Thursday, December 30, 2004

Eternity Road Gives Advice On Marital Relationships

On the post before last, I received a comment from the Francis W. Porretto regarding some posts on Eternity Road that I might be interested in. I am familiar with Eternity Road as a political and general commentary on life. It was very interesting to read these two posts and, to a large extent, feeling a little validated as well as even more educated on human relationships.

As I've been writing from a woman's perspective on romance and relationships, I decided that it would be a good idea to post some thoughts from a man's point of view. Interestingly, they don't fall far from my own thoughts on romance and relationships. Maybe men and women don't actually think that differently? Or maybe our experience is telling?

One True Love

With regard to love, there are about a million fallacies circulating as gospel truths. Our modern era is unusual in many ways, and particularly so as regards our sexual-romantic minefield. Because the risks are large and the difficulties often appear insurmountable, we’re unusually prone to believing things that we’d dismiss with a snort if we were in our right minds.

The worst of these fallacies is that of the One True Love.

There’s nothing in this world quite as unlikely as the prospect of meeting a woman who’s “perfect for you”: ready for you to love unreservedly and unstintingly, and who’ll love you back with equal fervor. It simply doesn’t happen. Human beings are much too complex, and too imperfect, for such a fantasy to be made real.

Let me interject here by saying I am very happy to know that I am not the only one that says imperfection is the norm.

"The one,” or some variation on the theme, is the reason most romances fail. A lot of younger folks carry an idealized picture of romantic bliss in their heads. They insist on comparing their current romance to that picture, and their current beau to the demigoddess of their fantasy. Besides being monstrously unfair to any human lover to do such a thing, it guarantees dissatisfaction from one end of life to the other.

To insist on “the one” is to insist that some real woman mold herself into a reproduction of your fantasies. It’s a demand for a golem, not a wife. Every real lover you’ll ever have will be irritable, distractable, ornery, perverse, and independent of mind. How could it be otherwise? Other people never live up to our hopes for them. Not even the best of them, and not even when you’ve made it crystal-clear what you want and expect.

But there is one person who has the potential to live up to your hopes for him.

You know who I’m talking about, don’t you?

Not long ago, a book came out for women called "The Rules" and it was supposed to be rules that women should follow for dating and relationships. Frankly, I read about half of the book and tossed it. Some of it was entertaining, some of it was realistic and some of it had to be written by someone who had never actually dated, but graduated from high school and married there beau: in 1955.

Now, you know I say that many things don't change, but those rules really did not take into account the reality of the surreality of humans. But, reading Eternity Road, I thought that these rules were much more realistic.

The Rules

Reality is independent of your opinions.

It’s also indifferent to your desires.

Every situation comes with incentives and constraints. Though you will try to maximize your harvest of the incentives, you must satisfy the constraints.

Effort put toward trying to control the uncontrollable is effort wasted.

The clock is always running; there are no “time outs.”

Actually, as noted at the site, these rules were not specifically outlined for relationships and dating, but are general rules that apply to just about everything. Humans and their relations among among them.

A note from Eternity regarding the knowing the rules and applying them (hint: two separate things):

I can practically hear you muttering, “Yeah, yeah, so what? Only a total bonehead wouldn’t know all of that.” Well, if that be the case, then to judge by the Romantic State of the Union, there are an awful lot of total boneheads running around loose.

Next, I can totally agree with this assessment, the bar scene is not the place you want to meet someone and will rarely, if ever meet "the one".

The modern mechanisms—singles’ bars; dating services; singles’ personal ads; trolling among coworkers—are mostly inadequate, too. Now and then, one of them will score a major success for someone, but most of the time, the matches produced by these approaches are fleeting, and end badly. After such a liaison comes to a close, the victims are likely to feel worse than they did beforehand.

I feel like I should just right after every extracted paragraph, "Yeah! What he said!"

Meeting Ms. Right

We all think we “ought” to be able to “find someone.” Reality thinks otherwise. In fact, reality frowns on the very form of the statement.

If you’re out there “looking for someone”—worst, if you’re “looking for Miss Right”—you’ve already taken the wrong trail and are virtually certain to reap disappointment.

This isn’t the way we want it to be, of course. We’d really love to be able to order the Perfect Wife out of a catalog, with a money-back guarantee that she’ll meet all the published specifications, and a lifetime no-cost replacement warranty should that ever cease to be the case. Sorry, folks. Sears can only do so much.

There’s a major constraint on your search for a lover that you must respect, ahead of and above any concern for your criteria for her: She’ll be a flawed and variable human being, just as you are, and while you’re measuring her against your list of desiderata, she’ll be doing the same to you. (...)

Can you control her evaluation of you? No. She could be insane, you know. I had a girlfriend like that, once. As soon as she sobered up, she left me.

I had a boyfriend like that once. As soon as I sobered up, I left him.

Now, some good advice for both sexes (again, it's all good advice for both, haven't seen any that wasn't so far)

What You Control

If she’s not insane, you can influence her evaluation of you. The only element in the tableau over which you have any control is yourself: your character and behavior. By building a better you, you can improve your prospects for gaining her good opinion—and keeping it.

Later, he talks about what sort of issues may be a problem for men:

It’s frequently said among women that “you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince.” There’s an uncomfortable amount of truth to that, these days. Most men are inadequately courteous, obsessed with their own drives and pleasures, and generally oblivious to the desires and prerogatives of others. But it also underscores the need for patience and perseverance, something women have traditionally understood better than we.

I said in a recent post that I thought men (and women, really) were losing their common courtesy and that, if a man met a woman and he tried to practice those little courtesies like opening a door or holding her arm when they walked or admitting her first to an entrance, and the woman gave him grief about trying to oppress her or turn back the clock on the liberation of women, the man should probably run like hell. Of course, I also meant that women, most women I know, are very appreciative of such courtesies and, in today's society, actually shocked sometimes when it happens. That is one heck of a first impression.

Last piece I'm going to steal for here before I tell you to go read the rest yourself:

You might need to widen your social circle a bit. You might need to put yourself in the way of a greater number of contacts. But you emphatically would not profit from going back to the bars, the dating services, the lonelyhearts’ columns, et cetera ad nauseam infinitam.

Okay, I think you've got the picture. Head on over to Eternity Road and read the rest here.

Play Time

Connie observes with perfect justice that:

Men look and admire the Stiletto heels females, but they don’t really want them anymore than we want the shoes. They marry, love, and adore their sneaker wives. And it is their simplicity and their comfort that they love about them—they feel better wearing the sneakers—just like we do.

With a few exceptions—men who are destined thereby to be miserably unhappy their whole lives long—this is right on the mark. Yet there’s a byway that deserves to be explored, because it sheds so much light on the differences between the sexes and the complexity of marital relations: play time.


It’s been said, and truly, that “A woman marries her man expecting that he’ll change, and then he doesn’t; a man marries his woman expecting that she won’t change, and then she does.” But the epigram needs explication. Women hope for changes in men’s behavior patterns. Men hope for immutability in women’s bodies and sex drives. Neither development is odds-on. They clash with our natures. We carry our natures with us throughout our lives, and our divergent attitudes toward sex, romance, and the marital relationship are very much in the nature of the two sexes of Man.

And here, a paragraph agreeing with me on how men express their feelings, or in these words, his soul in poetry, deeds:

When it comes to sex and romance, men are regarded as by far the more prosaic of the two sexes. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s just that we don’t read our poetry aloud. ("A poet who reads his verse in public may have other nasty habits.”—Robert A. Heinlein)

The inaccurate assessment of men’s attitude toward their wives appears supported by our cessation of whatever romantic overtures gained us our wives in the first place. If you read the cards naively, this looks irrefutable. What it overlooks is the way men structure their lives: as a series of goals to be pursued, attained, and celebrated.

The romantic poetry in the male soul is expressed in deeds, not words.

Actually, I really enjoyed this aside:

I will pause here for a moment to address the concerns those who consider the above to be unspeakable effusions from the retrograde fantasies of an unreconstructed dinosaur of male chauvinism: You may kiss my bleeding Irish ass. You’re welcome.

As a woman, may I say, if anyone reads this and thinks I am some hackneyed anti-feminist throw back to June Cleaver, you may kiss my ass as well. Now, on with the rest.


Once mated, a man must fight down various drives to which he gave free rein during his single years. Most obviously, he must conquer the urge, written into his nature by evolutionary forces, to woo and win still more women to his bed. Though a civilized order would be impossible were it indulged, that’s no guarantee that suppressing it will be easy. Indeed, the evidence leans in the opposite direction.

One of the keys to success at restraining men’s xenogamous urges is the progressive extension and refinement of the sexual bond between husband and wife. Previous generations understood this better than the present one.

Maintaining the Relationship with Play Time

Life is a hard job: demanding, frustrating, and tiring all at once. It provides an infinite number of reasons why he might be ready and she not, or vice-versa. A certain tolerance for jags of timing is essential to dealing with such occasions...provided one spouse isn’t hiding something more serious behind a veneer woven of irrelevancies. There’s no substitute for candor between husband and wife, especially about sex.

One of the best ways to compensate for the real-world erosion a couple must withstand, and which can fatally damage an otherwise viable sex life, is to have a set of understandings about play time.

The opposition between the grinding job of real life and the frivolous freedom of play time ought to require no explanation. Play time is a safe zone, a retreat from the noise and clamor. It has no enduring consequences and few constraints. Responsibility is greatly diminished, if not altogether eliminated. The point is to romp, to frolic, to enjoy one’s body and one’s spouse’s body, not to advance on any goal or present any particular image to outsiders.

Now, head on over to Eternity Road and read the rest of it here.

You couldn't get better advice if you clunked down a couple of thousands dollars for counseling or spent your whole time in the self help section of the bookstore or library.

Thanks, Frances.

1 comment:

riceburner147 said...

kat: playtime, what a great idea. When i was married, after a couple years, we had sheduled date nights. Usually 2 nights a month (at the minimum). It may seem less than romantic to have to schedule dates with your wife, but once you have two small children, it becomes neccesary to do so. Plus we had a GREAT babysitter,
(ALa71), she hardly ever beat our children :).