Friday, September 10, 2010

Are You Really in Love?

Normally, you would find my title question in a woman's magazine, in a place where feelings rule. There you would be told that what matters in a relationship is knowing how you feel. You should choose a mate only when you know that you are really, really in love with him and he is really, really in love with you.

Woman's magazines will tell you all of the signs to allow you to take your emotional temperature. In the interest of modesty, I will not.

I don't want to belabor the point in this post, but culturally-induced habits are fungible. If you think that being in love is the only thing that matters in choosing a mate, then you are more likely to believe that you should vote for the candidate who provokes similar tingly feelings.

While I would not dispute that love matters in the mating game, we should all question the wisdom of supporting a political candidate who makes you feel enraptured.

And I would also dispute, as I have in other posts, whether love is really enough of a basis for choosing with whom to spend your life.

It is better to ask what kind of life you would have with this person, and, especially, what kind of character he has. If you fall in love with someone whose character is deficient you are going to find the trouble you are looking for.

I was thinking about this as I read through a slide show on Link here. Via Instapundit.

The issues that AskMen raises are directed toward a manly sensibility. Obviously, they should be of interest to women too.

If neither you nor your prospective mate has been seduced into believing that you should just follow your feelings, you will both need to have standards and criteria for making an objective, rational judgment. That is what AskMen is providing.

It is good that AskMen is helping men to evaluate their relationships by using objective criteria. Too often, men, both young and old, are incapable of stepping back from their relationships to wonder about whether they will work in the long run, and, at what price.

I would emphasize that being blinded by love is not at all the province of the young. It seems to happen with some frequency to men who are well beyond their salad days. And sometimes it is worse with older men, because they make it a point of honor to ignore objective facts.

The title of the AskMen slide show: "Top 10: Signs You're Too Good for Her," leaves much to be desired. Perhaps if a young man thinks he is too good for her, the notion will make it easier for him to make a better decision.

At the same time, the self-puffery feels invidious. One would do better not to think of relationships as competitions to see who is too good or too bad for the other person.

Sometimes people are just not right for each other.

What are AskMen's criteria? First, if there is nothing to her beyond her looks, then you are not going to have a very good life with her. This is not a new idea. As I recall Judge Judy expressed the same sentiment in a book: Beauty Fades, Dumb Is Forever: The Making of a Happy Woman.

But how can you tell, especially when you are in the idealizing phase of a relationship? AskMen says that you should ask yourself whether you are dumbing down your conversation around her and whether she ever expresses an interest in any topic beyond her quotidian experience.

A woman who limits her conversation to her personal experience is going to become boring and tedious. Given the level of women's educational attainment today, such a limited area of interest is clearly a warning sign.

And women would do well to pay close attention to another of AskMen's criteria. If she makes love like a porn star she is not relationship material. You do not know where she learned it; you do not want to know where she learned it. If she is that proficient at sex then every time you make love with her you will have nagging doubts and questions.

Such qualities might make for a great hookup; they will doom most relationships.

Then, Askmen raises an issue that I have occasionally discussed here. If your friends do not like her, then you should probably trust their judgment. You have spent much time and effort developing a strong group of friends. They know you well; you trust them. They will likely see things about her that you, blinded by love, are ignoring.

You should also pay very close attention to the opinions of your close family members. Here, Shakespeare would agree. We have all been taught that it is terrible to see young love sabotaged by crotchety old parents. We have been taught that we must stand up to parental pressure. And yet, stories of mismatched lovers always end badly. The lesson is: lover beware.

Another criterion for judging your lover is this: she is all take and no give. AskMen says to be wary of women who never pay for anything. Surely, they have a point.

I would expand it to say that when a woman does not reciprocate,  does not match kind gestures with kind gestures, allows you to do everything for you while offering nothing in return-- including picking up an occasional small gift for you-- is someone to avoid.

But what if she is all give and no take. What if she is giving and giving and giving-- to the point of self-sacrifice-- and never allows anything to do anything for her. I would suggest that this is also a warning sign. After all, the more she gives and the less she takes, the larger the balance due. And, the chances are very good that at some point or another it will come due.

Also, a woman who never takes an initiative, who seems infected with terminal passivity, might feel like a good antidote to your last girlfriend who was taking too many initiatives, but, over time, passivity, with the expectation that you will do everything for her, will drive you crazy.

Don't get into the bad habit of thinking that if only you do more for her, she will reciprocate. If she cannot reciprocate small gestures, there is no way she is going to reciprocate larger gestures.

Reciprocity works in other strange ways. Perhaps she is oversharing information about her life while you are undersharing information about yours. If your conversation does not find a reasonable balance, in the sense that you are both contributing equally, then you have a problem.

To summarize, when you love someone enough to consider marriage or some other form of long term relationship, take a step back, look at the situation objectively, cast a cold eye on it, and see how it measures up.

It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that when it comes to this kind of decision, your life is on the line. When the stakes are that high, it would be grossly irresponsible to follow your bliss.


Chuck Pelto said...

TO: All
RE: Heh

When the stakes are that high, it would be grossly irresponsible to follow your bliss. -- Dr. Schneiderman

When there are children involved, the stakes go 'up' ASTRONOMICALLY!


[You know you were a 'good parent', if your grand-children came out right.]

P.S. This is the voice of experience speaking.....

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Congratulations! It sounds like you've done well by them all.

Chuck Pelto said...

TO: Dr. Schneiderman
RE: Heh

I only wish. Their mothers cut me off from significant influence. Three guesses. First two don't count.


[Who shall set a limit to the influence of a human being. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson]

How about a 'family [disolution] court' system?