Monday, October 7, 2019

She Married a Man with Good Character

Some readers think that I make these letters up. They imagine that I write out the letters that Carolyn Hax and other advice columnists print… and then make up strange responses. If they really believe what they say, they need some serious help. I do my best to delete most of such trollery, but every once in a while one sneaks through.

In an online discussion with Carolyn Hax a wife compares her relationships with men she loved passionately and her relationship with her husband. The former men betrayed her, robbed her and lied to her. Her husband is trustworthy, reliable and thoroughly committed to their marriage.

You might say that she overcame belief that a good marriage had to be grounded to total love. She came to understand that love is not enough, that the most passionate love means nothing when one’s beloved has bad character.

Naturally, Hax is not very impressed. Some of her readers are downright dismissive. 

Here is the letter:

Being totally in love is overrated. I have never felt that intensely about my husband and do not love him as much as I've loved exes. I certainly don't get along with my husband as well as I did with one particular ex.

But you know what? The men I did love that way either lied to me, hurt me, "borrowed" money, stood me up, left me with wedding deposits I never got back, made promises they never kept. My husband has never done those things.

I don't look at my marriage as a loss. I look at it as though the spouse I really wanted simply doesn't exist.

I think the temptation to take advantage of a partner's strong feelings and trust is a pull too hard for many people to resist. I dated A LOT. Any man I felt in love with or had strong feelings for did something terrible that involved taking advantage of my feelings.

I married the reliable man who isn't going to swear he'll attend my friend's wedding and then no-show. Life isn't a fairy tale.

— No Fairy Tale

In short, she learned that it was better not to trust strong feelings. It’s a very good lesson to learn. We compliment her on her wisdom. And we note that when you can count on your husband to do what he says he will do, you will suffer far less stress in life. 

We might even suggest that the stress attendant on dealing with an unreliable and irresponsible human being can feed what one mistakes for true romantic love. It is a bad formula for living a life as a couple. And we would note that when couples complete a large number of successful transactions in the course of a marriage they often come to love each other more and more.

Surely, it beats a marriage based on constant psychodrama and a constant feeling of stress for not knowing whether or not he will show up.

Wouldn’t you not feel more love for someone who is consistently loyal and trustworthy? Isn't such a marriage more likely to endure?

Wouldn’t you feel some considerable enmity toward someone who took advantage of you and who told you that your ability to put up with it was a sign of love?

Few people seem to understand it. From my perspective, the letter shows the wisdom gained from experience. 

Sorry to say, but Hax, ever sentimental, does not get it. She thinks that this woman, for exercising her intelligence, is deceiving her husband. She does not imagine that the husband in question might not believe and might not care whether his wife was swept away by him. He might be thoroughly contented to be married to a woman he can rely on, who is trustworthy and loyal, who is not looking around for the next intense passion.

Anyway, Hax responds:

But does your husband know this, or enough of it to know you weren’t swept away? If he doesn’t, then he’s essentially paying for the crimes of your more intense loves of the past. Which is not okay.

If he does know, especially if the feeling is mutual — that you represent calm affection and security vs. the love of his life (whatever that means to you) — then that’s a whole other thing, and mazel tov to you both.

If anyone’s thinking ignorance is bliss, then you need to factor in the way people respond to someone they love-love vs. just like a lot (or barely tolerate). The person you love-love always gets more warmth, better listening, softer landings from missteps. Right?

So take these small emotional exchanges, and multiply them by a marriage’s worth of days. The result is a lifetime of less-than, which a secretly settled-for spouse never got a chance to agree to — or walk away from. So profoundly unfair.

As I said, she missed the point completely. In place of the small emotional exchanges how about considering the other transactions that constitute building a life together. Like doing what you say you will do. God only knows why Hax imagines that the husband in question is completely smitten with the woman and is being deceived?

Anyway, our compliments to the letter writer. Not so much to Carolyn Hax.


whitney said...

I think that's a phony letter written by a man to see if it would get published and what Carolyn Hax would say. Two reasons I think this. The capitalization of a lot when referring to all the men she dated. It's too insulting to herself. And the fact that she didn't talk about any good qualities of her husband which any woman would. A woman wants to justify her choices to herself. That letter didn't do that. Also and I'm just throwing this one on the end. It's too short, women talk a lot

UbuMaccabee said...

Reason over feelings and loyalty and simple decency over Mr. Tingles. She’s on her way to adulthood. Jane Austen would be proud. She should take Hax’s job.

Anonymous said...

I could have written that letter myself. Yes, and they lived happily ever after. That's maturity.