Every now and again, some learned researchers comes up with some research and a theory that tells us something about ourselves. Darwin did it and kicked off a new science. Dewey, Gardiner and others have done it in education, Freud, Skinner and Puckey’s Triangle are staples of psychology. Every now and again though, someone comes up with research that is dodgey, like Learning Styles, or based in trickery, Piltdown Man, or just weird, Cold Fusion. (While looking at the history of Cold Fusion, I found this from 13 August 2015, http://www.e-catworld.com/2015/08/14/airbus-scientist-announces-theoretical-breakthrough-in-cold-fusion-to-be-revealed-in-october/, which might make for more interesting science over the next few years.)
Every now and again, researchers come up with research and a theory that is just bollocks. The latest such piece of nonsense is that researchers have found that the larger number of Swedish men are unhappier in a second marriage than they were in a first. I don’t doubt that this is what researchers found, just the wider implications of a rather general pronouncement are definitely bollocks.
(The abstract of this can be found here at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953615300459.)
The profile of the research group is somewhat narrow and the methods selected for their research cohort appear very restrictive. There may be a number of other factors involved here that are not hinted at in the abstract. However, their findings have been reported as “genuine news” in the Murdoch media, an organization renown for its (wink, wink, nudge, nudge know what I mean,) unbiased perceptions. [Yes, this is a sample of the lowest form of wit.]
At this point exasperation takes over and we just have to wonder about what the researchers were thinking? Or is it possible that they went into that research and found what they were looking for? Or is it that the men they interviewed were mostly masochistic, manic depressives who just revel in depression? Or, the more likely I would think, the research subjects are not men, but boys in men’s bodies, man-children. How can a person possibly make a second error of judgement worse than the first?
I don’t mean here that the man-children have married a second woman who is a greater shrew than the first, I mean that these boys have not learned anything from their first marriage. They have not taken anything from their first marriage and applied it to their second. I see this all the time, basically because a lot of males are self-centred egoists who have not learned to relate to other people, let alone a second wife.
All personal relationships are based in learning how to get along with the other person. If they are not, they don’t get very far. I deliberately leave professional relationships out here, mainly because they are subject to a very different criteria. You don’t have to like the people you work with, you only have to work with them. You get along with them, at work, because you have to, but more often than not, you infrequently associate with them outside of work.
During the first marriage, we can work out what it is we want, what do we need, what is our partner giving us, what is she not? We can also see what it is we are giving to them, what does she need, what does she want, what are we not giving her? I am not going to go the soggy romantic route and say “Love is never having to say you are sorry”, fatuous tripe that is always going to get you into trouble. Or that other bit of rubbish, “You are the perfect one for me”, just as nonsensical as the first. Worse is the basic romantic trap of thinking that love is giving something without expectation of return. That is just masochism at its worse. Essentially, if you expect that then you have forgotten the bucket of apples analogy. (For those who never heard of this, it is, “If you have a bucket of apples, and take one out, then another, and another, what is going to happen if you never replace the apples you took out?”)
There are a whole range of such pearls, each one more dull and deadly than that previous. This is an example of social expectations opposing personal realities. The film, “Love Story” was a narcissistic exploration of self involvement, I suggest, about as unreflective of reality as it can be. People went with the sloppy sentimentality and made it an undeserving hit movie. There have been many such movies, denying reality in favour of tripe, of trivializing the emotional inputs required to make good personal relationships. This is, I suggest, because people do not want reality, they want fantasy; and where better to see mass fantasy than a movie theatre.
Love is not an ingrained emotion, it is not thunder striking, heart palpitating every time you look at her as in a movie script. Love is a construction. Love is a slow shift towards understanding. The incredibly inane and silly, “Blended”, is an example of developing that understanding, and closer to reality, (which is likely why it bombed at the box office). Love is reciprocal reward, it is giving the love object the things she needs, and knowing that she will give you back those things you need. I do not mean that love is an emotionless, soulless transaction of agreed reciprocated emotional funding. It is a natural progression from wanting to know about a person, to learning about that person, to forgiving that person for their flaws, to accepting their forgiveness for your flaws. This takes time and considerable effort.
For me, love is wanting to be in a person’s life, a part of that life, to share moments with. Sometimes love is a good fight, and a better making up. Sometimes it is a negotiation for balance, of time, of work load, of emotional stress. Mostly though, love is simply giving support to another person whom you want in your life. It is accepting support from another person who wants to be in your life. It is about finding the commonalities, reveling in them. It is looking for the differences and accepting them. It is adapting to meet your partner halfway, about willingness to adapt, to accept change within yourself. It is not about giving of yourself without some demand, some return.
Everything becomes exhausted if you never bother to refill it. So it is with people. If all you do is take and take, without giving anything back, how long before your source becomes exhausted? If all you do is give and give, what happens when you run out of giving?
To some, this is a non-romantic approach, and I hope it is, because romanticism does not lie in the approach. Romanticism lies in the action. For most males, locality guides are neatly stored and properly cataloged in our heads for easy access, but most women can’t navigate well beyond frequently traveled routes. Remembering birthdays can often be a big ask for males, as can other significant dates even for well intentioned males. Not so for most women, dates are important, neatly stored and properly cataloged in their heads and men mostly don’t get it. Remembering birthdays, though, is just one thing in the litany of romantic actions for males.
Spending time with her, wanting to spend time with her is important. If a guy does not learn that in his first marriage, then he has wasted that marriage. Allowing her to talk about what she wants to, and taking an interest in those things is important to her. Males tend to use language for instructional purposes, so when she talks about a problem let her, agree with her, but try not to offer solutions to her problems. She does not want a solution from you, she just wants to feel like she is being heard, so listen to her. That, guys, is being romantic.
These are the things males can learn from a first marriage. They are important. Even doing them does not guarantee a successful marriage, but it will be a better marriage until it collapses. More importantly, take those experiences and use them in a second marriage, use what you have learned, if you have learned. Your second marriage may not last either, but it will be a lot better than your first. Take what you learned from your second marriage and apply it to your third, if you remarry. I suspect, by this time, you should have learned enough to be a better husband, and that, is really the end game, just being better.
That is what so many of the subjects in the Swedish study have missed. Its called growing up guys.