An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 3

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Aladdin and Jasmine
I remember liking this movie, but the idea that Aladdin and Jasmine will live happily ever after just because it feels good right now is every bit the fantasy that a magic carpet and wish-granting genie are. In other words, it’s kind-of bullshit. (Image/FanPop via Disney)

Author’s Note: Before we begin, you should probably grab a spoonful of sugar. Because this isn’t going to taste very good.

Do you remember when you learned the truth about Santa Claus?

Or when you heard awful stories about Bill Cosby or Kevin Spacey or Matt Lauer, or some other person you admired, and you felt like something was stolen from you?

It’s easily one of my least-favorite things about growing up.

When you finally get to peek behind the curtain and you realize that the great and powerful Oz is really just some charlatan.

There have been, and will continue to be, these moments in life when you discover that some things are just a little bit darker and uglier and scarier than we believed. They make us feel uneasy for a little bit, but then we move on, and find joy in other things.

We find hope in new places.

I’m not sure whether training yourself to expect the unexpected is even possible, but if it were, it would be an amazing life skill to practice.

Everything that hasn’t happened yet lives only in our imaginations, and you’ll be disappointed to learn that we’re all pretty lousy guessers. Some things will be better than you expected and you’ll feel good because of them, and other things will be worse, and then you’ll feel bad after those experiences.

That’s your entire existence emotionally, in a nutshell.

Reality vs. what you thought would happen.

Do we want to be negative and cynical, and occasionally be pleasantly surprised?

Do we want to be positive and optimistic, and often be disappointed?

I don’t know what the answer is, nor do I think there’s much you can do about it. You’re you. And no matter what that looks, sounds, and feels like, you should embrace being yourself, because no one else gets to.

Try your best. KNOW you will mess up. KNOW other people will mess up even if they hide it really well.

Be uncomfortably honest with yourself, because maybe after you practice that enough, it won’t feel hard anymore.

Because now we have to talk about something uncomfortable.

It’s not an easy conversation to have because your brain and body are likely to revolt. You won’t want to believe it, even though it’s true.

The truth is often more difficult to deal with than things we imagined to be better or easier than they really are.

It’s up to you to decide whether operating in a world where you know the truth—even if it’s more difficult—is a better choice than operating in blissful ignorance and maybe feeling a little better in the short term.

If you’re up for it—if you’re brave enough—the idea (I might even call it a secret) I’m about to share WILL absolutely give you and your future spouse the ability to have a long and beautiful marriage.

It might not look and feel like the fairy-tale ending you’ve imagined or dreamed of.

But it can be Happily Ever After.

And Happily Ever After is definitely worth fighting for.

Almost Everything You Think You Know About Romance and Attraction is a Lie

Have you ever had the power go out for several hours at home, and suddenly you become hyper-aware of just how much you use electricity in your daily life and just how much you take it for granted?

Because you can’t stream Netflix or get a Wi-Fi signal or charge your phone or any of a million other things that can only be accomplished when our lights are on and our power outlets function?

EVERYTHING in your life is like this, and you don’t think about it, and it’s not your fault, so please don’t feel bad about it.

We are blind to the totally obvious. Dangerously blind. Kind of like how fish—even magical intelligent ones—could spend their entire lives swimming in water without ever knowing what water is.

I submit that two things you have done more times than anything else in your entire life are blinking your eyes and breathing air.

And you almost never think about doing it. Things on autopilot escape our notice, and it’s not because you’re a bad person. It’s a fundamental component of having a human brain.

This Phenomenon is called Hedonic Adaptation and it Will Help You So Much if You’re Aware of It

Hedonic adaptation, in its most basic form, is the process your brain goes through while it normalizes changes in your life.

So you move to a new town and school and it’s crazy and strange at first, but then eventually it’s your new normal. And going back to your old life in your old town and your old school would now seem crazy and strange.

This is a good thing in a lot of ways.

Most commonly, hedonic adaptation is referenced in regards to POSITIVE life changes.

So, you get a brand-new Xbox, or a new pair of shoes, or an awesome new phone, and it’s the freaking best for a few weeks. You feel a little bonus jolt of excitement every time you look at them or use them.

But then, what happens? Not sometimes. But, EVERY time?

One day at a time, your brain normalizes this new, awesome thing, until it becomes just like all the other stuff you have. Something you barely notice, like your working light switches. Something you eventually throw out or trade in for an upgraded model.

Hedonic adaptation serves a valuable purpose in nature. If humans didn’t care about making things better, or improving one’s circumstances, we’d all just quit trying things or working hard as soon as the first good thing happened.

Can you imagine what would have happened if the cavemen and women had made fire for the first time, realized how amazing cooked food and not freezing to death is, and then just stopped trying to do anything else?

Our life expectancy would still be like 12 years, we wouldn’t have rad tunes to listen to, and I wouldn’t get to spam you with preachy articles on the internet that your cooler-than-you-realize mom probably sent to you.

So, yay hedonic adaptation! You help us to not rest on our laurels, and actually try to achieve things in life!

Of course, like pretty much every life scenario, there’s a tradeoff. A really uncomfortable one.

How Hedonic Adaptation Ruins Marriage

Every Disney princess movie or romantic comedy you’ve watched, or every poorly conceived love story masquerading as an edgy BDSM sex story you’ve ever seen have contributed somehow to the way your brain imagines an ideal relationship to be.

It DOES feel good when the two people on screen or on page finally get together in the end after overcoming whatever obstacles they had to overcome to get there. It tugs at our heartstrings and shit, and then we buy more stuff or convince our friends to.

It’s easy to WANT to feel that very-good feeling we imagine the two fictional characters to be feeling. We dream about it and then feel all the feels. And then, thoughtfully or somewhat mindlessly, pursue that feeling.

We get crushes. Some people like us back. Some don’t. We go out together. Some of those turn into dating relationships. Some don’t. Some of those dating relationships turn into marriage.

And then, EVERY marriage doesn’t look anything like the Disney princess or Boy-Meets-Girl movies that made you feel so good.

You meet. It feels very exciting.

You touch. It’s great.

You kiss. It’s amazing.

And then eventually, when it feels safe and appropriate, maybe some other things will happen. Super-delightful under the proper circumstances (which vary from person to person for a multitude of valid reasons).

It’s so good when it’s good. The love thing.

People use phrases like “falling in love.” Like it’s this powerful force that sweeps you away against your will. And it makes sense. If you’ve ever even had a crush on someone, you know exactly how insane we can be. Staying up for hours thinking about them. Getting full-body tense before walking into a classroom where we know they’re going to be. Telling our best friend, just so you have some kind of outlet for the pent-up madness.

It’s wild, right?

But then what happens?

Months, weeks, maybe even just days later, those feelings are gone, and you’re now projecting them onto someone new—either because something bullshitty happened with the first one, or because something happened that switched your focus to the new one.

It’s different in marriage, because much of the fickleness goes away.

When you’re 14, how pretty or handsome someone looks to you might be enough to earn your crush.

When you’re 24, you’ve now had enough experiences with “attractive” people to realize that who people are—in their minds and hearts—is infinitely more important than how they look. Physical attraction eventually boils down to a simple pass-or-fail test. Would you or wouldn’t you get naked with that person based on their looks?

Anyone who passes that test goes into your Yes bucket, and then all of the things that really matter like Character, Personality, Shared Interests, Values, etc. separate the people you want to date and marry from the people you don’t.

And then you hit it off with someone, and now you’re together. You’re a committed couple.

Weeks and months pass.

You both wonder: Is she/he the one? Are we going to get married?

There’s love there.

There’s loyalty there.

There’s mutual attraction.

Maybe you argue a little sometimes, but mostly it feels easy. If it didn’t, you’d have already broken up.

We can do this, you think.

After a year or two or three or four together, you have every confidence you can just keep doing what you’re doing. I can’t believe so many people get divorced! It’s almost like we’re married right now, and everything’s fine! I’ll never cheat. They’ll never cheat. We don’t have any addiction or abuse problems. We’re going to live Happily Ever After!

Statistically, people spend more than $6,000 on engagement rings, and more than $30,000 on weddings.

In my experience, most people invite their closest family members and friends to celebrate this big day with them.

They’ve thought about it, and they’re ready to spend the rest of their lives together. They’re willing to spend more money than they have on a huge party to commemorate the occasion. To demonstrate just how serious they are, they’re going to exchange sacred vows in front of everyone they know.

You know what happens next, right?

More than half of those people within 10 years will be divorced, having affairs, or wishing they were doing one or both of those things.


Difficult ones.

And there are many, many, many reasons why this happens.

But one of the reasons it begins is because of hedonic adaptation.

You Won’t Want to Believe it Because the Truth Hurts

I know.

I’m sorry.

I swear on everything that is good and beautiful in this life and world that I take no pleasure in writing this. It’s just as hard to type as it was to learn.

Because you’re a person, as is the person you love and trust and promised the rest of your life to (and who did the same for you in return), BOTH of you will take one another for granted (like you do with working electricity in your home), and BOTH of you will get a little bored with one another (like when you stop wanting to play your old Xbox or wear your old shoes, even though they were the absolute best when you first got them).

It’s common for people to spaz over this idea a little and say it’s inappropriate to compare material devices to human beings.

Damn right it’s inappropriate.

It’s bullshit.

But WE DO IT ANYWAY, and we do it with very little awareness that we’re doing it.

We do it even when we genuinely love them more than we love anyone or anything else.

It’s normal for people to be nicer to strangers than they are to the people they love the most like their parents, or siblings, or spouses, or even their own children.

It happens all of the time.

Hedonic adaptation.

Blinded by the All The Time.

Blinded by the constant.

Blinded by the totally obvious.

But then the lights stop working and you notice.

But then you’re out at a restaurant with your wife who you haven’t complimented on how nice her hair looks, or how good her shoes look with her outfit. And you see her eyes and face light up when the handsome waiter pays extra attention to her and treats her just like you did on your first date.

And what do you know? You notice.

I don’t care how much love there is.

I don’t care how objectively beautiful you both are.

I don’t care whether you would win the Super Hot Sex Olympics over every other human couple in history.


You just will, and I’m sorry.

It doesn’t mean you aren’t soulmates or whatever. There’s no reason to freak out about it. It doesn’t mean you weren’t “meant for each other.”

It just means you’re two human beings with brains that work EXACTLY as brains are supposed to work, and a bunch of time has passed.

WTF. Does That Mean I’m Always Going to Desire Novelty or That My Spouse Will Always Find Other People Attractive?

Probably. Sorry.

And now I want you to consider whether signing up for a long life of potentially “boring” routineness with one person is the choice you really want to make.

After all, you can stay single and keep chasing those exciting new experiences if you want. It’s an option. I think it’s worth considering what your life might look like when you’re your parents’ or grandparents’ age if you make that choice, but at least you’ll “solve” the boredom problem.

If you’re like me, you grew up around people who mostly got married and had kids, and you think the positives of that are worth the risk of some boredom along the way.

I totally agree with you.

Family gatherings, holding your own children and watching them grow up, and having an adult living with you who you trust and love and enjoy being with is pretty amazing.

That’s why it hurt so much when my wife took off her wedding ring and moved out the next day with our 4-year-old in the backseat.

I just stood in the kitchen crying as hard as I can ever remember crying, and then I threw up in the bathroom, and then I tried to watch Netflix, but I couldn’t even do something as simple as watch TV.

And you know what I think?

I think that if someone had taught me about hedonic adaptation when I was younger and warned me of the dangers of taking the most precious things in my life for granted, that maybe I could have done a better job every day between our wedding day and the day she took her ring off nine years later. Just a bunch of little things. Nothing major. But a bunch of little things that would have prevented the most major thing I’ve ever been through from happening.

Crap. That Sounds Awful. What Can We Do About It?


Just don’t.

I honestly think half of divorces are just people who had no idea what they were getting themselves into.

But if you’re aware—if you KNOW that this is what’s going to happen—then you won’t have any weird surprises later when you don’t feel that same excitement and attraction that you did when you first met your spouse.

If you believe THAT is a signal that your marriage is broken, or that your spouse sucks, then you have a real problem on your hands, because THAT WILL NEVER STOP HAPPENING.

So, people get bored with their marriage, right? And then they maybe have an affair or get a divorce and marry someone else.

You know what happens?

They totally get bored with their new sex partner or with their new “upgrade” marriage, and then the EXACT same problems repeat themselves.

Some people get married three or four times, and you might be like What the shit?! How can you get it wrong that many times?

They’re not really getting it wrong.

They’re just lacking the right information. When something good begins to feel bad, it makes sense for people to interpret that as if something’s wrong or broken. It makes sense for people to not deal with wrong and broken things and live a life where things are right and functioning as they should.

For people—people like you—who know the truth, you have two choices, and I won’t judge you for either.

1. Stay Single – It really is an option. If I thought mountains of celibacy and spending my twilight years sad and alone was an attractive proposition, I would for-sure choose it.

2. Get Married with the Appropriate Mindset that Will Help You SucceedBut what’s the appropriate mindset?

I’m so glad you asked.

Happily Ever After Occurs When You Both Choose it Everyday

Sounds too simple, doesn’t it?

It IS simple.

But it’s not easy. It’s hard for people to do which is why there’s so many divorced and miserable people, and I do not want you to be one of them.

It’s really hard. But you can do hard things. You really can.

And the trick is simple enough.

1. You understand that no matter who you were dating or married to that you would ALWAYS feel some of those naturally occurring attraction and lusty feelings go away over time. You exercise wisdom and knowledge to not go foolishly chase the next good time only to realize they’re just going to come out with another new iPhone someday making the one that’s out now old and boring just like the one you’re holding.

2. You understand that there’s no such thing as soulmates or perfect people. That relationships don’t happen magically. They happen intentionally.

3. You understand that FEELINGS change. All the time. Like when you said you loved that one kid back in high school, but then you’ve loved like five other people since, and you kind of feel like a dumbass for saying it a few of those times. FEELINGS are important, but they’re also super-fickle. You can’t forget this. If humans simply did what they FELT like all of the time, society would break down because no one would go to work and pay bills, and everyone would be super-murdery to people in traffic jams and shopping malls, and in work meetings. I think we can all agree that’s not a very good idea. We can’t and shouldn’t do what we FEEL every second of our lives.

4. You keep your promises. Again, not easy, but totally simple. You might not always feel that same level of excitement or sexual desire or physical attraction. You might not laugh at their jokes quite as hard or be quite as impressed by their life accomplishments. The years have passed and these things have become routine. They’ve become ALL THE TIME. Like your electricity. Like the water the fish never notice. So you stay together on purpose. You manufacture the love. You don’t wonder where it ran off to. You MAKE it. Create it. You have to. It’s the only way it works out.

This isn’t always feel-good work.

Two people just got home from crappy days at work, and now the 2-year-old is rubbing a yogurt stick all over the TV screen, and the 8-year-old is whining about how hungry he is, and somebody needs to cook dinner and walk the dog, and do laundry and pack a school lunch for tomorrow.

You’re not going to FEEL like giving your partner a nice six-second hug. (SIX seconds. Don’t cheat.)

But you’re going to do it anyway.

You’re not going to get all those good vibrations in your nether regions after two kids and a busy, stressful daily routine. Nothing either of you are doing is triggering sexy-time feelings in one another, and even if you were, you might not feel like there’s adequate time or energy.

But you’re not going to neglect your partner like a thoughtless sock-sniffer. You’re NOT.

You’re going to—even if it means setting reminders on your phone calendar, or writing little reminder notes for yourself—spend your days and weeks and months INTENTIONALLY doing and saying kind things to and about your spouse, and doing kind and thoughtful things for them.

You’re going to send little I-love-you texts, or maybe even surprise them with some naughty flirty ones.

You’re going to sit still and invest your whole mind and heart into the conversations they want to have with you, NOT because they interest you—you’ll probably be “bored” out of your mind; that’s not why you’re doing it—but because THAT will help a person feel loved. Feel respected. Feel cherished. Feel important.

You are going to CHOOSE to love every day so that the person you promised forever to never feels like they can’t trust you to love them and be their partner.

You’re going to choose it, because you won’t always FEEL like it.

You’re going to choose it, because that’s your ticket to Happily Ever After.

It won’t look or feel like it does in the movies you see or the books that you read. Those are made-up. Those are fairytales that don’t have any shitty work commutes and screaming children or post-partum depression written into the scripts.

In real life, things are hard. But again, we can do hard things.

Love isn’t just something you feel. Feelings come and go.

Love is a choice. It’s a choice you make today and tomorrow and next week and 30 years from now.

You start on Day 1 and you never stop.

There won’t be chariots and amazing ballroom gowns and kick-ass fireworks displays while you make out right before the movie credits roll.

It will be more boring than that.

But it will be real. It will be truth.

It won’t be exciting, but it will be good.

And all you have to do is choose it.

Not once.


You May Also Want to Read:

An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 1

An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 2

An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 4

21 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Young People Planning to Marry Someday, Vol. 3”

  1. Interesting, Matt! Well said,too.

    I think I’ve said this before, but I am just not a fan of “hedonistic adaptation” as if it were just an unavoidable thing. I think our own attitudes and perceptions are everything. The brain is our biggest sex organ. So, if you are bemoaning, “my spouse has changed, they are not the same person I married,” there is the perfect opportunity to pretend as if you are now having an affair with a total stranger! If your wife is very moody, well there you go, you actually really have no idea who you may be sleeping with, do you? Could even be downright dangerous!

    This may sound like a funny thing for a Christian lady to say, but embrace the kinky-ness, enjoy the wonder and mystery of it all, welcome the changes, allow your imagination to play an active role.

    Entitlement can be a huge problem, often we expect things to just happen, just magically, just because, and if they don’t, it is obviously the other’s persons fault, because they owe you. The problem with that is that it is based on scarcity, never good enough. If instead we can practice being grateful,cultivating an attitude of gratitude, what we are grateful for tends to multiply.

    1. It is the one and only antidote for this condition.

      Gratitude. Focused, intentional, manufactured gratitude.

      We forget otherwise. We always forget.

      We forget how much we adore our children when they’re breaking our expensive stuff, or dropping crumbs all over the floor for the hundreth meal in a row.

      But if we had an incident just then where they were in physical danger or discovered they were really sick or something, none of us would care — even a little bit — about the stuff we were just feeling angry about.

      We are emotional creatures. That is sometimes good and sometimes bad.

      We FORGET that we breathe and blink.

      We’re blind because it’s constant. It doesn’t lessen their significance or their value.

      We just forget because that’s what people do. We don’t always SEE.

      We can afford to deal with this blindness in most life situations.

      The consequences of remaining blind in MARRIAGE will end it, or at minimum make it a pretty unpleasant experience.

      People must do whatever works for them to NOT be blind to the things that matter to their spouse.

      People must do whatever works for them to NOT accidentally hurt them.

      I don’t think many young people realize that accidents are what end marriage. I think they think it’s affairs and stuff. But no. It’s accidents that after the thousandth time don’t feel accidental anymore.

      They hurt.

      Then hurting people make choices for self-preservation reasons, and sometimes, that’s seeking affection in the arms of another.

      Doesn’t make it okay.

      But it’s the reason.

      And the affair didn’t end the marriage. The conditions that caused the pain that led to the choice to have one came first.

      I can’t go back in time. People in painful, broken marriages can’t go back in time.

      But young people?

      They can prevent the bad things from ever happening in the first place.

      And that would be amazing.

    2. Hi,
      It occurred to me that “hedonistic adaptation” could have been one of those elements we discussed in my logic class. Especially In terms of what is “necessary” and what is “sufficient” to bring about substantive and permanent change in human behavior, hedonistic adaptation is something we could have talked about.

      I am suggesting that learning about “hedonistic adaptation” –taking measures or antidotes to insure it does not adversely affect/infect a marriage is a “NECESSARY” step that an enlightened partner would take to protect his/her relationship.. I do not believe it is SUFFICIENT to bring about substantive and permanent change. I believe there are other, more effective steps to take that would better protect couples from trauma.

      LEARNING ABOUT EMPATHY, understanding how it affects BOTH PARTNERS, learning how to “grow” it in yourself, committing to its use is, I believe “SUFFICIENT ” to bring about substantive and permanent change. It is ALSO absolutely “NECESSARY”.

      Matt has talked at length and with passion about the importance of empathy, where we may disagree is the weight he gives to “hedonistic adaptation” vs, empathy.

      1. I often wonder if empathy can actually be learned? I’m not convinced you can teach someone “empathy.” Matt and I have disagreed about this before. In my way of thinking, you either care or you don’t care. I can’t teach someone to “care.” It’s a choice they make. If you care, than you figure out how to empathize. If you don’t care, then no amount of learning to empathize is going to do any good. Unfortunately there are a whole lot of men who only start to care because it now impacts them personally, like in divorce.

        1. I have to write in broad-stroke generalities for the sake of efficiency.

          And I’ll do the same here:

          Some people are sociopathic. The feel very little. Perhaps there are others who feel quite a bit, but literally don’t care what their spouses or close friends and families experience.

          In general, I believe MOST people care what happens to their spouse. I think MOST people would feel bad if their partner got hurt and they felt like the cause of it.

          I also maintain that MOST spouses have no idea that the things that are hurting their wives actually hurt.

          It’s not as if they don’t care about their spouses. It’s that their brains, on autopilot, never register the pain in the first place.

          Because when X happens, it doesn’t hurt them. Which is what causes so many fights because of how frustrating it is when their wives keep frantically reporting pain and making a big deal out of incidents that don’t hurt and aren’t a big deal.

          Of course, I believe that there ACTUALLY is pain and that some people are blind to that pain.

          It’s hard to feel bad about things we have no frame of reference for. We tend to require some way to connect to something or have some experience feeling similar things in order to relate to others and “feel their pain.”

          So I’m not proposing we help sociopaths FEEL. I don’t know how to do that.

          I’m proposing that we connect the experiences spouses are reporting as painful with past events their unsympathetic spouses CAN identify with.

          The dish by the sink hurts one but not the other.

          The goal would be to help the other SEE the pain. To bridge the misunderstanding. To frame the moment in way that DOES make sense. That does make it a shared, relatable experience.

          Mutual understanding.


          Empathy that is executed mindfully and intentionally.

          It’s EASY to care about the things we naturally care about because we feel them already.

          It’s harder to care about things we DON’T care about on behalf of others. But if someone loves their spouse? They’ll seek to understand what hurts them and work hard to protect them from those painful things and make damn sure that they themselves aren’t the ones causing the pain.

          I think some of this is semantics.

          1. I’m sure some of it really is semantics and limited time to communicate fully. Or I could just be wrong, LOL! But these things have never felt truthful or honest to me, like when you say,” I also maintain that MOST spouses have no idea that the things that are hurting their wives actually hurt.” I still insist we totally know we are hurting one another, we just don’t care. This line of reasoning reminds me of stomping on someone’s foot and then declaring, “oh did that hurt? I had no idea that would hurt! You should have told me.” When we hurt people it is seldom just miscommunication or an accident.

          2. And maybe there’s an element of that that’s true. But stomping on a foot strikes me as being universally hurtful. Being stabbed by a knife? Universally hurtful. Hit by a brick? Universally hurtful.

            A dish by the sink?

            Socks on the floor?

            A particular type of response to a story about your work day?

            NOT universally hurtful.

            People who don’t feel pain when things happen struggle to accept that other people can and do feel pain from them.

            And that’s why marriages and relationships of all types fail.

          3. I think the dishes and the socks and the responses are indicative of feeling dismissed that she could only express through tangible things. Maybe she could only think of these examples as concrete things and did not quite integrate them to the idea that it’s about feeling heard and listened to. I think if she felt that she had a husband who she trusted in general to have high regard for himself as well as herself, I think these dish by the sink and socks on the floor issue would be mere annoyances rather than the bricks that she felt you threw on her. She didn’t for whatever reason trust that you would be there to listen to her concerns and needs, therefore she saw the various seemingly non hurtful things as being hurtful. I’m just postulating here. I think non universally hurtful things have roots in universally hurtful things (like being disregarded, feeling invalidated, dismissed, condescended), but one has to dig deeper to understand that. Just postulating.

            Also, insanitybytes, I am siding with Matt here in that I think empathy can be learned. It takes a lot of work, but I think it can be. Ironically, I think having enough of a regard for yourself, like true self esteem, not false narcissism, gives you the ability to have high regard for others.

          4. I hesitate to call what you just wrote “semantics” as I said to IB earlier, because your observation is too true and too important to write off so simply.

            But yeah. Definitely. I agree entirely with your analysis here. I’m not sure how to communicate that via storytelling without writing about dishes and socks and your run-of-the-mills relationship fights, but I think I probably need to be thinking more about that.

            You reframed the conversation there in a super-interesting way. Need brain time.

            Thank you, Astrid. And you too, IB! You’re the best. You read almost every post I write and then write something thoughtful about it. I love that you challenge me and I hope you never stop. Thank you for investing your time and energy in things I write. I really appreciate it. Both of you.

  2. Most “love stories” are complete and utter bullshit. Quite a few actually promote really harmful ideas. They wouldn’t be bad for sheer escapist entertainment if people actually understood they have as little in common with real life and love as say, Star Trek II, does.. I enjoy watching me some Trek sure – but I’m not studying Klingon in my spare time or planning on signing my kid up for the Academy. Reality is not “sexy” but I’d rather live there than in a RomCom dream world that leaves you shattered when it inevitably bursts. I feel like that sounds really cynical and I’m not. I believe in love – as a verb not just a noun. But I think it is really really rare and all the more precious because it is.

  3. I love your writings and they are so on point. I just wish the postings were a little shorter so my daughter would read them. Lol.

  4. Thanks for sharing such, i on the other hand am naturally cynical about love, but then again it’s what helps me to understand what love truly is; a choice. and we don’t have to love someone for something good they do but for all they do……

  5. For people—people like you—who know the truth, you have two choices, and I won’t judge you for either.

    1. Stay Single – It really is an option. If I thought mountains of celibacy and spending my twilight years sad and alone was an attractive proposition, I would for-sure choose it.

    2. Get Married with the Appropriate Mindset that Will Help You Succeed – But what’s the appropriate mindset?

    I’m so glad you asked.

    With all due respect, I think there’s a point missing here:

    3. Choose wisely – Make sure, or at least try to within reasonable means, that the person you plan to marry are sharing your idea of the Appropriate Mindset. And if you’re on the fence about this one, don’t delude yourself that it will magically fix itself just becase you get a ring on your fingers.

    You can give your partner all your attention, sit and invest in conversations with your partner, but you can’t make them do the same for you.
    You can choose to be dependable and trustworthy, but you can’t make a partner trust you unless they choose to do so.
    You can send I-love-you-texts and flirty messages to your partner, but they can choose to be deflective and evasive about them.

    I am not saying you have it all wrong.
    You write a lot (and I mean a lot!) of good stuff.
    Good stuff about what it takes to be in a committed relationship.
    But I’ve been reading quite a lot in the archives here, and also writing comments here and there. And I think what bugs me about some of it, is that it seems to put the responsibility on just one person. If I just do this, i will get a happy relationship. Of course, I agree with you that if I neglect this stuff with my partner, I will most probably get a crappy one. But it seems to imply that if I just do all this, my partner will somehow automatically or magically do the same. And in my experience, it just isn’t quite that simple.

    And I think this is also the reason for the divide in opinion between women and men commenting here.

    1. This is a really good point. This is the situation that I found myself in- truly having felt like I had done the work prior to marriage, and feeling like my partner had not. Like I said, this recent turn around of his perception has made him realize the level of self awareness that it takes to really make a relationship work. And no amount of my imploring him to change has fully changed it. He had to understand it for himself. My position on this is stronger because he’s come to realize it for himself- e.g. the work he should have probably done before on himself before he decided to get married.

      To me, what I’ve come to realize that is truly unrealistic is to have two self aware partners who can do this from the get go. I personally haven’t seen this in any of my friends’ marriages, although again, that’s not necessarily indicative of the general population. From my experience, I see there’s one partner who is quite a bit further along in their own personal development. The problem is the resentment piece of having to teach someone because of the gap in skills. I think teaching young people that this is realistically what they may have to deal with would be good preparation. That if you are the person not as far along in emotional/relational development that you be open to learning more from your partner, and that if you are further along, that you don’t resent this opportunity to teach your partner. Otherwise, one can simply stay at option 1.

    2. To FlyingKal,

      You said, “And I think this is also the reason for the divide in opinion between women and men commenting here.”

      Kal, I am so glad that you chose to talk about the ghost(s) that stalk/undermine our interactions and best intentions.

      There is an “elephant” in the room whose presence/name is DENIAL. It is what has
      fueled the reality of #MeToo. It’s what the idea of “entitlement” means (to both genders) when decisions have to be made rather quickly. It’s what the legacy of COVERTURE has meant to women living in the US even in the last 50 years. The list could go on and on.. It would hopefully include the legacy of the PATRIARCHAL mindset that deforms the emotional development of our SONS!!!

      The great divide is not a “man problem” and there is no simple solution to bridging it.

      1. I sometimes joke about how women just, “need you to care.” What does that even mean? I don’t know, but it matters. My husband can lay around all day, but demonstrate some form of caring and I won’t even realize he hasn’t done a darn thing all day. He simply cares and.responds in ways that make that evident.

        Ha! I simply assume all men are like this, but when I look about the culture there is an appalling amount of not caring about women going on. So if you go into marriage thinking women are just basically garbage and owe you or you’re trying to replace your mom or entitled or something, no relationship tricks or communication skills can solve that problem. Nobody can teach you to empathize and it’s not her job to communicate to you that disrespect is wrong. We can blame tradition or patriarchy, but there are some very traditional,very patriarchal guys, that just aren’t like that at all. They understand about caring.

        1. “We can blame tradition or patriarchy, but there are some very traditional,very patriarchal guys, that just aren’t like that at all. They understand about caring.”
          I would be surprised if this was just there from the get go, without any persuasion or work. I feel acknowledging patriarchy’s role and therefore the sociological pressures that we are starting from gives us context. I refuse to blame patriarchy for it, we still need to hold men accountable for these forms of disrespect
          Needing to care to me means my needs are going to received equal consideration and importance to yours. That you would take this into account prior to adjudicating your decision. This to me is the trust and care that most women are probably accustomed to giving (a high regard of self and others), partially because this is how we were taught. This to me has been the hardest to accept, that this is not a guarantee of what most husbands will give to their wives from the get go. Husbands are perfectly fine to care about the things they care about that happens to parallel the wife’s concern. Marriages that already have significant overlap in these values tend to fare better because they don’t have to battle test this power and influence. But what I contend is that when there is a mismatch of priorities, wants, needs, desires, women in general give more consideration to partner’s needs than men do to the partner’s needs. And no, I don’t think it’s the wife’s job to teach this to men. You may need to be the catalyst to send his ass to counseling, but a good counselor will see these imbalances in influence and power, and correct it.

  6. I love this post. Thank goodness I didn’t get to marriage before I knew something would come up between us. It will always be a two-way process and decisions. I hope that we all not stick to ALWAYS be single because life goes and Marriages are part of Happiness that comes by a sincere and promise to your spouse for the rest of your life. Take a leap of faith. I do hope that you may find someone whom you can share her cares through your ups and downs.

  7. ladyinthemountains

    I tried to get my ex to understand that before he chose to give up on us. I figured after all the times I had been bored with him, he could handle feeling like that with me and we could work on it. SO many people do not realize that love forever is WORK but I do believe it is worth it. I am not sure I will find it but I do believe it can happen.

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Matt Fray

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