Dear Dr Brilliant Cliché,
In reference to your The One love Essay:
I would love to hear more about how wise love develops through hate and disappointment as well as good feelings.
There is a line in the musical Rent that sums it up for me: “How do you measure the course of a year?”
In our culture we measure life by specific days- birthdays, New Years, Christmas, wedding day, confirmation, batmitsva. The emphasis on special days (and the pressure to be perfect) diminishes the mostly non perfect days. Our culture is permeated by false perfection, resulting in false expectations. When we make our vows on our Perfect Day we say “for better or for worse” but we don’t understand what we are saying. We are immersed in NOW and NOW, for $10,000 or more, has been made perfect. We are not anticipating that those moments will come when we hate our spouse… or our kids. We do not really expect that at times we will be disappointed by them. But we are all human and therefore imperfect. And we WILL, in moments, hate them as in moments they WILL hate us.
I must clarify that I am not talking about life altering reasons to hate or be disappointed- just feelings that arise in the course of normal human emotions. Many of us have been taught to feel guilt if we should ever feel these things. We have been taught that anger is bad and we should suppress it. Thus, beneath our social smiles and perfect Norman Rockwell Christmas days, anxiety, rage or depression can simmer.
Our culture deals poorly with ambiguity. We don’t know how to deal with loving and hating the same person. We feel a need to pick one or the other; and then we must play to the stereotype- good person/bad person, hero/ screw up.
Wise love is when we renew our vows every day. Every day, we need to choose to commit and work it out. This requires skills- communication, honesty, integrity, equality, respect, and commitment.
It takes a lot of work to be able to live with another person. Wise love is about the long haul. It can only work if both people are committed.
Remember though- if your spouse is cheating on, belittling, or abusing you- none of this applies. I am talking about normal ambiguity. When your spouse is a deliberate and repeated screw-up, there is no ambiguity. The contract is broken, the vows null and void.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché
The Granny Doctor adds- if people had the same expectations of their marriage partners that they do of their business partners, the world would be a more sensible place. When two people enter into a relationship they really are entering into a business together. They will have to maintain a place of business (their house), meet expenses, insure income, pay taxes… yet none of this is in their heads when they Fall In Love.
People who marry for love should not get married. They should continue dating until such time they decide they have enough reasons other than Love to merge and form their own company. If they get married for love, they will go out of business fast, because nobody is minding the store.
Dr. Brilliant Cliché: Granny I could not have said it better myself.
I just wanted to add, in religious Judaism Marriage is seen as a contract between two people and as such there is something called a Katuba. It is a marriage contract. It is a lot more comprehensive than a pre nup. It lays out both party’s intent, expectations, and obligations. It also explicitly sets heavy penalties for failing to deliver or backing out. I think all marriages should have one. It at least starts a dialog in marriage that, in America, usually doesn’t happen until divorce mediation.