Marriage used to be a theoretically useful concept my friends and I would explore with anguish and wonder. The idea of committing oneself to a single human being for the rest of one’s life was daunting especially because this meant you would have to consummate with the same person over and over. However, these arguments were had under the premise of continued camaraderie and cyclical confusion. What I have discovered about turning a year older is that one actually grows up in the process. What this implies is that people develop tolerances for what their past selves found disturbing, we become receptive to life in its numerous manifestations and I guess that’s the essence. That’s what they call growing up. With that in my mind, my former discussants on the woes of marriage have decided to take the plunge and this led me to re-evaluate my own position.
After experiencing a strange variation of FOMO I logically and emotionally evaluated the merits of marriage and decided that the institution is technically sound. However, I do not intend to scratch such a big itch yet. I know these long winded explanations reek of fear, but I have also found that a retail approach to such a big resolution entails the same thing. On the other hand I stand in admiration at my friends who have reached this crucible. I sit and wonder what sort of rewiring has occurred in them, what does life look like to them these days?
Therefore, in an attempt to understand these new people in my life I decided to deliberately prepare myself psychologically for an inevitable future. I set forth on a fact finding mission that would help me with my thoughts around the M word. I devoured numerous TED Talks, Podcasts, articles, books and impromptu interviews with some of my homies and this is what I discovered.
1. Men will be Men, Women will understand this
I have always been dumbfounded by conflict. Whenever I cause tension it always seems that everything would be better if the opposing side just spent some time in my shoes. “I don’t want to deliberately upset you, you’re just unable to understand me”, that’s the flawed logic behind most of my stubbornness. But is this really why we distract ourselves with fights? Is dispute an inevitable reality we must accept lying down? I don’t think so. In the context of a long term relationship there seems to be the unspoken idea of roles. Perhaps the arguments that arise between most couples could be attributed to this reality. Men are being led into a precarious position of caring too much about what people think that the line between being a good human being and being a useful man are significantly blurred. What this entails is that a confused man is a bad husband. A man without an understanding of his roles will philander, abuse and destroy. This man is destructive not because of his propensity to cause havoc (he is merely responding to what feels naturally compelling in a situation where he does not operate with a mission) but because of role confusion.
Women must be able to identify this situation before embarking on the perseverance club mantra they often shower themselves with. Life is not as difficult as it might seem. A man must know that his role is to provide, procreate and protect. Additionally, a woman must know what her roles are. In my findings, it became clear to me that a couple with an understanding of what is expected of them stands a better chance of thriving in their marriage. It’s the classic division of labour theory which when put into practice in the most sacred of unions can prove to reduce the heartache that might ensue if we choose to ignore it. Therefore, it has become considerably clear that whenever dispute arises I am most likely confused about something. This intrinsic neurosis debilitates more than it helps me. I found this realisation rather insightful as it applies to all relationships not just those of a romantic disposition. Lesson: when you argue with your significant other, ask yourself, “am I confused?”(Are you?).
2. Communication is more than talking and listening, or Non Verbal cues
Text messages, WhatsApp messages, phone calls, voicenotes, skype calls, pillow talk and heart to heart conversations are all means to one end, communication. We speak, we listen and we express through body language how we might feel and think at a particular time. However, despite these spirited efforts man still falls into a labyrinth of misunderstanding. It seems that the development of technology making it easier to communicate does not guarantee effective communication. Alan De Botton posits that most of us are bad at communicating in that we do not know how to express our deep needs and asking for exactly what we want. Instead we act out our desires and indulge in passive aggression. We think the other person will read our minds and when we realise that they cannot, we recoil in disappointment and brood about this until we are distracted by yet another miscommunication. It seems at the core of this message lies the need for truth and the lightness it produces thereafter. Therefore if I intend to eat all the cake leftover from my nephew’s birthday party I must let my partner know. Will this guarantee finding the cake in the fridge when I return? I don’t think so; would I have communicated effectively in this context? Yes. Lesson: Your partner is not a mind reader (unless they are).
3. Marriage is for growing not happiness
Another theme that has intrigued me on my search for answers is the concept of happiness. Ideally, we marry our life partner and live happily ever after. Wrong. What happens is we marry a human being and their flaws. We are met with the reality of reality, which is, People are people and not happiness factories. Life gets tough, it gets better and so on and so forth. People change and this is the only constant. I think this perspective helps us unpack the unfair load we place on our fellow man. It’s almost like we look to another in the wilderness for precise direction. We are all searching and maybe if couples understood this about each other it would make the journey that much sweeter. Therefore, the idea that marriage will make me grow into a better human being seems a much better pursuit than the possibility of it making me happier. This comforts me especially considering the elusiveness of happiness. Lesson: Create your own happiness by pursuing growth.
4. Stay away from each other
It has been found that most unsatisfied couples reach such an end because they spend too much time together. This is not in the vague sense of how absence makes the heart grow fonder. What this statement implies is that the preoccupation with another pushes us so far away from ourselves that the natural thing to do when this situation becomes overwhelming is to push these people away whether directly or otherwise. Such a perspective runs counter to most beliefs which look at this glue like attachment to your partner as something worth aspiring for. But the question is when you’re with your partner all the time when are you able to do the work that you believe will bring value into the world?, when will you do the things that attracted these people to you in the first place? What happens is that we often forget how attractive independent people are. When we commit to define a relationship the impulse is to resort to school yard economics of hogging the person we have selected for ourselves. We don’t realise we become boring and bore that person to death in the process. Lesson: Let your person flower.
5. Treat love like work
Human beings wake up to go to work with an objective, we have targets, deadlines and essentially we get paid to solve problems. When it comes to matters of the heart we seem to view this as foreign realm which operates on an out worldly engine we just figure out along the way. That’s why men stop opening doors for their women, women gain weight and generally couples seem to grow out of sync. We need to start pursuing our people with the same amount of resolve we attack a project. We must review our progress, alter plans and find ways to make our partner happy deliberately. I know this seems disingenuous and most people will say this is manipulation of the highest order, but as Robert Greene puts it most people manipulate others all the time, we are just afraid of getting caught. So Love is work, and as with most work the more we do it the better we get at it. When a skill becomes redundant we should switch things up and make sure the work is always interesting and engaging us on a core level. Lesson: I resume door opening tomorrow.
These lessons I have distilled were a few of the contrarian views I continue to curate as I voyage to the place my close companions have embarked to. The reality of life is that everything changes and nothing can be set in stone. However, I am confident that anyone who finds their true north and maintains it as an operating system will thrive on all levels of existence. It’s like Elon Musk always says, “we need to use physics as a basis for the way we live, a focus on the fundamental truths of life will always yield the necessary results, they may not be pretty but they will ring true”. I find that matters of love and marriage if addressed more mathematically might yield the result we all seek and though the zeitgeist of our society now may not condone such attempts at tramping a fairy-tale mind-set, maybe just maybe if we seek truth we will find the almighty and elusive-happiness.
What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments section.
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