Tag Archives: marriage


Dear Steve,
You, and all who have written on the subject of marriage, do not have the concept. Yes, far too many ill-prepared fools are getting married, because they are all getting married for the wrong reasons. True LOVE (not romantic love) is is an act, not an emotion. It is a choice. When two people decide that one-another’s needs and well-being are more important than their own, then they will both look out for each other better than they ever could have on their own.
I think that you are right about we North-Americans being too hung up on our own “super-specialness”. This pursuit of self-actualization completely negates the possibility of entering into such a symbiotic relationship, and thus marriages fail. In the end, I think we’ve all been eating too much granola (or maybe we need to eat more).

I admit it, I’m a little tipsy right now, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do my job. It just means I can’t do my job well. Maybe it’s because I’m wasted, but I don’t get the granola thing. And, where exactly am I wrong on the subject of marriage? I‘m sure that I’m wrong about a lot of things, but you don’t really shed any light on what those things are. I agree that too many ill-prepared fools get married. I agree that true love is an act, not an emotion. Oh wait, no I don’t. Shit, I never really thought about it.

To be honest, my first thought is, yuck. Your mature kind of love sounds more, um, mature. But, it sounds like high school-guidance-counselor-love (not that there is anything wrong with high school guidance counselors). I guess that I want love to be an emotion. At the same time, I can see how it makes sense to want a relationship founded on reason, rather than emotion. I guess. I just have trouble imagining rational sex. Is it as good as emotional sex?

And there’s the rub, right. What drives those ill-prepared fools into the arms of romantic love? Sex. Or money. People who get married for money are incomprehensible to me, so I will not even address them (except to say that they must have experienced a time in their lives when they felt tremendously insecure). Okay, money doesn’t really play into romantic love (I’m pretty drunk right now). That just proves my point about sex, right? Sure.

But do people say to themselves, “oh, I think I’ll marry so-and-so because they light my figurative fire.” No, it’s one of those unconscious things. But you probably aren’t ever driven by unconscious motivations to be with someone you probably shouldn’t. Still, the rest of us are often drawn to someone for reasons that are not entirely rational. In fact, it may be the very primitive nature of our feelings that drives us to do something as inconceivable as share our lives with someone else.

You suggest that self-actualization is somehow part of that North American feeling of “super-specialness”. I disagree. When I spoke about “super-special people”, I was referring to those individuals who feel like any assault on them is an assault on the very soul of truth and justice. For this reason, the super-specials cannot endure any infidelity in their marriages. I don’t remember why I am talking about this, but there must be a point.

Oh yeah. Self-actualization is identical with the idea that we are all equally special and worthy of forgiveness. If I am right, then self-actualization would serve the purposes of romantic love by creating a more tolerant atmosphere in which love could grow. Sorry, that was so hokey. If you are right, and the pursuit of self-actualization completely negates the possibility of romantic love, then we should all do our utmost to avoid romantic love, because it would suck to give up self-actualization. I hope that you are wrong. Because I want to be self-actualized, but I don’t want to be a sixty-year old bachelor who brings pictures of my dog to family reunions (not that my dog isn’t totally cool).


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Marriage: Part 2

Continued from Marriage: Part 1

Dear Steve,
As a married woman who has been in a number of transgressive relationships, I wonder if it takes an especially curious or passionate person to search for emotional danger, or whether I have a character flaw. Do you think it is unethical or amoral to be in a clandestine relationship? Or, do you think when you meet someone you love, you have no choice?
–a good listener in New York

Secret relationships suck. I can never handle the stress of lying, so I end up confessing (in order to relieve my stress and make myself feel better), and hurting the person I confess to. Nonetheless, I don’t have a sterling record when it comes to defending the ramparts of fidelity.

Does it take an especially curious or passionate person to search for emotional danger? Sounds good… as a big fat excuse for cheating. The truth is this – it takes someone with fewer personal boundaries to pursue emotional danger. Is that a character flaw? It depends on whether your lack of boundaries enriches your life, or if it just puts you in risky situations.

Is it unethical and amoral to be in a clandestine relationship? I’ll have to go with “yes.” In fact, I think adultery is one of the main reasons they made up words like ethical and moral.

“The psychology of adultery has been falsified by conventional morals, which assume, in monogamous countries, that attraction to one person cannot coexist with a serious affection for another. Everybody knows that this is untrue.”
-Marriage and Morals Bertrand Russell

This might be the granddaddy of all moral dilemnas. Many people would disagree with me, “there is no dilemma, and one should simply never cheat. That view fails to recognize that adultery is commonplace in many perfectly decent countries around the world (and by decent, I don’t mean France).

At least in rhetoric, America is the biggest anti-cheating country in the world. The president of Greece had an affair with a porn star, left his wife, and still got re-elected.

There are three reasons America is so anti-cheating.

Reason 1- American women won’t let you cheat (since you’re a woman yourself, this probably isn’t pertinent to your particular situation, but it gives me an opportunity to ramble). I met a guy in Argentina who told me about all the affairs he had. When I asked him how he got away with it, he said that every guy in Argentina had affairs and that it was expected. Instead of saying “its a man’s world,” we should say, “its a men-living-in-foreign-countries’ world.” Let’s face it – American men lost the battle. Guys all over the world (some from completely lame countries) are laughing at us. Some coffee farmer in Uruguay is thinking to himself, “sure, you got your fancy Starbucks and your laptop computers, but I can cheat on my wife.”

Reason 2- Americans love property. The Commies were always the bad guys because they threatened that most sacred of American institutions, MY STUFF. And when MY STUFF refers to the genitals of our spouse, people get even more possessive than usual.

Reason 3- Americans suffer from “Super-Special-Syndrome”. As part of that wholly misdirected self-esteem thing, we’re all taught that each of us is super-special. “My personality is special, my thoughts are special, my sense of humor is special, my genitals are special (I actually saw a sticker at a political rally that said ‘Vaginal Pride’). We all think we’re pretty ding-dang special. When someone cheats on you, it completely annihilates that feeling of super-specialness. Sadly, no matter how much you love someone, if they deny your super-specialness, you must break up with them. At least, that’s the current thinking.

As for your final question, does one have a choice (about cheating) when one falls in love with another person? I think that’s the old ‘Free Will’ question. I like to believe we always have a choice. However, love is a powerful force that often transcends traditional ideas of morality.

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Marriage: Part 1

Dear Steve,

Speaking of love, don’t you think it’s about time to speak about the obsolete nature of marriage as we know it today in this new millenium for the able-bodied and the deep pocketed? On the cognitive dissonnant nature of mixing a life-long sacred oath w/ the legal powers of the state? On the fact that marriage falls into the category “it sounded good at the time?” On role-playing? I love Cybill Shepard’s quote: I loved having a husband, it was being a wife that I couldn’t stand? On how well rounded individuals are rarely found in this dinasaur institution? On how the myth of a charming prince with his shining armor on his white horse died w/ the death of Princess Diana? On how, in this boomer generation of ours, it will not be uncommon for a few of us to live to be a hundred and fifteen years (plus or minus?) On how some of us who may find love post-fifty–could end up caretaking the eventual bed-ridden if one did not invest in caring for one’s longevity?
maybe, until whenever,

First, let me say that you probably shouldn’t get married.

Personally, I’ve never been married, so I can only say what it looks like from the outside. I think the biggest problem with marriage is also one of the biggest problems with America – *personal empowerment* and *high self-esteem*. The current definition of an empowered person with healthy self-esteem is someone who clearly states his expectations, creates firm boundaries, and expresses his feelings regularly. Basically, a demanding, rigid, pain in the ass. I don’t think most people’s self-esteem should be high. If you’re Ghandi or Martin Luther King, then okay. But if you’re like me, and you spend your days just dealing with your life and not trying to save the world, then your self-esteem should be pretty average and not particularly high. Here’s the connection to marriage – how do two “healthy” people, who are constantly asserting their expectations, boundaries, and feelings, ever get anything done? Who bends? More often than not, one person becomes the bender and the other becomes the bendee.

Truly successful marriages are about as common as Afghan restaurants in New Mexico. They require constant negotiation. Today, if you’re married and have kids (or even pets), it’s like the Mideast peace talks just to get some free time for yourself. I’d find the constant bartering a little mind-numbing… “I’ll cover you while you play poker, if you’ll cover me, while I get a massage.” Then, you’re not hanging out with your partner as much because he’s babysitting for you while you’re doing the stuff you enjoy (and vice-versa). You stop doing the stuff you enjoy together, you do it separately, and you grow apart.

Also, I think therapists have completely screwed things up by convincing us that, in order to be completely healthy, we need to express all our hurts, and all our needs, and all our disappointments, and all our expectations. I think America has gone communication crazy. (I’d really like to marry someone who doesn’t speak any English.)

Tolstoy wrote that if the goal of marriage is personal happiness, that marriage can never succeed. If the goal is to create a family, that marriage can never fail. It’s ridiculous and wrong for one person to be responsible for another person’s happiness, and if you expect that of your partner, your marriage will fail. Conversely, if your goal is to create a family, then your personal goals and the goals of the family will be the same.

Perhaps, I’ve been somewhat negative about marriage. Here’s what I think is good about marriage: having someone bring you ginger ale with crushed ice when you’re sick and have a fever, having someone who listens to you because they want to (not becaue they’re being polite), having someone who’s ready to give a really terrific speech to the Divine Court stating why you should be allowed into Heaven.

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Dear Steve,

I’d like to ask about something I have realized over the years but never understood. My rule has always been: the one who cares the least about the relationship, rules the relationship. I’ve proven it over and over without fail. Any time I cared even a little bit more than the women I dated, they would immediately begin unrolling the scroll of demands that must be met to ensure their happiness. The scroll was immediately put away if I realized that I was caring too much and added another baseball night to my schedule. Is this just an independent discovery of the idea about pursuing that which retreats from us?
One last thing, I dated a woman and found she didn’t practice this rule, so I married her.

Because I’m feeling mystical today, I’m going to open the nearest book to a random page in the hope that I will find an answer to your question. That book happens to be the Portable World Bible. Let’s see what it says…

“And the man said, the woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat”.

Okay, so I can’t find any connection. Let’s move on.

In New Guinea, there’s a word, mokita, which means ‘the truth that everybody knows but nobody speaks.’ There should be a word for the truth that everybody knows, but some people refuse to acknowledge. I like the word shamma-lamma-ding-dong. One of the most common shamma-lamma-ding-dongs occurs in relationships like the one you describe above, where one person is more attached than the other. And yes, the one who is less attached rules the relationship and gets her way most of the time.

Most people in these relationships avoid admitting any power disparity because it would be too painful. If you’re the master, you don’t want to admit it for two reasons. One, you might have to give up some of your power in the interest of fairness. Two, you might have to change your self-image (especially if you’re a person who prides herself on being even-handed and fair, when in truth, you’re selfish and demanding). If you’re the servant, you don’t want to admit it for two reasons. One, you might piss off your master (masters hate to admit they’re mastering anyone). Two, you might have to change your self-image (especially if you’re one of those people who thinks you have good self-esteem, when in truth, you’re a total pansy). When two people get together who don’t want to speak a truth they both should know, you have one big-ass shamma-lamma-ding-dong.

Is this just another example of people pursuing that which retreats from them? Sure, why not. Mostly, it’s an example of economics. If people are willing to pay 500 dollars for a pair of shoes, shoemakers will charge 500 dollars. If someone is willing to let his partner push him around, his partner will push him around. Some people are more focused on their careers, friends and/or hobbies than they are on romantic relationships.

Two people like that can date each other, but they won’t last very long. Fortunately, there are plenty of other people who are more focused on their relationships than on their careers, friends or hobbies. These people sacrifice their own interests to help their lucky narcissist partners pursue theirs.

A friend once told me that in every relationship there is a gardener and a rose. I’ve often found this to be true. I’ve also discovered a good way of finding the rose. Ask a couple if they have a gardener/rose type relationship. The person who answers ‘yes’ is the gardener, the person who answers ‘no’ is the rose (most roses deny being roses).

The whole gardener/rose thing reminds me of gardens, which reminds me of the Garden of Eden. Perhaps there is a connection between the above quote and your question. Maybe if Adam had been more focused on his career (which was gardening), he wouldn’t have felt such a strong need for female companionship. Just think of all the trouble he could have avoided.

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