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.