pleasant as possible.

Though hot sex does help.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:39 PM on July 18 [4 favorites]


There must be a lot of hot sex going on, because I see a lot of relationships that appear to lack basic mutual respect and affection, at least in terms of how they speak to and about each other.

The photo of Charles and Di made me wince. Neither hot sex nor affection there, sadly for them.

But some of the paragraphs were a bit odd. Is this really accurate?

Unfortunately, after a certain age, society makes singlehood dangerously unpleasant. Communal life starts to wither, couples are too threatened by the independence of the single to invite them around very often, one starts to feel a freak when going to the cinema alone. Sex is hard to come by as well. For all the new gadgets and supposed freedoms of modernity, it can be very hard to get laid – and expecting to do so regularly with new people is bound to end in disappointment after 30.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:55 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Yes. Yes, it is accurate.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:56 PM on July 18 [43 favorites]


Men seem to need nonsexual affirmation even more than women do, Dr. Orbuch says. In her study, when the husband reported that his wife didn't show love and affection, the couple was almost twice as likely to divorce as when the man said he felt cared for and appreciated. The reverse didn't hold true, though. Couples where women felt a lack of affection weren't more likely to divorce.

I've seen this sort of finding elsewhere, I think. It all seems to hinge on women's emotional labour. Coddling or cuddling, or enduring or withholding, as required.

I don't have the will, talent or energy for cheerleading (or taming) anyone who's not a child. Nope.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:01 PM on July 18 [21 favorites]


Ask yourself the three things you must always ask yourself before you say anything:
1. "Does this need to be said?"
2. "Does this need to be said by me?"
3. "Does this need to be said by me now?"
           -- Craig Ferguson
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:02 PM on July 18 [111 favorites]


Is this really accurate?

It varies. I don't really find that couples are less inviting to singles, but I do find that couples with children become so much about their kids (understandably) that you can basically expect them to fall off your radar. Maybe that's different if you have kids as well. I dunno.

As far as one's romantic prospects dwindling, I suppose that's a little bit true. But if a person's romantic life had been so great before, it's likely they wouldn't be single now. I don't know that you can point to age. I think it has more to do with a willingness to put oneself out there, and more to the point, a willingness to fuck up royally. I think we get more cautious as we get older, and less willing to repeat our mistakes. I know a few people pushing sixty who have been married a few times and rarely seem to be single for long. They also keep marrying the same sort of people over and over, with the same results. But they're not single!
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:15 PM on July 18 [3 favorites]


I don't know about straight people, but dykes treat singletons, especially singletons not actively looking, the way anti-same sex marriage bigots treat same sex marriage. As if singleness would affect their precious sapphic harmony.

Makes no sense - if a dyke isn't looking for a new partner, one would think their friend's partners were secure. Not looking, not looking to make someone else break up (assuming monogamy, of course).

But a single dyke not looking probably calls into question coupling up, with all relationships' frustrations and compromises (as well as advantages). How dare singles be happy - it's so much work to be in a relationship, surely the payoff is worth it!

One of the best things about being genderqueer/trans, for me, is not having to care what dykes think about my relationships, or lack of them, any more. (For the record, my last relationship, with a fellow MeFi, was lovely. If she's available and interested, you should date her. She's not a lesbian.)
posted by Dreidl at 8:26 PM on July 18 [5 favorites]


Is this really accurate?

Not in my experience. Most of my close friends are married, and have been married for a while, and it hasn't ever been an issue. But they also see me as more than just an excuse for "a nice evening out," so maybe that affects things.

Who knows what'll happen when they start poppin' out little ones, but generally all bets are off in that case no matter what your relationship status.

I also love going to the movies alone.
posted by you're a kitty! at 8:33 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Is this really accurate?

Not in my circle. Must only affect certain person for certain reasons.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:39 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


> Yes. Yes, it is accurate.

Agreed.
posted by Superplin at 8:46 PM on July 18


I see a lot of relationships that appear to lack basic mutual respect and affection, at least in terms of how they speak to and about each other.

I see it too. I don't love drawing from evolutionary psych, but it does seem to me that we're better kitted out for serial short- to medium-term (i.e., however long it takes for a baby person to get to wanting to drive) relationships, vs. monogamy/property sharing for the many, many more decades we have now than we ever did. I'd support wider (official) societal endorsement of the former (because, really, it happens all the time), if something could be worked out around more equitable distribution of reproduction (I vote for something along these lines) and $/property.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:50 PM on July 18


But meanwhile, I guess I'd better start liking cats.
posted by cotton dress sock at 8:51 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


Is this really accurate?

Not in my experience but obviously emmv.

I do occasionally get rando douchebag foaf guys saying HOW MANY CATS DO YOU HAVE LOL but I just stare at them with amused revulsion until they go away presumably to cry alone in the dark.
posted by elizardbits at 8:53 PM on July 18 [19 favorites]


It kind of depends. I know people who have kids who have mostly dropped out of our social circles, but I have others that I am friends with both them and their kids.
posted by tavella at 8:54 PM on July 18


Is this really accurate?

The not hanging out with couples part? Yes. The term you want to Google is "dyadic withdrawal".

The having a hard time getting laid part? Not IME.
posted by asterix at 9:01 PM on July 18 [2 favorites]


I say it is accurate about singles because the older you get, the more you are left out of society. People don't know how to deal with you. Young smug marrieds only want "couple friends." Babies make it worse. People will line up to tell you that there is something wrong with you for being single. You are a failure as a grownup.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:14 PM on July 18 [4 favorites]


Is this really accurate?

Yes and no. It's a byproduct of capitalism, essentially. Love and relationships, in US society, are a market. They don't have to be, but it's so rare that anyone conceives of them any other way. If you are not a marketable commodity - not thin, not white and specifically not blonde, not "fun-loving," not spontaneous, not sexually forward and/or dominant in an acceptable, porn-derived way - then yes, it will be accurate for you.
posted by dekathelon at 9:16 PM on July 18 [15 favorites]


I do like that Magda article, though. I am intrigued by her business.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:17 PM on July 18


ten: pregnancy
posted by ennui.bz at 9:25 PM on July 18


a friend of mine, a lawyer, says marriage should be illegal until you're at least twenty-five, preferably thirty. Failing that, he's in favor of a graded system (ie: divorce is very simple for the first seven years of any marriage ... to be point of being encouraged).
posted by philip-random at 9:26 PM on July 18 [13 favorites]


Presently, we marry without any information. We almost never read books specifically on the subject, we never spend more than a short time with children, we don’t rigorously interrogate other married couples or speak with any sincerity to divorced ones. We go into it without any insightful reasons as to why marriages fail – beyond what we presume to be the idiocy or lack of imagination of their protagonists.

I'm prepared to believe this is true, but I wonder if there's good research out there showing that people who do, in fact, "prepare" for marriage are typically happier than those who don't. That is, if we read the books and spend time with the children and rigorously interrogate other married couples and speak with sincerity to divorced ones do we end up making better choices and having happier marriages than the norm?
posted by yoink at 9:57 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


Is this really accurate?

At 25 I decided I'd either be married or join a monastery by 35 (I'm not kidding). I got married at 29, and, now, at 41, I have single and married friends. I think 25 year-old me was wise.
posted by oddman at 10:10 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


In a wiser society, prospective partners would put each other through detailed psychological questionnaires and send themselves off to be assessed at length by teams of psychologists. By 2100, this will no longer sound like a joke. The mystery will be why it took humanity so long to get to this point.

The future is already here, it's just not well-distributed yet -- outside of Planet AskMetafilter.

I have to believe that much of the Philosophers' Mail article was written with tongue firmly in cheek, but in a very dry British humor.

Is this really accurate? [about the difficulty of singledom over 30]

In my experience, absolutely. Those people who still have active social lives, new sex partners regularly, and a large group of friends are not getting all that in the way we did when we were in college. That was an environment when socializing meant going somewhere to hang out in an ever-shifting group, and social occasions fed on a constant influx and circulation of new potential partners to "try on" relationships with. The people I know who are still getting laid with new partners regularly are putting themselves forward in a very up-front, honest, this-is-just-sex way. It's not the fall-in-instant-love -> passion -> move-on-in-a-couple-months pattern that was common at age 20.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 11:45 PM on July 18 [1 favorite]


It's not the fall-in-instant-love -> passion -> move-on-in-a-couple-months pattern that was common at age 20.

That's a relief
posted by rue72 at 12:07 AM on July 19 [5 favorites]


Four: Being single is so awful

Huh? I guess I like awful.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 1:40 AM on July 19 [6 favorites]


I think my problem is that I like singledom too much. I don't even mind not having many friends. Sure, there's less camaraderie, but there's more free time to do whatever you want. It's a trap, because the best way to meet new people is through other people.
posted by mantecol at 1:57 AM on July 19 [4 favorites]


Four: Being single is so awful.

No. No, it’s not. But being told that is so is getting a bit old. I’d just as happily turn the question around—what is so wrong with you that you cannot stand on your own?

I have been single my entire life, and it suits me just fine (realized twenty plus years ago that I was too ugly and too eccentric to attract a mate, shrugged, and got on with life). I have good friends and a loving family. While I have happily married/coupled people in my life, I have also seen the fallout of divorces or (premature) deaths, and that is a hurt I would not wish upon anyone.

It does not get worse over time, either. If you thrive in your own company, you can continue to do so. There’re supposed to be around a million singles in Denmark (out of a population of 5,5 million), and we (the nation, not just the singles) are reputedly the happiest people in the world.
posted by bouvin at 2:11 AM on July 19 [36 favorites]


Okay, I'll elaborate - you do get people more unwilling to hang put with just a singleton, and the friends who would see you are tied up with their kids. Even your other single friends are often too wiped out from balancing their own career lives and home lives to sustain much of a social life (meaning - if it's just you doing all the housework you're gonna be more tired than if you have a partner).
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:10 AM on July 19


I have not found being single to be the picture of gloom, doom and loneliness. However, I live in the San Francisco Bay area, which is very singles-friendly, and my closest friends are childfree. I think if I lived in a more conservative part of the country and/or most of my friends had kids, I'd feel differently. As it is, I love being single.

And I'm at the age where I start seeing women I know (and it is almost always women) be weighted down with onerous caregiving responsibilities that won't end anytime soon - spouses with Parkinson's or dementia or other awful degenerative illnesses, grandkids who need full-time care, disabled adult children who might never be able to live independently - being single and childfree doesn't look like such a bad bargain. (Many older divorced or widowed women do NOT want to remarry. Not wanting to be a caregiver is one big reason why.)

It's absolutely YMMV depending on many factors. Where you live, who your friends are, what your personality and needs are like. I know folks who hate being single and those - mostly older women, btw! - who love it.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:38 AM on July 19 [9 favorites]


Speaking as a single male in his 30s, sex isn't hard to find, it's just sex that you can talk about in polite company that's a rarity. It all comes down to social respectability-there is a a trope or archetype, never explicitly stated, but universally acknowledged, that One Should Be Married to be taken seriously.
posted by Captain l'escalier at 5:42 AM on July 19 [4 favorites]


Many people simply aren't the marrying kind, marriage material, or even relationship-oriented. Try living that, though, especially as a straight female.

The way the role of "wife" generally plays out in U.S. society is not something I could or would have done well. I am WAY too introverted for that: if I have down time, I prefer to spend it alone, always have. Most men appear to have sensed that about me. :-)

The absence of romantic love in my life matters less and less to me every year; I have ample time to focus on my interests, which are many, and my career is going better all the time without consuming my life. If people think less of me because I'm single, let them knock themselves out: they aren't paying my bills and I haven't found my single status to be a hindrance in the workplace, where my bills DO get paid. I will say that it's taken me decades to get to this place, though, since the cultural messaging is so all-pervasive and I can be one of those people who Cares Too Much.

For further, richer reading from a sociological/social criticism perspective, Eva Illouz' Why Love Hurts was a mind-blower. dekathelon's comment touches on some of the points Illouz makes. Hannah Black's The Loves of Others also resonated deeply with me.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 6:03 AM on July 19 [12 favorites]


I dunno. My wife and I are both introverted to juuuuust this side of pathology, and we're doing fine eight years on. We spend a lot of time sitting quietly in the same room with our respective computers/books and interacting via text chat even though we're ten feet away from each other.

Now, having a child while introverted, oy. It's a good thing the baby is funny, because man is he a drain on (both of our) mental resources.
posted by Scattercat at 6:48 AM on July 19 [5 favorites]


My parents had a pretty ugly and hurtful divorce when I was 3. Some of my earliest memories are of them shouting at each other.

I would like to think that had an affect on my relationship with my wife. We just celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. I think I learned a lot of what not to do from my parents.

- Don't keep score. Your partner doing something in the past is not an excuse to retaliate in some way now.

- Don't play passive-aggressive games. No silent treatments. No withholding why you're upset about something, leaving your partner to guess. Talk.

- Be honest with each other, and with yourself. Sometimes you have to suck it up and admit that you're the one being unreasonable or overreacting about something.

It helps a lot to have common interests and keep the romance and sex going. Have date nights. Bring flowers and small treats for each other. Do the other person's chore sometimes.

That's all I can think of right now, but a lot of these rules boil down to "don't be a selfish dick."
posted by Fleebnork at 6:54 AM on July 19 [5 favorites]


(ie: divorce is very simple for the first seven years of any marriage ... to be point of being encouraged).

I find that "any" ridiculous. It's predicated on what I presume are the normal, socially-accepted, white upper-middle class stages of marriage in America. Date for 2-3 years. Marriage for 3-4 more. No home purchases or children during the first 5-7 years together, children and home ownership at age 31-36.

Looking at my peers and the life I've lived and how society treated us, today, in the urban north, having children before 30 is seen as borderline antisocial, let alone what we have done. But despite the judgement all those years, our position, i.e., sending our daughter away to college while still in our mid 30s, is perfect. It's really satisfying watching coworkers juggle infants and careers, seemingly caught off-guard by how difficult parenting is. "But we 'planned' and we did it at the right time so it should be easier" seems to be the general underlying assumption. We've watched a baby take down more than one marriage that was done the "right way." That "any" almost certainly applies to what people think are "socially proper" marriages.

No, getting divorced would be easier now for us than any time in the last decade, not that I want to, since our second childhood is about to begin.
posted by milarepa at 7:31 AM on July 19 [5 favorites]


not mentioned: being NOT married is not the same as BEING married.
posted by Postroad at 7:59 AM on July 19


The number one lesson from a previous marriage I have isn't in the WSJ list: don't say terrible things to your spouse.

Yeah, this. I see so many couples who act like "Well now that we're married, I don't have to deal with the stress of self-censoring, and can be as cranky, demanding, and sharp as I wanna be." Which seems to me exactly the wrong choice. If you're married to someone, you should treat that relationship like anything else you need to last a long time: with care.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:47 AM on July 19 [11 favorites]


It all comes down to social respectability-there is a a trope or archetype, never explicitly stated, but universally acknowledged, that One Should Be Married to be taken seriously.

in other words, it's not normal to be single past say age thirty-five. Actually, in my case, the age was more like twenty-one. If you weren't in a relationship or actively pursuing one with all your energy in whatever free time you had, well, that just wasn't normal.

I gave up on normal a long time ago.

Which isn't to dismiss all my very good friends who are married or otherwise committed to another. Because most of them are making it work. You might say it's the natural thing for them and they're in tune with that, and good for them, good for all of us, the world certainly needs good, committed, functioning couples (and the families that they create). What it doesn't need are people who just aren't oriented that way forcing themselves into that mold, because it's the normal, expected thing to do. That's not good for anyone.
posted by philip-random at 8:49 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


For me, relationships were hugely, unbelievably important when I was in my twenties, and I managed to get myself into marriage-like situations so terrible I was happier without. A LOT happier. And I'm not even all that happy! I really don't know what would have to take place for me to be in a marriage that would make my life better. I would, as jokingly (?) suggested, probably have to deliberately seek out mates I wasn't really all that attracted to, as I guess I'm attracted to people who are bad for me. That's cool. I have hobbies and stuff, w/e
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:57 AM on July 19


Even your other single friends are often too wiped out from balancing their own career lives and home lives to sustain much of a social life (meaning - if it's just you doing all the housework you're gonna be more tired than if you have a partner).

The thing is, it's not like it lets up after marriage - at least in some of the stuff I've seen, most women do more housework -- more of everything -- after marriage. And, I can't find the cite right now (and am on my way out), but some research has shown that while men in (functional) coupledom benefit from increased stress relief, support, etc., to a degree that it correlates with improved health outcomes, women's health and well-being tends to decrease.

Maybe all that will change in a few generations, who knows.
posted by cotton dress sock at 9:44 AM on July 19 [2 favorites]


some research has shown that while men in (functional) coupledom benefit from increased stress relief, support, etc., to a degree that it correlates with improved health outcomes, women's health and well-being tends to decrease.

That has sure been the case with me (though I haven't been married, this is more from co-habitation, etc). It's why I don't want to date right now.

My cat has done way more to improve my mental and physical health and has been much more of an emotional rock than any of the men I dated/fucked/lived with. And I don't even want another cat! So I damn sure don't want another man.

I'm 28 and this is supposedly when I have to "get er done" in terms of coupling up, but I just can't make myself want to do that. And the ease and cheapness and cleanliness of being single is honestly really nice. Not needing to make sure another person is happy and OK and I'm acceptable to him at any given moment is really fantastic. Being in a couple is just so much extra WORK (literal work -- errands, chores, performing emotionally, cleaning, scheduling, whatever) and I just don't remember what the reward for all that work is supposed to be anymore. Or maybe I didn't ever know what it was, but I used to have more energy or more willingness to go along with it and see how things panned out or something.
posted by rue72 at 10:19 AM on July 19 [22 favorites]


I find that, for me at least, simplicity is a desirable property of the good life. So, I live alone with no more immediate dependencies than a few potted plants, and wonder why people would willingly complicate their lives so. There are benefits, no doubt, to companionship (including pets), but the drawbacks would, for me, outweigh the advantages. I have no desire to hurt or be hurt by participating in a venture as fraught as a relationship.
posted by bouvin at 10:41 AM on July 19 [1 favorite]


EmpressCallipygos: "if it's just you doing all the housework you're gonna be more tired than if you have a partner."

When you're single you can simply say, "Housework? What the heck is that?" I will admit, though, that that attitude is not sustainable in the long run.

Plus, I don't have anyone yelling at me to "put the seat down" when I'm done. (Obviously none of that is aimed at you, EC.)
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 11:56 AM on July 19


The linked articles seem to advocate for maintaining high standards for a relationship, while remaining single almost (or maybe completely) indefinitely. On the one hand, I can see the wisdom in this, and it's kind of my bias already. But on the other hand, it seems to be a pretty prevalent view in (at least popular) psychology that true growth can only come within the context of a serious romantic relationship -- precisely because these relationships bring out the worst in us. So if you want to be an authentically mature and fully-developed person, this school of thought would seem to suggest that the best course of action is to be less selective about relationships, and to try to stay in them as long as possible, even though they will probably be uncomfortable, painful, and a lot of work.

So who's right here? Is anyone?
posted by en forme de poire at 12:10 PM on July 19 [2 favorites]


I've been with my husband for nearly two decades, married for 11 years. Happily. One of the factors that goes into a strong partnership, I think, is having complimentary strengths. My husband is very organized and very introverted, while I'm outgoing and creative. ("Creative" and "organized" aren't opposites, they're just different traits we have.) I do all the cooking and shopping, he handles all the finances; he spends hours in researching decisions, I pick up the phone to talk to the people to make it happen.

I dunno. It's very antithetical to the idea of romance and love will carry the day and everything. And of course you need to have overlap in the things you're good at and enjoy, or else you have no common ground to base your relationship on. But oh good lord, I cannot tell you how nice it is to have someone to take care of the shit I am truly bad at (like finances), or how much of a relief it is for my husband to know that he will never, ever, EVER have to be the one to call for pizza.
posted by KathrynT at 1:00 PM on July 19 [3 favorites]


I can't begin to say how much I wish I'd had Gottman's research when I was married to someone with whom a healthy relationship was just never going to be possible. It's not just finding the right person. It's being/ becoming the right person. Kindness, honesty, commitment, Gottman's 7 Principles, and it's giving up the 4 Horsemen. A lot of marriages that don't work, could work. And some that last, but who knows how; there are some heroic people who stay with partners who have personality disorders, or who are just nasty people, but there are people who may not be able to be in a healthy relationship, and it may or may not be obvious. Just read Ask.Me. Some percentage of the time, the answer may be Be nicer, and, of course, DTMFA applies even more often.
posted by theora55 at 1:49 PM on July 19 [1 favorite]


a friend of mine, a lawyer, says marriage should be illegal until you're at least twenty-five, preferably thirty. Failing that, he's in favor of a graded system (ie: divorce is very simple for the first seven years of any marriage ... to be point of being encouraged).

Let's kill more birds with this stone -- make all marriages come up for renewal every 6 years or so. If the couple is not happy, then the marriage is not renewed. An easy out!

If the couple is happy, then the renewal can be celebrated with a big party.

There's no way this can go wrong! I tested it extensively in The Sims: Dungeons of Flesh
posted by serif at 2:21 PM on July 19 [18 favorites]


But some of the paragraphs were a bit odd. Is this really accurate?

Unfortunately, after a certain age, society makes singlehood dangerously unpleasant. Communal life starts to wither, couples are too threatened by the independence of the single to invite them around very often, one starts to feel a freak when going to the cinema alone. Sex is hard to come by as well. For all the new gadgets and supposed freedoms of modernity, it can be very hard to get laid – and expecting to do so regularly with new people is bound to end in disappointment after 30.


I read this and thought, WTF. I have many friends-- single and coupled, recent and of 45 years duration. I've been single for a long time and still feel very much a part of communal life. I don't have a problem finding someone to go to see a movie with, though as my cohort has aged it's become more difficult to find friends who want to go out to see bands until 1 a.m. I solved that problem by becoming friends with younger sorts in their 30s and 40s who love live music as much as I do. So I'm not sure which society it is that "makes singlehood dangerously (dangerously!) unpleasant", but I'm glad I don't live in it.

And I've never really cared for regularly having sex with new partners, or for casual sex, so it's no great loss to no longer be 24 and have a taker any time I wanted to throw my body out for grabs. (Which I haven't done for some 25 years, I hasten to add, as it gave me no pleasure even then.)

Oh, and the picture of poor Diana and Charles hardly fits the subject. That was an arranged marriage, more or less, with singular constraints, and was not your run of the mill unhappy marriage.
posted by jokeefe at 6:47 PM on July 19 [2 favorites]


I'm a total fan of John Gottman and his research, even though my parents have completely invalidated his work for the past 50 years of their marriage. They ride the four horsemen round and round, from the laundry room to the kitchen and rooms beyond, dawn to dusk.

But they're probably doing something that helps balance that tension and (superficial?) strife. My parents-in-law are like this, with my father-in-law as the key instigator. He plays tough ("it's a long way from your heart" and "show me the blood" are favorite responses to crying over stubbed toes and other minor injuries, though they're now tossed into conversations by his four daughters, with laughter), but he's really sensitive to criticism, and finds criticism in many off-handed comments and actions taken without malice, most generally by his wife. But he blows up then blows over, and can generally laugh at his own mistakes. My mother-in-law is fondly referred to as "a peanut," and if she can't remember something, she and other close family joke that "she's slept since then" and has forgotten whatever it was.

They both need outlets, because if they're just spending a lot of time together, they get at each other a lot more, but they both find balance with company and projects. When they've been alone together for too long, old grudges are brought up, but otherwise, the past is past.

As much as I admire their solid relationship (especially compared to whatever it is my parents have currently), I will in no way try to emulate them. Neither my wife nor I fit those roles, and I don't wish us to. But I value their honesty and openness, especially compared ot the simmering resentment of my mother. You do no one any good to hold the hurt inside, but you need to find a way to release it without being a fire hose of indignation and resentment.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:19 PM on July 19 [2 favorites]


I think we should all have to take "how to be angry" lessons from an early age.

1) Recognize that you're angry, even try to warn people about it; be aware that it is a temporary condition and that you do not want to say or do something you'll regret later

2) Don't bury it inside

3) Don't express it with violence, destruction (unless you can find something harmless to destroy), or threats either

4) Try to figure out what the specific cause of your anger is (not just the trigger that set you off.) Try to focus on that specific cause, and not start getting getting angry about other things.

5) Express your anger by telling people what it is exactly that bothers you, how you feel about it, what you think should be done about it. Try not to criticize or insult other people as you do this.

6) If you feel yourself losing control, leave the situation. It's okay to walk out and be by yourself for a while.

7) If someone else is also angry at you and saying horrible things that piss you off, try to remember that they probably don't mean all of it. It is like breaking dishes and throwing stuff, a way to dissipate some energy in pointless destruction. Don't hold them to things said in anger and don't remind them of it later. Try to ignore it. If you can figure out what it is, respond by talking about the thing they're actually angry about, instead of whatever they're randomly lashing out with

8) If someone else is angry, acknowledge the anger, try to understand why and reflect that understanding back to them. "It seems like you're mad because..."

9) Forgive. Marriages especially are built on forgiveness. This is part of what it means to "not keep score" and to not bring up old arguments.

10) But have boundaries. Some things are not forgivable. Violence. Humiliation. Know before it happens what is "too far."

11) That goes for the angry person too. Self control is difficult when you're angry. But you have to retain enough to be aware of "the line" and not go over it. It takes practice.

12) Anger is a physiological process. Deep breaths, excercise, etc can help control it.
posted by OnceUponATime at 5:21 AM on July 21 [2 favorites]


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