Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Secret to a Long Term Relationship

America’s young people have mastered the art of the short-term relationship. They lead the world in one-night stands, hookups in the alley, speed dating, first dates, and casual flings.

But when it comes to longer relationships, their skill set fails them. Too few of them know how to sustain a long term relationship that continues to be harmonious, lusty, and fun.

Therapy bears some considerable responsibility for this state of affairs. After all, most Americans tend to trust therapists to lead them through the relationship thicket. And therapists have been more than happy to answer the call.

But psychiatry is a branch of medicine. Nothing in it tells you how best to conduct a relationship. When a couple brings a bad marriage to a psychiatrist, what medication should he prescribe?

Good conduct is the province of ethics, not medicine or science.

Therapists who are less medically oriented usually prescribe more intimacy and better communication. They do not seem to understand the importance of compatibility, of having a great deal in common. And they do not seem to know that when people are more compatible they do not have to discuss as much.

They do not understand that if the foundations of a relationship are shaky, sexual intimacy will surely go the way of all flesh. Nor do they understand that open and honest communication is often boorish and insulting. Thus, it tends to undermine relationship harmony.

Now, Tara Parker-Pope has a better idea. I am stretching things to say that it’s her idea. It’s not. She is reporting the observations of relationship experts. But still, I am grateful to her for bringing it to our attention. Credit where credit is due.

In truth, the idea comes to us from ethics. When Aristotle offers instructions in how to improve your relationships, he places a special emphasis on the virtue of benevolence or magnanimity or generosity.

Don’t let your behavior be guided by your gut or your passion or your bliss. Let generosity be your guide.

Other ethical thinkers have made the same point: small acts of generosity are of vital importance to a good relationship.

Note the emphasis on small: a night at the opera is not going to compensate for a pattern of inconsiderate, thoughtless behavior.

It’s important to distinguish generosity from charity.

Generosity may overlap with charity but the two are not the same thing. We say that someone who gives to a local hospital building fund is being generous, but generosity within a relationship involves thoughtful gestures given freely to someone who does not need them.

Charity involves giving to the needy. It involves making a sacrifice in order to help those less fortunate.

Generosity involves buying your wife flowers for no good reason. It involves telling her that you love her when it is least expected. It involves volunteering to watch the children for a day while she goes out shopping with her girlfriends. It involves helping out when she does not ask.

Being generous means doing good deeds, freely, on a daily basis. It means being nice to people, being kind, courteous and considerate.

Generosity has to be offered freely. It cannot be demanded, dictated or extorted.

It is not about doing your fair share. It cannot exist when one party lays down a list of grievances. When one person makes demands, goes on domestic strike, or engages in any one of another form of strife there is no more room for generosity.

When feminism advised women to make their kitchens into a war zone, to complain about an unjust domestic division of labor, and to demand that men do half of the housework, it was militating against generosity.

In so doing it was undermining men’s tendency to be virtuous at home.

When faced with an imperious demand, you have a problem. If you do what you are told you lose self-respect. If you refuse, you will aggravate the conflict. It is a lose/lose situation.

What is the best way to elicit generosity from your significant other? Simply, by being generous.

As the old saying goes: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

But, what if your generosity is not reciprocated? What if you are taken for granted? What if your good deeds do not elicit any good deeds from your significant other?

You know that you cannot demand something that is only valuable if it is freely given. But, then what?

If you have behaved honorably and your generosity does not provoke any reciprocal acts of generosity, you know most of what you need to know about your relationship. You know that you are a good and decent person and that you have fulfilled your end of the relationship bargain. You also know that the other person is unworthy of you. Now, you are in a better position to know what to do, and to do it.


Jim said...

Stuart, The elephant in the room is the fact that Newt is a serial adulterer. Wife #3 is a trophy wife who convinced her husband into leaving the Southern Baptist Church to join the Catholic Church so that she could regain her "good catholic" status that she clung to while she fornicated with Gingrich for 7 years (while also singing in the prestigious choir of the National Shrine in DC). Newt was never much of a baptist anyway and must have had difficulty finding a baptist preacher to solemnize marriage #3. A catholic church rocked with other scandals was too happy to issue annulments on his previous 2 protestant marriages - something that will not sit well with devout catholics. The RC decision to suck up to Newt is even more puzzling as Newt's abortion views are definietly un-catholic and un-evangelical. The baptist women at my church (my wife included) who are aware of these shenanigans will not vote for Gingrich. Keep in mind, these women have more influence over their male relatives than you might think. The Southern Baptist Convention has already issued a harsh statement on Newt's morality issues. This is why Barney Frank has said that Newt running for president is "the best thing to happen to the Democratic Party since Goldwater". Oh, I almost forgot, while commiting adultery with the current wife while still married to wife #2, he was leading the impeachment proceedings against Clinton who lied about--- committing adultry. That's what we baptists call Chutzpah!!

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Thanks, Jim. How does it happen that Gingrich is polling so well right now, especially in Southern states? It seems that more people have more reservations about Romney than they do about Newt.

If it comes down to Gingrich vs. Obama, will your friends and family vote for Obama or stay home? In the primaries, it's one thing, but the general election is quite another.

Dennis said...

After Clinton and the Democrat party backing of his behavior, I am having a hard time getting worked up over Gingrich or Cain for that matter. I some times wonder if those on the right are spending too much time trying to look a lot more saintly than any of us can be?
Sex is an enigma for us as human beings. There is so little we actually understand. How many of us who are male have wondered why certain women have an affect on us that seems out of proportion to what it should be? To the point that we have trouble putting sentences together and being our normal selves.I suspect that one in one hundred women is a perfect match for us. There is only a one percent chance of us finding this match. There are a number of women who are a very good match and many times they are the ones we typically marry.
We are not perfect human beings. We make mistakes. The secret to most long term matches is actually finding that perfect match and then recognizing it and the fact that all relationships have to make decisions that are good for both.
I cannot be the only person who, since marriage, has run across 4 women who have taken my breath away. The only thing that helped was that I avoided them as much as possible until I could see their flaws. I have no idea what would have occurred if I had to be around them full time. I wish I thought that women were different, but they are NOT.
I will save my damnation for the really corrupt like Obama, et al. Politics is about power and those attracted are going to attract those who want to bath in other's power.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

When I think about this discussion the I keep coming back to this: Let he who is free from sin cast the first stone.

Dennis said...

What strikes me interesting is how demanding the people are on the right for perfection. They are to the point that they will withhold their vote so that someone who holds views that are more of an anathema to their own will be elected. At some point all this "good feelings" about principles leads to evil winning.
Since we can only vote for the person who comes closest to our principles or against the vice would it not be better to take what one can get an go for more once one wins? Abortion verses abortion plus partial birth abortion and the taxpayer paying for it. It is no wonder evil keeps winning when you have people who will impale themselves on their own sword and not live to fight another day.