As I mentioned in my previous blog, I’ve been reading Chapman’s The Five Love Languages. As a professional philosopher, I’m generally very skeptical of all self-help and love advice books. After all, they tend to be vague generalities, wishful thinking and obvious truisms wrapped in a gimmick or two. However, such books can help in that they can serve to get a person thinking about the relevant subject.
Reading the book got me thinking, as I posted yesterday, about my chances of success in a second marriage. Of course, what counts as success is a difficult thing to define. The easiest and most obvious view of success would be that it would not terminate in divorce. Of course, that is like saying that a successful vacation is one that doesn’t end in your horrible death (like being trampled into paste by dirty goats): more is obviously wanted. For now, I’ll lay aside the analysis of success and just consider how to avoid failing. In this case, failing would be having such a defective marriage that divorce is preferable.
The two main reasons that marriages fail are the husband and the wife. As such avoiding failure in a second marriage involves determining three things. First, you need to figure out what it is about you that contributed to the failure. Second, you need to figure out what it is about the other person that contributed to the failure. Third, you need to sort out what it was about your interactions that contributed to the failure. This is so obvious, I should write a self help book based on it. I just need the gimmick.
Obviously, there are many factors that can lead to failure. Personality traits, relative sanity (or insanity), interests, political views, religious views, hobbies, addictions, needs, wants, desires and so on.
Some of these factors might be harmless or even good by themselves, but when combined with factors that the other person possesses, they can lead to failure. For example, one person might be highly motivated in terms of career while the other person is very relaxed about it. This can lead to conflict if the motivated person expects the other person to keep up in his/her earning potential and career success.
It can be very hard to identify these factors. People tend to overlook their own flaws while easily seeing and magnifying the flaws of their former partner. As such, an unusual degree of honesty and objectivity is required in sorting these things out. To simplify things quite a bit, here is what to ask:
What aspects of failure did I contribute to and what did I contribute?
Can I change these things about myself?
What aspects of failure did the other person contribute to and what did s/he contribute?
What should I look for in a potential second spouse?
How did our actions and traits interact in ways that contributed to the failure?
What can I do to avoid this the next time?
These are tough questions to answer honestly. What can be even tougher is to act on the answers. What is a bit scary is that even if you do both, you can still fail in new and awful ways. But, you can also succeed in new and wonderful ways.
Who is the lucky lady?
I’m trying to see if Anne Coulter will accept my hand. Everyone put a good word out for me.
I think the thing to consider here is that the ending of a marriage should not necessarily be thought of as a failure. This line of thought implies fault. I believe more often than not, that the reason a marriage “fails” is simple incompatibility. It is human nature to both want individuality and to seek companionship. Two great things that don’t always go together. I think, as with many things in life, that a successful marriage (or a happy one) is a matter of luck. A marriage may not succeed simply because it doesn’t.
Sometimes a cigar, is just a cigar.
Luck does play a huge part in it.
My vetting process for women has become much stricter. Yes–they have to prove something to me, just as I expect that I have to prove myself.
Unfortunately my views have become those of Schopenhaur’s:
“To marry is to half one’s rights and double one’s responsibilities.”
“It seems to me that marrying is to plunge one’s hand into an assembly of snakes in hopes of finding an eel.” ~Shopenhaur.
Damn, I’m a pessimist. I need a woman. They’re such insufferable optimists….;)
Michael LaBossiere says
Luck is a factor, but it is possible to stack the odds more in your favor. For example, I have this magical 20 sided green die…
Good articles on marriage.
Seriously, make sure they are compatible and then work really hard at making it work. The physical attraction part is key to keeping the human race together not keeping your marriage together. In fact, Liberals who are not religious and only believe in Evolution should NOT marry the one they are attracted to. Evolutionary thought would have the human race mating with whom they are attracted too but then making the other unattractive to keep as many humans as possible mating with each other. You would want to marry someone you were not attracted to in order to break that Evolutionary cycle that keeps you mating with everything in sight. Hmmmm, seems an awful lot like modern society.
Karen Hellier says
I am in a second marriage and very happy. So happy, I even blog about it, but not as philosophically as you do…more about romance and the positive things about second marriage.
I think you are right about looking at what went wrong in a first marriage so as to prevent the things that happened happening in the next marriage. But I have found that keeping the lines of communication open and not being afraid to be honest with each other really helps. It would have been nice if I had been able to do that in my first marriage, BUT my ex wasn’t one to do that so we couldn’t have honest discussions with each other. I am very happy the second time around, although we do work hard at having a good marriage.