21 Ekim 2010 Perşembe

Easy-to-dictate, hard-to-enact insights about marriage.

10 Hard Truths About Marriage

Easy-to-dictate, hard-to-enact insights about marriage.

A close friend got married last week, and in the build-up to her wedding I compiled a few hard truths from the trenches. I'd rank them in the "easy to note; hard to enact" category of human endeavor.
#1 There will be one disagreement in your marriage that will never be resolved--and you will never agree on what it is! The earlier you identify and accept it, the better. Encourage your partner to do the same with his or her complaint.

#2 You can only change yourself. This is as intellectually obvious as it is emotionally challenging. Important to remember when struggling with #1.

#3 Be stoic about your own (no doubt herculean) efforts. If you want it done, do it and don't expect praise. Yes, I am unfortunately thinking specifically of housework here. Reframe the task(s) as maintenance and improvement you do for yourself alone. This helps, because the corollary (3b) is: Don't expect anyone else to notice what you do. For all intents and purposes, you are doing it for yourself!

#4 You chose each other. Your spouse is the only family member you will ever select. Because it is a self-directed relationship, you will evolve together in a way no other intimate relationship can. This can be exhilarating, as when you establish new traditions and a new familial baseline. It can also be frustrating and scary: No roadmap, and the prospect of "de-selection" in the offing, however abstractly.

#5 Life necessitates trade-offs, your relationship and partner included. The qualities that frustrate you are intimately connected to the qualities you love.

#6 The social fabric of marriage is lovely, but it is not what marriage is about. The diamond rock, the social approval, the identity as a huband or wife.... these facets matter but they are a distant second to the intrinsic connection between the two of you.

#7 The outside world sees mainly these secondary characteristics (#6), and is therefore apt to misjudge your relationship. Ignore their judgments.

#8 A good relationship is made better by adversity. Again, not worth highlighting what can happen in a bad relationship. But I've seen plenty of on-the-fence relationships bump up a notch after challenges.

#9 Take responsibility for your own satisfaction. Keep your partner privy to your goals, dreams and of course frustrations, but do not confuse this with making him or her accountable for these feelings or outcomes. Likewise, help him to realize his own dreams.

#10 Never forget the moment you first connected. The way you felt about one another then, and in the weeks and months after, is a reminder of your potential to connect, no matter how much time has elapsed

You Always Hurt the One You Love

You always hurt the one you love
Published on October 9, 2010

You always hurt the one you love, the one you should not hurt at all;
You always take the sweetest rose, and crush it till the petals fall;
You always break the kindest heart, with a hasty word you can't recall;
So if I broke your heart last night, it's because I love you most of all. (The Mills Brothers)

It is easy to understand why someone who doesn't love another person might break the heart of this person-when we do not love those who love us, we are likely to hurt them. However, the above song refers to hurting the one we do love. How can one both love and hurt the same person?

Lovers can easily hurt the beloved without intending to do so. Because the lovers are so significant to each other, any innocent remark or action can be interpreted in a manner that the other person did not intend and hence be hurtful. For instance, someone might devote a lot of time to her work, thereby neglecting, and inadvertently hurting, her partner. The more time two people spend together, the greater the likelihood that this will occur. Our beloveds hold great significance for us and this makes these people a source of both great happiness and deep sadness; they can bring us great joy, but they can also hurt us deeply.

In situations in which we have nothing of value to lose, we seldom experience disappointment. In love, which involves our happiness and many of our most precious experiences, there is a great deal to lose. Hence, disappointment and frustration, and consequently hurt, are common. It has been said that completely blissful love does not exist. Indeed, in a survey of over 500 lovers, almost all of them assumed that passionate love is a bittersweet experience. Similarly, it has been found that people low in defensiveness have more experiences of love than do highly defensive people. This link suggests that to love is to make oneself vulnerable in ways that enhance the possibility of pain.

These and other considerations indicate how easily you can hurt the one you love without intending to do so. However, the explanation for deliberately hurting the person you love is far more complex. Certainly, one major factor in hurting the beloved deliberately is related to the central role that mutual dependency plays in love.

Mutual dependency may exist in inappropriate proportions: lovers can consider their dependency on the partner to be too great or too little. Hurting the beloved may be one resort, usually the last one, which the lover takes to bring this dependency to its appropriate proportion. Mutual dependency has many advantages, stemming from the fact that two people are joined together in a relationship attempting to increase each other's happiness. However, a sense of independence is also important for people's self-esteem. Indeed, in a study of anger, the most common motive for its generation was to assert authority or independence, or to improve self image. Anger has been perceived as a useful means to strengthen or readjust a relationship.

This type of behavior is frequent in the child-parent relationship: children often hurt parents in order to express their independence. This behavior is also part of romantic love in which mutual dependence may threaten each partner's independence. Sometimes lovers hurt their beloved in order to show their independence. Other times, however, hurting the beloved expresses an opposite wish: the lover's wish for more dependency and attention. Indeed, a common complaint of married women, far more than of married men, is that their partners do not spend enough time with them.

By hurting the beloved, the lover wishes to signal that their mutual relationship, and in particular their mutual dependency, should be modified. Hurting the beloved may be the last alarm bell that warns of the lover's difficulties; it is an extreme measure signaling urgency. If the relationship is strong enough, as the lover wishes it to be, it should sustain this measure. A less extreme and more common measure employed is that of moodiness. Moodiness, which imposes a small cost on the relationship, may function as both an alarm bell and as an assessment device to test the strength of the bond. Love involves a dynamic process of mutual adaptation, but not all adaptive processes are smooth and enjoyable; hurting the beloved is an example in kind.

Another consideration in light of which the lover may sometimes hurt the beloved is related to the lack of indifference in love. Since the lover greatly cares for the beloved and their mutual relationship, the lover cannot be indifferent toward anything that may harm the beloved, their relationship, or the lover's own situation. This lack of indifference toward the beloved may lead the lover to take measures which hurt the other when viewed within a partial perspective, but can be seen as beneficial from a global perspective. This is the painful side of care: a close connection exists between people who help and hurt as well. In the same way that improving the quality and happiness of our lives may demand some suffering, improving the quality and happiness of our beloved's life may require such suffering.

As for people who love us but whom we do not love, we may be indifferent, or at least would not harbor such a deep overall concern. Accordingly, we may not bother to help them by hurting them. Therefore, people in love prefer to be hurt by the beloved rather than be treated with indifference. Jose Ortega y Gasset says that the person in love "prefers the anguish which her beloved causes her to painless indifference." Similarly, the saying goes that it is better to break someone's heart than to do nothing with it. Concerning those who are near and dear, we prefer anger to indifference.

I do not want to say, as Oscar Wilde did, that "each man kills the thing he loves"; however, hurting one's beloved is frequent. Since the beloved is a major source of happiness, this person is also a major threat to our happiness: more than anyone else, the beloved can ruin our happiness. Similarly, the security involved in love goes together with the fear of losing that security. Feeling happy is often bound up with the fear of losing that happiness. Caring for the beloved sometimes goes together with hurting the beloved.

Love is closely connected with vulnerability: the ability to hurt and to be hurt. Although some kinds of hurt in love are intended, most of them are not.

Nevertheless, someone who deliberately hurts another person can simultaneously claim to love that person. The phenomenon of emotional ambivalence, stemming from the presence of two different evaluative perspectives, can account for such a possibility (see here). The lack of indifference and mutual dependency typical of love suggests why this frequently occurs in love.

The above considerations can be encapsulated in the following statement that a lover might express: "Darling, although this article has given you some justification to hurt me, I am still not sure you are doing it out of your profound love for me."