To Cathi (aka What's-her-name). Thank you for giving me so much to complain about and such a large supply of material. Without you this book would not have been possible. Of course, without you my blood pressure would be about twenty points lower and I wouldn't be saddled with a huge mortgage and two kids. Then again, I would have spent the rest of my life as a lonely bachelor.
To Joseph. Thank you for suggesting that I steal the "Dummies" idea - it protects me from a lawsuit since they won't sue a minor.
To Adam. Thank you for contributing much of chapter 10. You've taught me a lot about raising kids (sorry about the bruise).
My foreword is basically a disclaimer to 99.9% of the content of this book. I did contribute one sentence in chapter 4, but I refuse to admit to any collaboration whatsoever on the creation of this literary (hah!) work. I will, however, humbly accept all compliments that a reader might infer from its content.
That said, I find within these pages the biggest compliment of all. I mean, here he is writing a book about relationships, telling me that I'm worthy of his derision. Never before in his life has anyone else achieved this undeserved position of ignominy. I don't need him to tell me in words that I look nice in a particular outfit, that I'm creative, or even that he loves me. I have already received the greatest honor possible: he asked me to marry him (which, I might add, includes being his scapegoat for the rest of our lives). Gee, the thought of such distinction brings tears to my eyes.
Ben and I have many things in common. The most interesting (i.e. annoying) one is that we're both argumentative. In fact, he is leaning over my shoulder at this very moment telling me that "argumentative" should be changed to "opinionated". (Bite me, Sweetie.) Don't you think the ability to stand up for oneself is an important quality when you're Ben's other half?
In all seriousness, I have always felt honored to be the butt of his humor. And now look - I'm the inspiration for an entire Benbrew Publications handbook. Remember, it's not what you say or even how you say it, but what you do that counts in life. You go Ben. Take all the cracks at me you want. I still got the last laugh - I got you.
At first I thought that a more appropriate title for this book would be Relationships for Men, because it is generally accepted that the dummy in any relationship is usually the man, but after quite a bit of observation it has become apparent to me that women are not the relationship experts they think they are. Certainly men are imperfect as well (maybe more so), but anyone can be a dummy when it comes to relationships. Look at Pamela Anderson.
This is kind of a sequel to one of my earlier works, The Dating Handbook, which I wrote last century. In it I imparted knowledge that I had gained from literally decades of wasting time trying to meet women through personal ads, dating services, bars, and the local free clinic. Well, a lot has happened since then. In a nutshell, I was dragged kicking and screaming into a relationship that I was not looking for, with someone who I did not want (or so I thought). I had been just fine living in my small, one-bathroom house with my dog, four refrigerators and homebrewing equipment, having occasional girlfriends and/or rolls in the hay, staying out as late as I pleased and having complete control over what went on under my roof. Then something happened: one of my friends brought a female friend of his over to meet me. He didn't tell me that it was a set-up (some friend, huh?). No, that would have allowed me to bring my guard up. I thought nothing of her at first because she was not my type physically and I was too busy talking with other guests to get to know her. A few days later she asked me to go inline skating with her, then we started going to parties and cooking dinner together, and before I knew it she had managed to move herself, two kids and another dog into my already-cramped house. Then, less than a year later, I found myself buying a twice-as-big, twice-as-expensive house in order to provide ample living space for all of us. Help!
What follows is information I have gleaned from being in what's referred to as an "intimate" or a "serious" relationship, plus some random observations about men and women in general. At times my wording might make it seem as though I don't appreciate Cathi very much, but in reality I do. I love her deeply and she is the answer to my prayers. She's not what I prayed for, but she's the answer I got.
|Psychiatrist:||"You shouldn't get mad at your wife all the time. After all, a woman takes care of you, gives you companionship, and brings joy and happiness into your life."|
|Male Patient:||"A woman does all that? Tell me, Doc, what did I marry?"|
We all travel to the beat of our own drum. Some people want to attach themselves to a mate when they're very young (late teens or early twenties). Others spend their youth being wild and reckless and don't feel any desire to settle down until their late twenties or early thirties. And then there are those few who never want any kind of relationship; these folks tend to live in cabins in Montana. What causes these individual differences? Are people who get pregnant and/or married right after high school (or perhaps during high school) just insecure screw-ups who lack the wisdom and patience it takes to select a compatible mate? Are those of us who wait until we're established in our careers before pairing up just a bunch of conservative mainstreamers who put money ahead of relationships because we're afraid to take risks? Are hermits really the psychotic loners we make them out to be, or are they just so emotionally strong and mature that they don't need anyone to "take care" of them? And what the hell am I talking about anyway?
The fact that virtually every culture has an institution similar to what we know as marriage indicates that there is a basic human desire to be in a one-on-one relationship. Even close friendships are not quite enough to satisfy this hunger, a fact that was always frustrating for me until I found my life partner. Despite having good friends and interesting hobbies, deep down I was lonely. I felt compelled to start looking for somebody to be my eventual live-in companion. I imagined myself living with a happy, fun-loving individual who kept me company and cooked my meals and cleaned my house. I already got some companionship from my dog, but he couldn't talk or cook, plus he wasn't very good at cleaning anything (except his privates), so it was apparent that I needed a person. Due to being heterosexual, I would have to choose from the gender that I had the least in common with. And so the journey began. As I had expected, the majority of the prospects I stumbled upon while wading through the pool of available females seemed to be on a completely different wavelength. Here I was a college-educated, friendly, healthy person with a great career and fewer than three arrests, and most of the women I met could not appreciate me. I'd be respectful and take them places and perform personal grooming, and my efforts were completely wasted - I was casting pearls before swine. I look back on all the personal ads and dating services, the dinners I bought, the stupid stories I politely listened to, the times I got stood up, and I realize that dating was not nearly as enjoyable as it's supposed to be. I've had more fun at prostate exams. Yet despite all the frustration, degradation and inconvenience we might endure while trying to find that seemingly elusive special someone, we continue to search because a committed relationship with the right person is so important to us. We might have to kiss a thousand frogs before we find our Prince Charming, but that's part of the search. If we have to spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on bad dates and penicillin, then so be it.
The need for a soul mate is something we grow into. Germinations of this need are occasionally seen in kids as they play "house" with friends of the opposite gender, but the yearning that makes everything else seem meaningless generally doesn't appear until after adolescence. What causes it? Is it placed within us by a Creator? Is it an evolutionary trait that ensures survival of the species? Is it just an illusion caused by watching too many of those stupid romantic comedies starring Meg Ryan or Julia Roberts? Whatever its cause, it seems to come with age. However, it doesn't wait for old age. Adults of all ages want to be in a monogamous relationship. All sane adults - with the possible exception of Mormons - want one mate with which to share their life. (Mormon men are notorious for having several wives. But before you start envying them, remember that polygamy has its price. After all, each wife comes with a mother-in-law.) Each of us comes to this crossroad at some time. Even me. I used to be a vehement individualist who loved to stay out late and not have to answer to anyone. I would proclaim rather loudly and frequently that I didn't need anyone and that I would never settle down. Now look at me. My girlfriend and I are engaged. She and her two children have taken over -- I mean, become a huge part of -- my life. I have altered my lifestyle to accommodate them, e.g. I'll come home earlier than I otherwise would, or call if I'm going to be late. God help me.
Okay, we've established that all normal people eventually want/need an intimate relationship. "But why do you want a relationship, Ben?" I hear you query. "Don't you spend most of your free time focused on your geeky little hobbies, leaving inadequate time for a significant other? And even if you did want a relationship, who would want an undateable loser like you?" Hey, I'm not as undesirable as most people think I am. I've had a few women ask me to marry them because they realize that being married to me would bring them numerous benefits (for example, U.S. citizenship). As for why I want a relationship, I guess even a "confirmed bachelor" doesn't want to be lonely. Like everyone else, I need someone who makes me feel special. What's-her-name and I have a wonderful relationship that I wouldn't give up for anything less than $1200. We care about each other, reveal our innermost secrets to each other, and make each other laugh (especially when we get undressed).
So all we have to do in order to be happy is find someone - once we accomplish that, the hard work is over, right? Well, if you believe that, then you're even more screwed up about relationships than I am. No matter how badly you want a mate, finding one can sometimes remove that desire because of all the problems a relationship brings. You might look back fondly on your days as a single person, because even though you were lonely, you at least had your freedom. Additionally, life was poignant with anticipation in your pursuit of a companion. A relationship might lose its novelty, so that what was once a wonderful experience can turn into a humdrum routine of obligations and/or a constant stream of annoyances as your partner makes demands of you and/or criticizes you for being the way you are. In the remaining chapters I hope to mitigate these problems for all of us. Let us not forget, however, that many therapists, psychiatrists and counselors have attempted the same thing, so how much chance do you think there is that I'll be able to do it?
When two individuals unite, their lives change drastically. Whether it's for the better or the worse depends on their attitude. Often men view it differently from the way women view it. This should come as no surprise, because men and women have different views about a lot of things, as illustrated in Table 1.
|Topic||Women's view||Men's view|
|preferred type of pet||Persian cat||100-pound Doberman|
|time to ask for directions||when hopelessly lost||never|
|guilty pleasure||Häagen-Dazs||lighting farts|
|favorite restaurant||Le Chateau Francaise||Chew and Screw Buffet|
|definition of foreplay||kissing and caressing||"Wanna have sex?"|
|good date movie||Love Story||any Die Hard flick|
|desired spontaneous gift||flowers||blow job|
|favorite singer||George Michael||GEORGE MICHAEL???|
One of the first things a man notices when a relationship turns serious is a feeling of encroachment on his time and space. No longer can he follow every whim and go out drinking with his buddies or take off for the weekend whenever it suits him - he must arrange his plans around his partner, or at least inform her of his whereabouts so that she doesn't worry. What do women worry about? Gaining weight. No, wait, we're talking about relationships here. They worry that their men don't want them anymore. A woman needs constant reassurance that her man still cares about her. This causes great irritation to both people when the man wants to be footloose and fancy free, and the woman gets on his case about not calling her or not spending enough time with her. Many men find it an inconvenience to have to pamper their women, and sometimes view them as weak little children for needing so much attention. This problem stems from the fact that men focus on activities and gadgets while women focus on relationships. It's a two-way street: as silly as women might look to men for needing hugs and conversation, men look equally silly to women for spending their time and energy on home projects or the Internet instead of their loved ones.
If a woman feels that her man hasn't given her enough attention lately, she will become upset at him when he has a good time with others. She'll find it frustrating that he'll spend hours laughing and joking with his friends while practically ignoring her. If you're a man and she communicates this to you, then you should give her a hug and tell her how much she means to you. At this point a number of things might happen. You might ponder whether she really does mean much to you. You might roll your eyes and wonder if you really need to be in this relationship. You might get fed up with her needs and dump her. You might give in and sacrifice time you'd normally spend with your friends in order to satisfy her needs. If you're like most men, you'll comfort her for the time being, wishing she weren't so needy but taking care of her right now because you realize that most of the time she's better than this and that she does enrich your life. The best thing you can do in this situation is pretend that you enjoy wasting -- I mean, spending -- this time with her; then she'll stop nagging you, at least for the moment. While you're hugging her, make good use of the time: look around the room for items that might need repair, or think about what you plan to watch on cable that night.
A relationship is much different from dating. It is a change of lifestyle. You cannot continue to live the free and easy bachelor life while maintaining a relationship. It is a tough transition to make when you place so much importance on your freedom. When your partner's needs are at odds with your other interests, you have to decide which are more important. If you view your partner as nothing more than an irritation who gets in the way of your partying and hobbies, then why the hell are you in this relationship at all? If you'd rather shop or watch football than spend quality time with him/her, then obviously you don't value this person very much and you should end the relationship right now. If you really do care about this person then the economics of time dictates that you will have to give up some of your extracurricular activities in order to focus on him/her. Hence the expression "Love stinks."
Now, a lot of you men might think that I'm wrong, that a suitable mate will let you have your freedom, that anyone who would get on your case for staying out late and basically having a life that doesn't revolve around her is no one who you would want to be involved with. I used to think that. Before I ever had a serious relationship and therefore could not possibly know what one is like, I used to fantasize about the perfect woman who would indulge my every need and pleasure, and go away when it was not convenient to have her around. She would dedicate her life to making me happy while having no needs of her own. Well, human beings have needs, so unless you can build yourself an android, any relationship partner will have needs and emotional baggage. Take What's-her-name (please!). She is a great companion most of the time and certainly more suitable for me as a mate than anyone else I have ever met, but she needs attention and has occasional feelings of hurt, sadness and anger. This has taught me that the perfect mate does not exist. Shit.
Don't be so insistent on total freedom that you deprive yourself of an enriching relationship. Freedom is good but it has its price. Being totally free from obligation means having nothing to begin with. For example, in order to free yourself from having to make house payments and show up for work, you would have to be jobless and homeless, and that would make you unhappy because you'd have to do without some of life's necessities such as good medical care and ESPN. Similarly, in order to avoid the problems that a relationship brings, you would have to not be in one, but then you'd be lonely. A relationship is not a magical panacea that brings you happiness without cost. It's like an automobile: your partner provides benefits most of the time, but there is periodic maintenance and sometimes you just need to upgrade to a newer model.
Communication is very important, but there is such a thing as too much communication. A lot of women seem to want to talk with their mate in great detail about every feeling they are currently experiencing, much to the dismay of men, who would prefer to limit conversations to primeval grunts. Many women also have the knack of picking the most inopportune time to talk to their man and expect him to listen, for example, after he has gotten into bed and is drifting off to sleep. Ladies, please do not try to squeeze conversation out of us late at night unless the house is burning down, and even then only if a major limb has caught fire (ours, not yours). We can barely stand to listen to you when we're fully awake, so what makes you think that we have either the ability or the desire to communicate with you when we need to sleep?
Men are not incapable of communication - it's just that there is usually something else they'd rather be doing. They focus on hobbies and television shows to the point of neglecting their mates. A man changing a water pump finds his wife annoying when she tries to talk to him, and she thinks he's an asshole for considering his car to be more important than she is. That's ridiculous. Nearly half the time, a man does not consider his car to be more important than his woman. More pleasant maybe, but not more important.
Even when men aren't distracted by outside stimuli, they often still fail to be conversant with women. This is because the things that many men like to talk about are limited to home improvements, sports, women, drinking, auto repair, dirty jokes, and the fun they used to have before they met their significant other. Women, on the other hand, like to talk about clothing, restaurants, their children, other people's children, shopping, the weather, how they're feeling today, how they felt yesterday, how their mother is feeling, relationships, cooking, their significant other's inability to communicate, childbirth, hospitals, doctors and surgery. Is it any wonder that the two genders often become frustrated and don't speak to each other? When they try to communicate, often the result is something like this:
|Woman:||"I spoke to Marcia today. She has a large growth that needs to be removed and her son Bobby is in the hospital with pneumonia. Also, my mother's arthritis has been acting up because of this horribly cold weather we've been having. And you know, I'm feeling very tired and run-down today. I think I'm coming down with something."|
|Man:||"So what's for dinner?"|
Women are not blameless here. They will ask the most inane questions to which there is no politically correct answer, and still expect an honest yet acceptable reply. A classic example is "Does this skirt/dress/pants make my butt look fat?" If the man's answer is "Yes" then he is an insensitive jerk, and if it's "No" he's a liar. I've got news for you women: if you think you're fat, you probably are. Don't ask us to lie to you in order to avoid squashing your tiny little ego. And another thing: don't ask us any clothing-related question, for example, "Does this blouse go with these pants?" How should we know? After all, it is you who have to tell us what to wear when we go out.
Another useless question that women ask is "What are you thinking?" Not only that, they ask it without provocation, when their men are minding their own business, perhaps relaxing after a tiring day. What on God's green earth do they possibly hope to attain by this random, on-the-spot interrogation? First of all, if we men told you women what we were thinking, the feelings you would experience would range from disappointment to outrage, because when we're not thinking about tools or our investments or beer, we're thinking about having sex with other women. Second, no man in his right mind is going to tell you what he's really thinking, because if he did he'd end up with a frying pan over his head. And finally, sometimes a man isn't thinking of anything, especially you. Live with it.
It seems that most women need to "vent" now and then. If their self-esteem is low or they're having their period, they sometimes cry or whine, possibly inundating their mate with negative statements such as "You don't appreciate me" or "I feel like a burden to you" or "I'm fat". A man absolutely despises hearing this sort of crap because he abhors emotional weakness in anyone, especially someone who is so close to him, and he wishes that his woman would just lighten up and not be so easily upset. Additionally, every negative thing she says about herself is true, and he has to refrain from agreeing with her because that would make her feel even worse about herself and resentful towards him. Guys, when your partner is having one of these silly little emotional moments, she needs to be held and soothed. Walking away in disgust will not help her get over it. Take her in your arms and tell her sweet little lies (e.g. "You're not a burden at all").
A lot of women expect men to be mind readers. For example, if a woman is visibly upset and the man asks what's wrong, she'll say, "Nothing." Or if she wants him to stay home and he asks if it's okay to go out, she'll say, "Do what you want." In either case, he'll assume nothing's wrong and happily go about his business while she stews in her own juices.
Difficulty in communication often leads to disagreements (i.e. fights). Each person has a frustrating time trying to get through to the other. Sometimes in the heat of a battle you might think, "Aw, to Hell with this person," and consider leaving him/her for someone who is more reasonable or who doesn't aggravate you as much. If I had a dollar for every time I entertained these thoughts, then my fiancée's emotional flare-ups wouldn't bother me as much because every time she had one, I'd get a dollar. Anyway, whenever your mate is being, in your opinion, a total shit, remember how good the rest of your relationship is. If your partner gives you fifteen minutes of crap and several hours of happiness every day, then that is quite a bargain. The alternative is to be alone. If you really love him/her, then you don't want to lose what the two of you have just because of a temporary lapse in sanity. Even if you did find someone else who doesn't aggravate you, chances are that you wouldn't love that person very much. It is only the love we have for someone that enables them to frustrate us, because we care about them so much that we want to stay with them, and that means that we are stuck with whatever idiosyncrasies and hang-ups they have. So the next time your partner says something that causes you to fantasize about applying a choke hold until his or her face turns blue, keep in mind that you probably aggravate him/her just as much at other times because each of us has opinions and attitudes that can annoy our mate. Remember the old adage, which people have been saying for thousands of years: "Nobody's perfect. Except Ben."
If it is so difficult for men and women to communicate and thereby stay together, then how did our species ever survive? Simple: sex. As much as they can't stand each other, men and women still lust after one another. And their procreative activities ensure that there will always be succeeding generations of sex partners who experience the same problems as their predecessors. Mankind evolved way before the advent of language, so all that our early ancestors had to do was obtain food, find shelter, and screw. Once language was invented, each gender used it mainly to talk about what they were genetically inclined to do: men hunted animals, fought enemies, pursued women, and built dwellings; women cooked food, bore and raised children, and picked out clothing for their men ("You're not going to wear that bear skin, are you?"). Since neither men nor women were interested in what the other gender had to say, women talked to women and men talked to men, and everyone was happy. Men did not sit down with women to discuss feelings, and in fact any man who did this was unable to pass on his genes because either 1) he could not provide food and protection for a woman and children; or 2) the other men killed him.
The question now is whether we are going to do something about this communication problem or let it continue bringing unhappiness. Before going into what we can do, it should be mentioned that there is more communication between the sexes now than ever before. This is because modern society has given men the luxury that their ancestors didn't have of being able to communicate with women without starving or freezing or being attacked. Hence even the wimpiest, most emotional men can survive and reproduce because the most difficult thing they are required to do is staple their W-2 to their 1040. This has caused a shift in the gene pool: burly, hairy, testosterone-laden men who ignore their women and die early are becoming relics, while a growing sector of the male population consists of small-muscled, slightly to significantly overweight hominids who obtain food, shelter and women not by physical means but by using funds gained in white collar employment. They merely buy goods and hire real men to do needed physical labor. Indeed, the ability to provide for a family with brain power alone has turned many weak, funny-looking males into desirable mates, so that even beautiful women will give themselves to the old, the sick and the ugly, provided there's enough cash involved. If you don't believe me, then I have three words for you: Anna Nicole Smith. Anyway, most of today's men are intelligent and sensitive enough to learn how to communicate, so all that women have to do is convince them to do so. (Good luck!)
Men need to learn how to listen to their women. This is not easy at first. When a woman starts talking about what happened at work that day or her mother's hysterectomy, the man's mind naturally drifts to more important matters such as what channel the Dolphins game is on. Men will listen only to what they consider important. Therefore they need to make everything their women say important. We men know that our mate is the most important person in the world to us, so if we just keep this in mind whenever she speaks, we will consider the subject matter important and interesting because it's being related by someone who we value so much. (Yeah, like that'll happen. Men will never consider women's small talk important, so they'll just glance at their mate and/or nod in order to feign understanding. This is why men must be reminded about what they were told just a few days earlier: they never really absorbed it in the first place.)
Women, you need to learn to cut your man some slack. Remember, his genes are stacked way against him in the conversation department. He can keep a roof over your head and mow the grass and fix things around the house, but such an industrious person can't easily switch to "chat" mode. When you want to talk with him, don't interrupt him in the middle of something, because if you do, he won't listen very well - he'll just think about what is still left undone and impatiently wait for you to shut up. It would be better for both of you if you'd wait until he's done with whatever he's doing and sits down of his own volition before you start a conversation. And don't confront him with "Let's talk", because that's the equivalent of telling him "Let's waste your valuable time." Just start talking. If he doesn't respond, then you need to say something that will grab his interest. Here are some good opening lines that are sure to get him talking:
|She:||"We never do anything together."|
Women are more relationship-oriented than men are. They want to talk, cuddle, and do projects together; whereas a lot of men would choose drinking with their buddies over a quiet evening at home with their mate. These men prefer friendship over intimacy. They want to have a good time with the people they know but not get too serious. This is why, for example, a man enjoys it when a friend tells him jokes and stories, but would feel uncomfortable if that same friend were to tell him how much he loves him. This is also why a man can have no problems dating someone for months, but as soon as she tries to take the relationship a step further, he feels afraid or bothered because she has taken the fun out of a perfectly good thing by making it serious. The typical male reaction to this is, "Oh no, not this crap. She couldn't be content with parties and sex and having dinner together. Nooooooo, she wants monogamy and caring and eventually children. Insecure bitch."
Men and women often have different ideas about what togetherness is. Women want a life partner that they can spend large amounts of time with, having meaningful conversations and taking long walks together. In many cases a man's idea of togetherness is to have his woman cook, clean and shtup for him. Men, a relationship is not a prerequisite for securing these services - there are plenty of maids and hookers that can perform them. And they're a lot cheaper than a life partner, especially in terms of time and aggravation. So if all you want is a domestic servant, then don't go through the painful motions of a relationship in order to get one.
Some men, believe it or not, actually want a life partner. If you fit into this category and your woman wants to get serious, then you must decide whether she might be worth committing to. If you keep the relationship going, you will have to spend more time and effort in order to keep her satisfied. If you don't think she's worth the effort, then it's time to say good-bye. In short: either give her the time and attention she wants, or dump her. Do not try to preserve a superficial relationship while she wants more. Save your superficiality for church.
Given that you are willing to give up some of your individual pursuits for the bliss of togetherness, the two of you need to agree on how to utilize your time most effectively. Sitting blankly on the couch watching the same television program does not make people connect spiritually. The key is to be involved in something that promotes interaction, e.g. going to a festival, working on a project, playing a game, talking, exercising, etc. Unfortunately the two of you won't always agree on what to do together at a particular time, so there will be times when one of you will have to suffer through something you'd rather not participate in (e.g. a tour of the national beet processing facility), but if you're with someone you really care about, you should have a good time no matter what you do because just being with this person makes you feel good. (Yeah, right.)
On the other hand, you each need your space. Ladies, if your man wants to go to the Monster Truck Smash-o-Rama, let him go; don't complain that he's neglecting you or, worse, insist on going with him so that you can be together and then put a damper on his fun by making it obvious that you're not enjoying yourself. You wouldn't want him tagging along on your hairdresser appointments, would you? Of course not. Well, he doesn't want you screwing up his day any more than you want him screwing up yours. (Incidentally, if he actually asks to accompany you to the hairdresser, dump him immediately. He's gay.)
Any relationship - intimate or otherwise - has its own unique equilibrium point, where the amount of time spent together is optimal. Too little time together can make it seem as though there's no relationship at all. A relationship is a living thing that needs to be nurtured (I must be getting old; this kind of drivel used to make me puke), and eventually lack of upkeep can cause it to die. Too much time together is equally bad. That statement might have caused some of you to think, "There's no such thing as too much time together." Oh yes there is. You can get too much of anything, even good things like exercise, rest, sex and chocolate. No matter how much you love someone, you will get sick of them if they're in your face all day long. (However, on your face is another matter.) We all need some "alone" time, as well as time with other people. And so we walk the line, trying to keep a proper balance of just enough time together, living between "out of sight, out of mind" and "familiarity breeds contempt". Unless you're in a relationship with me, in which case you live between "f--- off!" and "for the last time, take out the %@&*# garbage!"
You shouldn't have to force yourself to spend time with your mate. If you really love this person, then you will naturally want to spend time together. If you view togetherness as an obligation that you must endure merely to keep the other person from becoming upset and making your life a living Hell, then perhaps you sense that the two of you are wrong for each other. I've seen plenty of couples that cohabit but who live mostly separate lives. For example, he goes fishing and plays with his model trains and sacks out in front of the TV, while she learns Oriental cooking and practices yoga and reads Harlequin romance novels, and in between they hardly ever talk except for functional reasons. This is a classic example of an alienated couple that still lives together only for convenience: neither one wants to go through the hassle and inconvenience of filing divorce proceedings, moving out and finding another place to live. Perhaps they have kids and don't want to keep shuttling them back and forth until age 18. Maybe they're scared to live alone. Any of these factors can make it preferable to share a house with an estranged lover who is effectively just a roommate. And so they keep existing in unfulfilled misery and despair, sorry that they have neither a compatible mate nor the courage to break away and start fresh. I say that in order to be free, to have integrity and self-respect, you should be in either a healthy relationship or none at all. If you insist on staying with someone who is wrong for you, then you deserve every bit of suffering you endure. A relationship even with the right person causes some suffering; why make things worse?
Sometimes being together can be aggravating. I am occasionally surprised and even disgusted by how small a thing can cause friction. Before I give an example, let's look at the larger picture. My woman and I are in a normal, healthy, mostly non-violent relationship. There are a lot of men who do not give their women the love and sensitivity they need, and in fact verbally and/or physically abuse them. By comparison I'm a damn saint for putting up with the many things about my partner that I'm not at all fond of. Yet she'll get upset at me if I ask her to please not sing my favorite songs while I'm within earshot if she's gonna butcher the lyrics. Is that too much to ask? Am I really being such a jerk when I tell her that I don't want to hear her rendition of "Matzoh Man"?
Togetherness can be a difficult concept for someone who has been alone for a long time. For example, until I became involved with What's-her-name, I was, like any other single person, lonely. My life was still pretty good, as I had some close friends, excellent health, a good career and an active social life; but I had a void in my soul that could be filled only by a soul mate. I was lucky enough to meet her in my mid-30s while I was still relatively young, although it did take almost 20 years of searching to find her. Now, having been lonely for so long, you'd think that I would have gladly dropped some activities from my schedule in order to be together with her. Oddly enough, that wasn't the case. I actually pushed her away for the first year, keeping her at arm's length and attempting to date without becoming emotionally involved. Why? Well, for one thing, it had taken so much time and effort to build my life of brewing beer, playing sports, going to parties, writing books, etc, that I felt I would be undoing my hard work if I were to alter my life in order to accommodate a mate. For another thing, I was not sure that things would work out, and I was not going to allow myself to become emotionally attached to someone who I might never see again. And finally, I was testing her to see if she really wanted me: if she truly liked me as a person, and not just the prospect of enjoying a comfortable life with my money, then she would endure some hardship for my company. Well, she stuck with me (i.e. forced herself on me) and showed me that she really does love me, not just my money or my physique, despite my flaws, and this has made me love her, despite all the things about her that I can't stand. As a result I want to spend time together with her. However, decades of being alone and busy have conditioned me to accomplish, to engage in activities, and to do so as an individual, so I find it difficult to slow down and incorporate her into my life. She helps me temper my drive to work and play so that I don't rush through life and so that I am able to put occasional activities aside in order to be together with her. It's not an easy process, but she is transforming me from a selfish, insensitive brute into someone who is caring, gentle, considerate, generous and kind. Also modest.
There are many good reasons to get married. I can't think of one right now, but take my word for it. However, it is wise to hold off on marriage until conditions are right. I guess the most important condition is that you've met the right person (something that a number of people who get married seem to be willing to do without). Other desirable conditions might be that you've saved up enough money, you've finished school, and your spouse-to-be has gotten out of jail.
It's interesting that when a woman holds off on getting married, she's referred to as independent; but when a man holds off on getting married, women call him afraid of commitment. This is just one example of how women try to make it appear as though they have courage where men don't. Ladies, this might come as a surprise, but if a man doesn't want to commit to you, then maybe you're not what he's looking for. Did you ever think of that? Maybe you're not as desirable as you'd like to think you are. If some lard-ass redneck asks you to marry him, you're going to turn him down. Does this mean that you don't want any commitment? Of course not - it simply means that you don't want him. Well, if a man doesn't want to marry you, then is that an indication that he doesn't want to commit to anyone? Maybe. But perhaps it results from an aversion to you.
Is marriage the right thing for you? Before taking the plunge, consider the way you are and how your life is going right now. Are you the type of person who doesn't do much or have many friends? If so, then you might as well be married. Are you a geek who keeps busy on the Internet and whose skin has a healthy green glow? Then marriage is not for you because you'd just ignore your spouse. Are you a rich, beautiful woman who just can't get enough sex? Then marry me.
Now consider your reasons for getting married, as well as the possible outcomes. Are you lonely? Marriage provides companionship and eases loneliness, but so does living together. The legal contract won't change the quality or quantity of the companionship. Are you considering settling, out of desperation, for less than what you really want in a mate, because you believe that even that is better than being alone? You're probably heading for a miserable, empty situation if you do that, not to mention a likely divorce and a return to the very loneliness you attempted to avoid. Do you want to get married merely because most other people do, so you and your mate can settle into a boring, dull routine of work, food and television? A lot of people do that. Sloths lead more interesting lives. But there are worse things that could happen to you. For instance, radiation sickness.
A lot of people get "pushed" into marriage by their religion, culture or family. That is, a large part of why they go through the ceremony is that they don't want other people to look down on them for "living in sin", or they want to please their parents, or they want others to "recognize" them as a "valid" couple, or they believe that God wants them to be married. That's silly. God doesn't want us to be married - He wants us to be happy.
Often a woman will claim that the reason she wants to get married is that it would prove her man's devotion to her. That's a load of horseshit. A commitment is mental. Going through a ceremony proves nothing. Many men get married and promise to "love, honor and cherish til death do they part", and within several years leave their wife, often for a younger or prettier woman.
Many folks ignorantly view marriage as a sacred or holy union, as though a wedding causes the Church or God to bond two people for life. Well, they've obviously got their heads up their asses because half of all marriages fail. It's the people, not the ceremony or legal contract or God, that make a relationship work. There are a lot of couples that never get married, yet stay together for life. I love the irony when an uptight, conventional prude criticizes an unmarried couple that is living together. She'll proclaim that they're afraid to commit or that they're committing a sin, while conveniently failing to mention the fact that the only successful relationship she has ever had is with her shower head.
Marriage, like any other endeavor, has a cost-benefit ratio. It is a profitable move only if the benefits outweigh the costs. What are the advantages? Well, let's see. You can carry your spouse on your health insurance. If your mate dies, you automatically inherit at least part of their estate. If your partner gets seriously injured in a freak vending machine accident and is lying unconscious in a hospital's intensive care unit, then you, being a family member, can visit. That's about it. So it appears that the only guaranteed advantages of marriage are those bestowed by the State. Now let's look at the disadvantages of marriage. Sex becomes expected so you no longer get the thrill of doing something you're "not supposed to do". You have to put up with annoying relatives. If the two of you decide to split up, the divorce paperwork can take over a year to get processed in some states, and if it's one of those messy divorces where you fight over possessions and each of you hires a lawyer, the lawyers will end up with more than you because you'll have to sell most of your stuff to pay their fees. Yet despite the potential consequences, many people still insist on getting married. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people around the globe get married every single day. I guess P.T. Barnum was right: there really is a sucker born every minute.
I am not looking forward to being married. I like having the ability to take the easy way out should this relationship I'm in fall apart: being unmarried means no divorce, no paperwork, no alimony, and no loss of possessions. I'm not saying that I believe we will break up; however, that possibility can't be totally discounted because we are only human. A person can only take so much before he or she wants out, and there's a small chance that certain aspects of our relationship will cause one of us to leave. For example, she often criticizes me for ignoring her (or something like that - I'm not sure, I tend to tune her out). Another problem is the crying and the whining. She tells me not to worry about it, though - she's seen men cry before.
I'm not knocking marriage per se. If you find the right person and you want to tie the noose, then that's your business and I hope the two of you live the rest of your lives in harmony. But let's not kid ourselves that it's right for everyone or that it will magically cause you to live happily ever after. Speaking of which, y'ever notice that fairy tales always end on some fluffy, happy note? Usually it's something like, "Snow White and Prince Charming lived happily ever after." This causes children to assume that the two of them were thereafter happy every minute of every day. I bet kids would have a more realistic view of marriage if they were to read about Prince Charming's infidelity and Snow White's bouts with alcoholism. I wish the writers would relate some of the arguments that this couple had. For example:
|PC:||"Hey Snow, you got dinner ready yet?"||SW:||"What am I, a magician? I've only got two hands!"||PC:||"Well, if you'd put down that bottle of Comfort you'd free up one hand!"||SW:||"Speaking of hands, you're gonna need yours tonight."||PC:||"What else is new? We haven't done it in six months. Have you been getting it from the dwarfs or something? It seems to me that Grumpy has been a little too happy lately."||SW:||"Hey, I've been stressed. I can't feed us on our tight budget. Your being a prince sounded nice when I first met you, but that was before I realized that princes don't work. The measly pittance your father gives you isn't enough."||PC:||"It used to be enough before your mother moved in. That fat cow eats like Rosie O'Donnell."||SW:||"You watch your mouth mister, or I'll tell the whole world about that prostitute you knocked up."||PC:||"I'm sorry I ever kissed you and woke you up from that deep sleep. I was infatuated with your looks, but if I had known what a bitch you were, I would've just let you lie there and rot."|
I hate when people ask me, "Why aren't you married?" Just once I'd like to come back with, "Why aren't you thin?" But, as you know, I'm too politically correct to ever criticize or offend anyone. They have this strange notion that just because they're domestically incarcerated, I should be too. Why? Is their marriage genuine bliss and they want me to have the same joy they have? Or are they jealous of my freedom and they want to drag me down into their Hell so that I am no longer a reminder of the good life they threw away?
We can't end this chapter without talking about weddings. Is there any other kind of ceremony that is so agonized over or that causes more tension and arguments? Often people fight over where to have it, who to invite, who not to invite, what kind of food to serve, etc. Sometimes the couple's parents interrupt with their egos, saying things like, "If you don't have a priest perform the ceremony I'll never speak to you again." What a bunch of selfish, immature, spiritually weak imbeciles. Why do they insist on repeating mindless, uncreative rituals and creating conflict? Are their lives so pathetic and empty that they have to make a big deal out of a fifteen-minute ceremony? They spend lots of energy and money as they turn a one-day event into a several-month stressful chore. When the day arrives, the families want everything to go perfectly - any small glitch will mar the proceedings and put a damper on the memories, not to mention the video. Isn't a wedding supposed to be a celebration? Shouldn't a celebration be fun? We spend a large portion of our lives working, paying bills and attending to life's inevitable crises; when we finally have a reason to celebrate, why should it be anything but a joyous occasion?
It is mainly women who make a big deal out of weddings. They fantasize about the perfect wedding ceremony from the age of five and cannot rest until they experience it. They spend thousands of dollars and months of work planning everything down to the minutest detail, including what kind of embroidery will be on the napkins. The thing is, after all that build-up, it ends abruptly and there is a big letdown, kind of like sex. Women also attend friends' weddings every chance they get. Men (or real men anyway) hate weddings, and in fact prefer funerals, because at least at a funeral they don't have to pretend they're having a good time. Speaking of which, a man's own wedding is much like a funeral in his view: he's wearing a suit, everyone is looking at him, and his life is over.
The hoopla starts even before the wedding plans. As soon as a couple announces their engagement, female friends celebrate as though they just won the lottery, asking the couple if they've set a wedding date and fantasizing about how wonderful the ceremony will be. The idea of a wedding is so exciting to them that it really doesn't matter too much who is getting married - the mere promise of an upcoming ceremony just absolutely tickles them pink. Men, if they're like me, aren't nearly as thrilled. Their thoughts are usually along the lines of, "Please don't invite me - I really don't want to waste another Saturday watching yet another couple tie the knot. I also don't feel like squandering my hard-earned cash on the obligatory gift. And if you do invite me, please for God's sake don't ask me to be in the wedding. Hey, all you grinning idiots fawning over the happy couple, don't you realize that half of marriages end in divorce?"
Usually, on the night before the wedding, members of the wedding party get together for a "rehearsal dinner" (or, as I call it, the Last Supper). Here they hammer out details such as where everyone will stand and what rites will be performed, and the groom plans his escape route. Then they go out to eat at a nice restaurant where the couple's parents get to know each other and the couple gives out little gifts to the wedding party, as though a pair of earrings is gonna reimburse a bridesmaid for the $500 she laid out for her dress.
Another pre-wedding ritual is the bachelor party. This tradition is rarely as good as it’s hyped to be. When my friend Barry got married, the bachelor party started out with porn watching, which turned out to be the highlight of the evening, at least for me. Not because it was sexy or anything, but because it was funny. Something about sitting around with a bunch of guys watching naked strangers degrade themselves struck all of us as hysterical. I laughed so hard, I thought my pants would never dry. Anyway, someone in our group had hired a stripper, and she showed up with a very large bodyguard. She was a blonde German girl who spoke broken English. True to German style, she started right away, playing music on her boombox and stripping in a methodical, a-rhythmic, unerotic manner. She was painfully thin. In fact, if she ever breastfeeds, she’ll give skim milk. After about ten minutes of performing a routine that was about as sexy as removing your clothes at the doctor’s office, she stopped the music and, standing there in her underwear, she said, “That is it. I must go.” Several of the guys looked around as if to say, “You gotta be kidding,” but we paid her and let her leave because if we hadn’t, Gunter would surely have ripped our arms off.
My friend Mike’s bachelor party took place in the stripper section of Baltimore known as The Block. I don’t know what that area is like now, but back then they had the fattest strippers you can imagine. I thought we had mistakenly wandered into the zoo. One of the women waddled towards me, and I tried to back up but I couldn’t get away from her gravitational pull. We did manage to find a reasonably slim stripper at one joint, and she groped the groom-to-be, but when I held his wallet for safekeeping she yelled obscenities at me.
Many years later, when most of my friends and I were 40-ish, my friend William got married. A member of our group decided to be different and hire a belly dancer. Just as well; after the previous two fiascos, the stripper myth had been dispelled for me. I just wanted to see a good show and enjoy companionship with my buddies. So, armed with low expectations, I figured I was in for an entertaining evening. Well, the woman showed up, and – how can I put this mildly? – she had to be the oldest person in the room. I thought that perhaps the actual belly dancer couldn’t make it and her mother was filling in. She wore a typical belly-dancing outfit that mercilessly exposed her belly -- or was it bellies? She didn’t so much dance as shuffle around the room like Aunt Bea, but with less physical ability and beauty. Her act lasted for about 8 or 9 hours, or so it seemed, what with all of us forcing ourselves to look in her direction and trying very hard not to laugh or cry. It was the most excruciating display of politeness and emotional suppression I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been to Catholic weddings. So here we were, having our good time interrupted by a stranger who thought she had talent, using all the self-control we had to not hurt her feelings. At one point I thought about suggesting a career change for her (perhaps school lunch lady or the Attorney General) but common decency and pity kept me from doing so. Looking back, I think I should have said something. I mean, maybe all her customers simply shut up and pay her so as not to cause a scene, and she mistakes everyone’s silence for approval, and if no one ever says anything, she will continue to invade people’s homes. She did do one positive thing for us: she made us appreciate our wives more.
In the typical conventional wedding, the groom and all the male members of the wedding party rent precisely the same exact model of tuxedo. As a result, when they line up for a picture they look like a family of giant penguins. I assume the tradition of making all the men appear identical was started so that in the event that the groom didn't show up, the best man or perhaps one of the ushers could fill in. The bride, on the other hand, is apparently not an interchangeable part, as evidenced by the fact that she spends thousands of dollars on an elegant dress that she will never wear again (unless she gets selected to play the part of Tinkerbelle in an off-Broadway play), while the bridesmaids dress like a bunch of harlots.
Here's my solution to the wedding problem: Do it in a natural setting, such as the woods, the beach, or Vegas. Don't dress up - there is no law anywhere that says you have to wear uncomfortable clothing, rent a tux or spend a month's salary on a dress. Either invite only a few people (immediate relatives and close friends), or invite everyone you have ever met (including your aerobics instructor). The rationale here is that this way you don't have to make mind-bending judgment calls about who to invite ("Well, if we invite the Dickwads, then we have to invite the Peckerwalls.") Do not serve dinner. Do not have it catered. Have each guest bring a covered dish. Let them eat off Chinet. Make sure everyone knows beforehand just how little effort you put into the upcoming event and how unlike a traditional wedding it will be. This way, in addition to saving yourself the agony of planning and paying for way more stuff than is needed, you will weed out the deadwood because none of your narrow-minded family or acquaintances will show up at such a "barbarian" affair. This is your wedding. Do it your way. If anyone else objects, tough shitskeez.
Wedding invitations are always a source of humor for me. People get all serious and try to lend an air of formality with such nonsense as:
Is that boring or what? Not only that, it carries with it a whole host of assumptions such as:
I suggest taking my advice on the no-frills wedding and sending a more truthful invitation, for example:
Most of us want to find our "soul mate" - someone whose personality "clicks" with ours - and spend the rest of our life with that person. How do you know whether the person you are in a relationship with is your soul mate or just another random person who you will eventually break up with and complain about to your friends? I know, not all relationships end like that, but many of them do. It never ceases to amaze me how supposedly adult people will think someone is wonderful and possibly marriage material, and within a few months end up hating this person. A man will spend all kinds of money wining and dining someone and taking her on trips, she'll let him do things to her that she wouldn't let him do to a farm animal, they'll be all starry-eyed and believe that they're in love, and one little problem will make them end the relationship and resent each other. These morons are so ignorant and contemptible that I can't believe I just wasted space in my book writing about them.
It would be nice if we knew the minute we met someone that s/he is right for us, but life is not nearly that simple. After months or even years of getting to know someone we might still not be sure whether we're compatible. Every time we have a fight we might think, "That settles it. You're not right for me. I can do better than you. If we were really right for each other, we wouldn't fight like this." Au contraire! First of all, differences of opinion are inevitable in any relationship involving two individuals who have opinions and backbones. If you can't handle anyone who doesn't agree with you all the time, then you can't have a relationship. Second, the fact that both of you care enough to go head to head and assert yourselves is a good sign. If you really thought that the two of you had no future together, then you wouldn't expend the effort to enlighten your partner to your point of view. Thus your fighting in and of itself suggests that perhaps you want this person as your life partner. Then again, maybe the two of you are just a couple of bickering pains in the ass who constantly feel the need to argue.
The word "love" gets thrown around quite a bit, and this dilutes its meaning. A lot of people talk about someone they dated when they were very young, and refer to this person as their "first love". In most cases it wasn't love at all. It was excitement, novelty and physical attraction, but it was not true love. If it were, then perhaps they would still be together. Several people (mostly women) have told me that they've been in love three or more times. It seems to me that they're just needy people who tend to become infatuated with their current significant other and then try to make this person fill the hole in their lives. They delude themselves that Person X is "the one", but eventually they break up. Then they hook up with Person Y and after a while claim to be in love. And so on. Love is not a product merely of fun times and being impressed with someone's looks, intelligence or sense of humor. True love comes from really knowing someone; from sharing many experiences with this person; from learning about his/her values, strengths and weaknesses; and from growing to care about him/her. This cannot happen in just a few days. It takes much longer than that - at least a week.
All right, I still haven't answered the question. Determining our compatibility with someone is an art, not a science, because it is a matter of feeling, not intellect. Whether or not someone meets all the criteria on our checklist has nothing to do with how well we go together. In our youth we might fantasize about meeting a wealthy, gorgeous, thin, horny genius, and then one day we realize that we love a person who falls somewhat short of that ideal. Okay, way short of that ideal. This can be disconcerting at first, but then we realize that love is the most important thing, and our checklist gets thrown in the dumpster. Love is independent of the characteristics we used to look for in our critiques of potential mates. As a result, the financial status, physical attractiveness and education level of the person we end up with are fairly random. (This is assuming that we marry for love. In marriages based on money or looks, people choose certain attributes, so they are not random at all. I question how much these people really love each other and therefore how happy they are.) But should love be the only determinant? Should we devote ourselves to the first person we fall in love with, regardless of whether we're compatible or whether we aggravate the hell out of each other? Well, perhaps love indicates that compatibility is indeed there. It seems to me that love comes from connecting with someone at a certain level. The deeper the level, the greater the love. For example, if you and someone you know share nothing more than an enjoyment of something like fashion or music, then you will have a superficial relationship based on that superficial interest. If you share certain values or needs, the relationship will be deeper. If you connect at many facets of your being, you're going to become close. So maybe love is the only thing we need in order to determine whether someone is right for us. Well, that and big hooters.
Being able to talk, joke and relax with each other indicates compatibility. Someone who is right for you will be first and foremost a friend. If the two of you can be happy just cooking dinner or taking a walk together, without the need to go to a restaurant or have sex or play romantic music or do any other stereotypical dating activity, then you are true friends. Of course, this doesn't necessarily indicate that you'd make good mates. In addition to friendship, there needs to be a certain chemistry that makes you also want to be physically intimate. If the thought of kissing this person anywhere other than on the cheek (facial cheek) makes you feel uncomfortable, then perhaps you are just friends and you should not attempt to be more. What causes us to want to be intimate with certain friends but not with others? I used to think that it was purely physical attractiveness, but decades of experience have taught me that this is not the case. Sure, I have known several women who I thought I might have been able to be more than friends with if they weren't so ugly or fat - who hasn't? - but nothing will turn you on more than someone who has great interest in you in addition to being a good friend. You know how some people are fun to be with and they treat you nicely, but they divide their attention among a lot of people and don't give you any more attention than they give to some others? This makes you realize that you are not the most important person in their lives and might keep you from considering them as potential mates (unless you're the type of person that holds secret crushes, bordering on mental illness, that make you uselessly desire someone without telling this person your feelings). However, if someone gives more attention to you than to anyone else, it could mean that he/she thinks you're partner material, and this might cause you to have a similar feeling about him/her. There are limits, of course. I mean, no matter how much attention someone gives you, there might be no way you'll consider this person to be partner material if he or she is ugly enough to make an onion cry.
Before going further let us stop and appreciate the luxury we have of being able to search for love. Think of all the people throughout history who have been forced into arranged marriages by their family or country, and the others who have had very few options to choose from due to living in tiny communities. We are able to meet and get to know lots of people, learn what we really want in a mate, and choose from among many possibilities. I don't know about anyone else, but I have felt privileged to spend five presidential administrations getting criticized, ridiculed, stood up and dumped by people from all ethnic and educational backgrounds. Lucky me.
In The Dating Handbook I advised against settling for less than a compatible mate, and I have not changed on this issue. However, as I mentioned, it might turn out that we're compatible with someone who isn't quite what we had hoped our mate would be. If we commit to this person, are we merely settling? Well, yes and no. We are not settling for someone who is wrong for us, but we are accepting this person's undesirable characteristics because being with an imperfect person who can touch our heart is more important than being with a perfect person who can't.
So let's say you've found someone who seems compatible and whom you love. Does this mean that s/he is "the one"? Well, just what do people mean by "the one"? Some people believe that God created exactly one soul mate for each person and that He makes sure that each made-for-each-other pair meets. This tidy, sterile belief reassures people that their mate is the only possibility as a life partner and that they could not possibly fall in love with anyone else. This, like any other belief, is mere speculation, and is often adopted merely because people can't handle the thought that perhaps there is someone else out there who would be just as good or better. Let's look at this mathematically. How many people will you meet in your lifetime? A thousand? Ten thousand? Let's say sixty thousand. It's doubtful that any of us will ever meet that many people, but this number will only strengthen my point. There are about 6 billion people on the planet. This means that each of us will meet no more than (60,000 / 6,000,000,000) = 1 out of every 100,000 people. Even if you only count the roughly 300 million U.S. citizens (because being citizens of different countries can make compatibility unlikely and marriage impractical), that's still (60,000 / 300,000,000) = 1 out of every 5,000. If your desired age range is, say, a 15-year span (e.g. you're 30 and you want someone aged 25-40), then that makes only 20% of the population eligible (since 15 years is 20% of the average life span of 75 years). Even if everyone you meet is within the desired age range, that still means that you only meet (60,000 / 60,000,000) = 1 out of every 1,000 potential partners (granted, half the population is of the wrong gender, but so are half the people you meet, so that has no effect on this ratio, i.e. (30,000 / 30,000,000) instead of (60,000 / 60,000,000)). Conclusion: for every person you meet who you consider right for you, chances are that there are about a thousand others who are also right for you; you just won't be lucky enough to meet them.
Does this mean that we can never be satisfied with one person, since we will always be aware of the likelihood that our mate is not the absolutely best match for us? Hardly. First of all, if you spend your entire life searching for the ultimate mate, never committing to whomever you are currently with because you plan to dump him/her when the next better one comes along, then you will never be able to have a satisfying relationship. Nobody can be happy with a "tweener". Second, think of how difficult it was to find your current mate: the deadwood you had to sift through, the bad dates, the years of loneliness. Do you want to go through that again in search of someone better? Even if you did find someone better, it would probably take so long that you would have very little of your life left to enjoy with him/her, and you would have wasted all those years that you could have enjoyed with your current partner. There comes a point where you say to yourself, "This person is right for me. Sure, there are others out there who would also be right for me, and perhaps some who would be better, but the chance of meeting them is infinitesimally small, and even if I were to meet some of them, that doesn't change the fact that I am happy and satisfied with who I am with right now." And by taking all this into account, we can commit to someone in good conscience. We don't need to delude ourselves with storybook match-made-in-Heaven bullshit in an attempt to make it easy to commit to someone by lying to ourselves that this person is the only one out of all humanity who could possibly be right for us. We can face the logistical challenges of finding a mate and the mathematical probability that this person is not the only one who could satisfy us, and nevertheless both commit to this person and be happy to do so.
This begs the question: What if, after committing to someone, you meet someone else who you are sure is an even better match for you, and this new person wants you? What do you do? This situation tests the strength of your commitment. As I mentioned in the preceding chapter, a ceremonial commitment such as marriage proves nothing. True commitment comes from within. All marriage does is make it more legally difficult to split up - a difficulty that almost half of all Americans who get married are willing to endure in order to break the vows that they made in front of their friends and family and, in some cases, God. Some people are emotionally weak, fickle liars who make verbal promises and then renege as soon as it suits their selfish opportunism. The term "til death do they part" has lost all meaning for many, as they use the expression but neither fully grasp the concept nor really intend to carry it out. If your partner has upheld his/her end of the bargain by loving, honoring and cherishing you and keeping you happy, then your leaving him/her for someone who is a little better for you would be foolish. Could you really be any happier with this new person, knowing that you threw away a great relationship and betrayed a true friend? A lot of people lack the personal growth necessary for true commitment, and as a result many marriages are shams from Day One. A true commitment to someone means that you stick with him/her even though the two of you argue and irritate each other, even if he/she develops personal problems, and even if you meet someone else who is a little more desirable. Unless your partner does something that betrays your trust (such as cheating on you or not taking care of you or committing a crime against you), you have a valid contract. If you are not confident both that you want to commit to your partner and that you are capable of following through, then making the verbal/written agreement would be dishonest.
At this point some of you might be thinking, "Ben, you opinionated A-hole, sometimes people just drift apart. Neither partner does anything bad to the other or finds someone more desirable; the love and closeness just gradually diminish. It has nothing to do with being weak or fickle or selfish. Wouldn't these people be justified in getting divorced?" Well, let's look more closely at this situation by examining a couple of scenarios.
First we have a couple that used to be in love but drifted apart. What made them fall out of love? Several months or years of small incidents that slowly chipped away at their relationship. Sometimes it was disagreements that they never resolved; other times it was distractions such as their jobs, kids, hobbies or television that kept them from focusing on each other and maintaining their bond. It was all of these little choices that drove a wedge between them. A relationship requires considerable work, and these people chose not to make the effort. When people drift apart, it happens for a reason - it's not an inevitable event that they have no control over. Once two people love each other, they can keep loving each other for the rest of their lives, but they need to constantly nurture each other in order for this to happen. A relationship is like a garden, which needs to be watered, fertilized and weeded. If you neglect it and your vegetables die, then you can't truthfully say, "My garden just died - there's nothing I could have done about it." It died because of your neglect.
The other scenario involves a couple of people who don't really love each other. They get together for various reasons such as loneliness, insecurity and/or horniness, and they wed because it's the thing to do. They consider being married to be more important than finding a compatible mate. A few incidents happen before the wedding that give clues that they are marrying the wrong person, but they ignore these signs, delude themselves that they're right for each other, and get married anyway. Hence they are not being completely honest when they make their nuptial vows. They enjoy the hype and hoopla of the wedding and everyone congratulating them. They make a little nest and feel contented because they are living the kind of life that most other people live. Eventually, when the novelty wears off and they are no longer blinded by pomp and circumstance, they are able to see one another more clearly and they realize that they're not right for each other. I know because I've seen this situation first hand. I have personally known several engaged couples of whom I thought, "They don't deeply love or trust one another. They're not right for each other. They're not ready for any kind of lifelong commitment. They'll be separated within three years." In every case so far I have been right. How have I been able to spot these incompatible couples? And why do so many people seem to lack this ability? Whenever I point to a couple that I think won't last, the person I'm talking with will usually dismiss it as negativity, claiming that I just want them to split up or that I don't know them well enough to make that kind of judgment. Unfortunately the divorce doesn't happen that day because the couple isn't even married yet, so I can't say, "See, dipwad? I was right again." What I should say is, "Look, stupid. I've been right before and I'm right this time. You're just too blind to see what a mistake they're making, probably because you're as ignorant as they are. How about we make a bet? I say that their relationship will dissolve within three years. If I'm right, I get to throttle you."
I geared this chapter toward men because women generally don't need any help in the consideration department. Unlike men, women are very relationship-oriented; they're cooperative rather than competitive. They seem to have an innate ability to consider others' needs before acting. Men, on the other hand, haven't a clue. They have to be taught; until then, they are so oblivious to others' needs that their normal, everyday actions are almost criminal. For example, if a man's significant other were to crawl into the house dying of dehydration, and he were sitting there with a pitcher of water in his hand, he would water her plants with it. (That was a joke of course - men don't water plants.)
When you're alone you can behave pretty much the way you want, because no one else will be hurt or inconvenienced by your actions. However, when you're with someone, it becomes necessary to modify your behavior so as to not make their life miserable. I'm not talking about little things like burping and farting - these are quite acceptable between partners, especially after they get married (in fact, a major reason people marry each other is that they get tired of holding their farts in). What I'm talking about is actions that might upset the other person, such as making jokes about her weight, eating the last piece of pumpkin pie without asking her if she wanted some, sleeping with her best friend, etc.
Let's look at a concrete example. If your woman asks, "Does this dress make my butt look fat?", it is very tempting to answer, "It sure does!" or "Well, there goes my appetite." It might seem like a harmless joke to you - one that your woman should laugh at - but in fact it would, in most cases, upset her. The vast majority of women are sensitive about their weight no matter how cool or laid-back they are about other things. If you keep this in mind and have consideration for her, you will avoid committing this faux pas. If you can't fathom why your woman has such an aversion to remarks about her weight, then think about how you'd feel if she joked about how small your penis is. Most men are sensitive about the size of their shmekel, and this issue is the equivalent of the fat issue for women. (Some men are okay with tiny dick jokes because they've come to accept the small dimensions of their weenie. I know I have.)
Some people never think of others when they act - they just do whatever they want and meet their own needs and desires. We generally vote these people into public office. They can never have healthy relationships until they change their way of thinking. Consideration means thinking, before you act, about how your proposed action might affect someone else. This is a matter of conditioning. If you've been single for a long time and you haven't had to be considerate, then you have been trained to just go about your business. A relationship requires that you view things from a different angle. This is difficult at first, as is any kind of mental re-training. Partners often need to remind each other to consider both of them when making a decision. This can take away some spontaneity, but there's no way around it. For example, you go out with a few friends and promise to meet up with your girlfriend afterward at 8:00 PM. At 7:30 one of your friends suggests that you all head over to the Duke & Puke Tavern for a few beers. In the days when you were alone and had no life you would have gone in a heartbeat. Now you've got someone waiting for you, and you have a choice to make: you can either go with your friends and blow off your girlfriend, which I don't have to tell you will have unpleasant repercussions later; or you can say ciao to your friends and meet up with your girlfriend like you promised, which will keep her happy but will be kind of a bummer for you because you had to miss some fun. Another possibility is to go to the Duke & Puke, call her from a pay phone and ask if it's okay for you to stay, but for some reason no one has ever successfully pulled this off. You might think that she would be happy that you at least had the consideration to call her, but she will be upset that you would actually prefer drinking with your friends over watching Waiting to Exhale with her.
It might seem like too much trouble to stop before everything you do in order to think about the effects that your action would have on your partner. Well, it is at first. It certainly was for me. After living for 36 years as a selfish bastard, it was a real pain in the ass to gear my activities around another person, talk to her, acknowledge her existence, etc. But eventually I caved -- I mean, learned to incorporate her needs and desires into my everyday activities. It just became second nature. If a son of a bitch like me can do it, then certainly you can. Those first several months might be difficult for the two of you - in fact, the first year of any serious relationship is usually tough because of all the wrinkles that need to be ironed out - but that's good because it tests your willingness to stay together. If it causes you to break up, then perhaps you aren't right for each other; if you stay together, then the hardship strengthens your bond.
I hate when women tell us men to be considerate for its own sake. Even if our inconsideration doesn't hurt them, they still want to control us. For instance, one time my woman and I were having some leftover pumpkin pie. There were two pieces left - a big one and a small one. I took the big one, and as I started to eat it she said, "You know, if I had chosen first, I would have taken the smaller one." I said, "Well, that's the one you got - what the hell are you complaining about?"
Why are married women heavier than single women? Because single women come home, see what's in the fridge, and go to bed; married women come home, see what's in bed, and go to the fridge.
I call this chapter "Making Love" instead of "Having Sex" because women use the former term and men use the latter, and men often have to use the former term in order to get women to do the latter.
To women, sex is not merely the Tube Steak Boogie. It's a wonderful union of two people in love, becoming one, gazing into each other's eyes, caressing each other and expressing the passion they share for each other. To many men, sex is just sex: a steamy session of mutual physical pleasure, culminating with a climax that brings resolution and which must be completed before Letterman starts. Basically most men just want a woman (or two) who will perform every kind of sexual act he wants, and then go away. Yes, women like this do exist. They're called prostitutes.
I'm not going to describe how to have sex -- I mean, make love. We already have plenty of "experts" on the subject. For example, many people read Ann Landers and Dear Abby. Yeah, it's nice to know that in a world where terrorists bomb embassies and millions die from starvation, the most important thing to some people is somebody else's sex life. There's also Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Can someone please tell me why she is regarded as an authority on sex? She's a short, wrinkled old woman who looks like E.T. and who can barely speak English, yet people turn to her for answers to their sexual problems. Why do people take sexual advice from an ancestral midget? Would you take diet advice from Rush Limbaugh?
Sexual urges start in adolescence, which is the time of life between puberty and adultery. Although everyone is horny, boys get aroused much more quickly than girls. This leads to the typical awkward situation on dates and at parties of a boy lunging at a girl for a kiss and having her pull back in fear, or a boy trying to lift up a girl's blouse and being rejected and possibly slapped. Then he thinks she's a prude and she thinks he's a pervert. How ironic that, later in life, women often become the pursuers while many men have less interest in sex. This phenomenon probably has to do with hormonal changes. But even if you're a man who has lost some of his sexual drive, sex does not have to be a chore: you're not merely performing a compulsory obligation to keep your woman satisfied - you're engaging in a pleasurable activity that you want to do with her because you value her so much. And don't worry about whether you bring her to orgasm. Women don't have orgasms. I've had sex with dozens of women and none of them ever had an orgasm.
The health of any couple's sex life has more to do with how good their friendship is than how physically attracted they are to one another. When you really love and care for someone, you just want to be close, and the hugging and kissing frequently lead to lovemaking. As you've no doubt seen, there are plenty of physically unattractive people who find mates and have healthy relationships. In fact, the vast majority of us have at least one physical characteristic that is unattractive. This is why most of us turn the lights off when we have sex. Anyway, if you develop an aversion to lovemaking, then that is an indication that your whole relationship, not just the sexual part, is in question. The fact that you don't want to make love with this person means that you don't feel spiritually close to him/her.
Some people think that couples should have sex every day, and that if they don't then something's wrong. Perhaps young folks have that kind of energy, but it's not a feasible goal for most of us. Often we are just too busy or too tired for sex, but even if we aren't, doing anything on a daily basis can wear us down and/or take the fun out of it. Let us not have unrealistic expectations and then feel badly when they are not met. Sex is usually better when you wait a few days in between, so it's often a good thing that some days we can't fit it in (pun intended).
Sex, like anything else, is a developed skill. None of us do our best at it the very first time. Remember your first sexual experience? The first one with another person, that is. Was it as good as you had hoped? Was it awkward? Did you feel used? Were you too nervous or too drunk to enjoy it? Were you sorry afterwards that you did not wait for the right person and situation? Don't worry. This happens to many people, and a less-than-perfect beginning should not make you feel like "tainted goods". A lot of folks make a big deal about losing their virginity, as though their first sexual partner should be held in high regard or the first sexual experience must set the pace for the rest of one's life. As we gain sexual experience, we become better at it. Don't feel sexually inadequate because you weren't a master from the beginning, and don't write someone off as incompatible merely because sex with this person wasnt perfect the first time. Eventually you and your partner will (hopefully) teach each other how to push one another's buttons and learn what turns each of you on. I know that I'm getting better at sex. More and more frequently I make my fiancée drop her book.
Lovemaking begins with something called foreplay. This is a sort of "warm-up" period where the man has to get the woman's juices flowing by doing things that will arouse her interest, such as kissing her, nibbling her ear, and showing her his stock portfolio. Women need foreplay because they take so much longer to become aroused. Men, I know you hate foreplay because you just want to get down to business, but trust me, it's necessary because without it you're in for a rough ride. Ahem.
Foreplay can take anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on which of several possible activities need to be done, as shown in Table 2.
|Foreplay activity||Time required|
|kissing, touching (mandatory)||10-15 minutes|
|drive to her house (optional)||5-40 minutes|
|stop at drug store on the way (optional)||5 minutes|
Foreplay can begin even before the two of you are in the same room. One afternoon I thought I'd surprise What's-her-name, so I called her on the phone shortly before I left from work. I said, "I wanna come over there and make sweet love to you for hours." She paused and said, "Frank?"
Once foreplay has gotten the two of you primed, it's time to swap gravy. As I mentioned before, I won't describe sex in any detail. One word of advice, though: if you want to talk during sex, there are certain topics that should be avoided. For example, no matter how excited your partner is, he will not be agreeable when you tell him that your mother is coming to visit for a month, and she will not want to hear about the ex-girlfriend you bumped into that day. This would surely ruin the moment and take away some or all sexual drive. Which reminds me, what's this I keep hearing about "make-up sex"? The theory is that it's good to have sex after a fight. Why? Is it better than having sex when you haven't fought? Is sex the only way some people know how to make up? I don't get it. If make-up sex is so great, then why don't we all deliberately pick fights with our mates before making love?
What you do after sex is as important as what you do beforehand (no pun intended). In many cases a man is rooting through the refrigerator or driving home while the woman he just had sex with is still basking in the aftermath. This is typical when he views her merely as an object from which to obtain sexual gratification. True lovemaking is naturally followed by hugging, kissing and/or talking. During this time people can get to know each other better because the release of sexual tension allows easy, open communication. Once after sex a woman told me I was a sex object. Actually she called me a dick, but I know what she meant.
A major magazine had a headline article several years ago entitled, "Study Reveals: Boys and Girls Are Different". Only in modern America is this sort of thing news to anyone. Bleeding heart ignoramuses have been trying to de-genderize us by claiming that men and women are the same, that we think alike and have exactly the same capabilities, needs and tendencies. I say that there definitely are gender differences. They don't apply to all men and women, but from a statistical perspective their frequent appearances overwhelmingly prove that men and women are different in more ways than just how well they drive.
A lot of women share their problems with others. No sense keeping pain to yourself, they reason. Spread it around. I suppose this is part of their being communicative, but no one except other women want to hear about it. And when a man offers a viable solution to a woman's dilemma, she often doesn't want it - she prefers that he care and empathize. If a man gives some sage advice but doesn't act concerned, he's viewed as a total asshole. It's as though women need to have a crisis because it enables them to bond with others over it. Men, I'm sorry to say that there's no way around this. If your woman tells you about a problem, you will have to hug her and pretend to give a shit. Propose your solution only after the mushy stuff is over.
A typical man with a problem behaves exactly the opposite way that a woman with a problem behaves. First of all, he doesn't blab about it, because if others can't help then all his talking serves to do is make him appear weak or stupid. Second, he doesn't want empathy. He doesn't want someone to go "Oh, poor baby" when he has a problem. He wants it solved. Women, if you can't offer constructive advice, then either shut up or change the subject.
Perhaps men tend to be uncommunicative because we're tired of being criticized for our choice of topics or language. I sometimes talk to my partner, and instead of being grateful that I at least make an effort, she gets upset at me. Here I am sharing with her my observations such as the unequalled beauty of the models in the recent Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, or how big her butt has grown, and all she can do is chastise me.
Women tend to be more sensitive than men. When a man makes an offhand comment, a woman will often read into it things that he did not intend, imagining that he is being rude or offensive, or perhaps fearing that what he meant to say is that he wants out of the relationship or that she's fat. After rolling these ideas over in her head, she'll sometimes ask, "What do you mean by that?" or the ever popular "What's that supposed to mean?" Women, don't assume that there's some meaning hidden in anything we men say. We're a lot shallower than you think.
Women spend considerably more time than men grooming themselves. This is only partly their fault. Men place more value on looks than women do, so women spend the extra time to look nice, and therefore we men should not criticize them for doing so. You want her to have smooth, shaven legs and armpits? You want her to smell good and have a nice complexion? You want her hair to be long and clean? Then she's gonna have to use her Lady Schick, Ponds, conditioner and hair dryer. The only thing I have a problem with is the excessive use of make-up and perfume. This is largely the result of women's upbringing, where they see their mothers smearing and dabbing on lipstick, rouge, powder, pencil eyebrows, nail polish and various perfumes. Avon catalogs and commercials further suggest that all women must paint themselves because their own natural beauty just isn't good enough. Okay, this is true in some cases, but most of the time make-up is unnecessary. In addition to hiding women's natural beauty, it makes them look like Bozo the Clown.
A lot of women make a big deal out of birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, etc. Men don't give a hoot. In fact, they are quite annoyed with the whole "special day" thing because women expect men to find just the right gift or take them to an intimate restaurant or something of that nature. Women, don't be disappointed or feel neglected if your man does nothing special on - or completely forgets - a day that you deem "special". Just be happy that he has chosen you as his life partner, the one woman for whom he has forsaken all others. He spends a major portion of his time with you, puts up with your emotional outbursts, and has given up having sex with anyone else. Remembering that you were born or married exactly X number of years ago pales in comparison to all that he does for you year-round. I refuse to give in to the silly idea of "special days". If you ever see me in line at the flower shop on Valentine's Day, please shoot me.
In The Dating Handbook I likened relationships that require material gifts to prostitution, and I stand by that. A lot of women not only swoon over jewelry and clothing, they actually expect these kinds of offerings. You ever see those commercials where a well-dressed man buys his wife a diamond for her birthday, and an elegantly-dressed woman cries tears of joy when she receives it, and the voice-over encourages you to buy her a diamond because "diamonds are forever" and buying her one proves that you love her and if you don't buy her one then you're just an insensitive, cheap, loveless jerk? This sort of advertising uses women's emotions and men's fear of being alone in order to get idiots to spend hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars on a few grams of rocks and metal. Of course, the blame rests ultimately on men for being so weak and foolish as to shower their material women with expensive gifts rather than find someone who is more down-to-earth. Just because it's your birthday, that doesn't automatically entitle you to yet another material possession. It's bad enough that our kids get spoiled on their birthdays with loads of toys, most of which they hardly ever use; haven't we, as adults, grown past this nonsense? There are many women who would never have married their current husbands if it weren't for the impractical-yet-costly gifts. Some women claim that they aren't interested in material possessions, that "it's the thought that counts", and their men believe them. Well, how about it, men? Are you in a relationship with someone who really loves you as a person and would stay with you no matter how poor you were, or are you married to a whore? To find out, try this: the next time her birthday rolls around, instead of buying her a sweater or some earrings, just give her a hug. See how that flies.
Men and women differ in some of the things they want in a mate. Oh sure, we all look for love, fidelity, and someone who will not murder us in our sleep, but some of our other criteria differ. Men go for looks, at least initially. I will be the first to admit that I passed a lot of women by in my day who I wasn't attracted to physically, never taking the time to find out if they had the kind of personality I was looking for. Perhaps men put looks high on the requirement list because they are typically the main breadwinners and so can afford the luxury of pursuing beauty, i.e. they can always obtain an average-looking woman if their attempts to land a beautiful one fail. Anyway, women put much less importance on looks. This is not to say that looks don't matter to them at all. (In fact, when I went to bars in my early 20s, approximately 95% of the women I asked to dance turned me down. Perhaps it wasn't my looks - it might be that they were just afraid of men wanting more than a dance - but I guarantee you that if I looked like Brad Pitt, they'd have danced with me. Of course, if I looked like Brad Pitt, I never would have had to go to bars and meet those loser women in the first place.) Rather, they value other things more, like security. They want someone who will protect them, build a life with them and never leave them. Most of them also want financial security. No, this doesn't necessarily mean that they're gold diggers (although certainly some of them are). It's just that even though career opportunities and salaries have greatly improved for women, they would still like someone who can bring home the bacon (or lox, if they're Jewish): some of them plan to stop working full-time when they have kids; others don't want to work full-time at all; still others don't want to be supported, but they also don't want someone who they'll have to support. It seems that women have the ability to take the long view, whereas men tend to be more shortsighted. A man goes for beauty, which will fade. The only way he'll be able to always have someone beautiful is to constantly repeat a cycle of using a young beautiful woman for several years, dumping her when she starts to lose her looks, and then finding someone else (as though he'll be able to attract beautiful women when he is old and wrinkled). So men, take my advice: don't put so much stock in looks. I'm not saying to settle for someone who's so ugly that even Rice Krispies won't talk to her - just don't be such a perfectionist. If you will have relationships only with physically beautiful women, you might find that none of them are right for you, which will leave you lonely and miserable. And if you leave someone because her looks have faded, you will be very sorry for throwing away the one woman who really loved you.
I sense a little hypocrisy in how women react to men's obsession with beauty. Do you ever notice who complains the most about men's emphasis on physical attractiveness? Plain women. If they were lucky enough to be beautiful, do you think this would bother them nearly as much? Beautiful women are happy that life's lottery has given them an advantage that enables them to attract men so easily. The not-so-beautiful ones complain only because they lack this advantage. They keep repeating mantras such as "beauty fades" and "it's what's inside that counts", because that's pretty much all they can do. If they had the power that beauty brings, they wouldn't be so defensive. Most insecure females feel threatened by women who are more beautiful than they are. Let's say a woman and her man are at a party. He talks with a young, gorgeous female for an hour. His mate will probably become jealous. In all likelihood, she'll give him hell on the way home and accuse him of talking with that woman only because she's so pretty. Of course, if that woman happened to be fat and ugly, his partner would applaud him for looking past that woman's physical appearance and being genuinely interested in what she had to say. We men hate this double standard bullshit. Even if a beautiful woman is a rocket scientist who has fascinating stories that keep us on the edge of our seat, the mere fact that she's nice to look at sometimes causes our mates to wrongly assume that she must be a bubblehead and that we are doing nothing more than ogling her.
I find humor in women's insecurity about the whole looks thing. Why? Because looks never pose a threat to true love, hence women cause themselves unnecessary turmoil. Ladies, let's say your man seems enraptured by a beautiful woman. Are you worried that he will leave you for her? Do you really view him as such a fickle, shallow, untrustworthy shmuck? If so, then why are you in a relationship with him? Have you settled for Mr. Wrong because you fear that no real man will ever want you? Isn't trust an essential ingredient in a successful relationship? If you and he really are soul mates, then beautiful women will never do anything more than turn his head. If he really loves you, then no beautiful woman will ever "steal" him away. You should get a great feeling from knowing that despite the fact that he keeps meeting women who have more physical beauty than you have, he still comes back to you. This means that he really loves you. And if he ever does leave you for some young tart, then he wasn't really in love with you and therefore you are better off without him.
All of us change to some extent as we age, learn and grow. However, men and women change neither in the same ways nor in the same amounts. This can be frustrating when two people who used to be right for each other find themselves drifting apart. A man might feel that he doesn't even know his wife anymore. She might be annoyed with him for being just as immature as he was when they first met. This age-old problem is caused by what I like to call the Change in Relationship Antithesis Principle (CRAP): a woman hooks up with a man hoping he'll change, and he doesn't; while a man hooks up with a woman hoping she won't change, and she does.
Let's take an example. Bud Wizer and Ann Arkie are dating. He likes to drink and party with his friends, stay out late and watch football. She likes to go to dinner with him as well as accompany him to parties and occasional sporting events. They get married. Fifteen or twenty years later Bud is still hanging out with his friends and watching his favorite team play, while Ann has taken up pottery or dance or painting or aerobics. She looks at the lump on the couch and thinks, "He hasn't changed a bit. Why does he insist on being this way?" His lifestyle wasn't a problem for her when they were young and she unconsciously assumed that he'd change, but now it irks her. She tells him that she'd like him to take a class with her or at least do something other than live like a perpetual college student. Now Bud laments to himself, "What's her problem? What Cosmopolitan article did she read that made her want to drag me along on her neo-feminist journey of growth in useless directions?"
What we have here is a classic case of CRAP: she became attracted to someone because he was social and loved parties, and then she expected him to curtail this very behavior; while he found someone who at the time liked the way he was, but then she took up other interests and started criticizing him for being exactly the man she married.
I'd like to slap God silly for creating such a rift between the sexes. Yessir, there's nothing better than gender differences to challenge us and keep us from wasting our time enjoying one another's company.
Gender differences don't have to have negative consequences. Two people can really complement each other so that both benefit. For example, I cut the grass and my partner burns -- I mean, prepares -- the meals. We divide the chores this way not to stuff genders into roles or because each of us is totally incapable of doing the other one's tasks, but because she's better than I am at cooking stuff that won't make us sick and I run over fewer lawn ornaments and pets than she does. Hence our gender differences enable us to live functional lives without too many calls to 911.
Your mate's different view of things can enable you to get a fresh perspective on life or help you in areas where you're weak. For instance, sometimes I stress myself as I focus on activities, and I forget to relax and see how good my life is. She's there to make me put things aside for a while so I can slow down and enjoy being instead of focusing on doing. Likewise, she sometimes gets all down on herself, saying that she's fat and worthless, and I'm there to agree with her.
A significant other can help you see yourself as you never have before. For example, before I met the old ball and chain, I thought that I was perfect. I viewed myself as intelligent and fun, and saw absolutely no flaws in my being. Then she started pointing out all my imperfections: I drink too much; partying and staying out late are wastes of time; I'm not understandin enough; I'm selfish. Boy, it's a good thing she came along. Every day I thank my lucky stars that she's there to remind me what a pathetic loser I am.
I hired a baby-sitter. I don't have any kids, but how else can I get a gorgeous 17-year-old for $8 an hour?
I might not be very qualified to write this chapter. After all, I'm not good with children. At least that's what they said at the trial. Nevertheless, I will plunge forward with my usual blend of ignorance and arrogance.
Most couples eventually add children to their lives. Either they procreate, or kids are brought in from a previous relationship. One effect that children have on your relationship is that they take time and energy that you and your mate could otherwise spend on each other. You want to be there for the kids, helping them with homework and getting them involved in activities and bailing them out of jail so that they can develop intellectually, physically and socially. However, if everything you do in your non-work time revolves around the kids, then you and your partner will be just a couple of harried caretakers, performing duties but not focusing on each other, thereby unable to fully enjoy one another's company. The two of you might feel like servants as you chauffeur, feed and dress your little dependents. To have any time alone together you have to either wait until the little demons are asleep or get someone to watch them. In just about every couple that has kids, at least one partner occasionally regrets having parental responsibilities. Folks look back fondly on the days when the two of them had a lot of time and freedom to do just about anything they wanted with each other. They could go anywhere, stay up late, sleep in, throw wild parties and take off for the weekend on a moment's notice. Now their idea of an exciting day is to take the kids to a playground. The parties they go to (if they indeed still go to any) are a lot more mellow than they used to be: people no longer drink and dance til the wee hours; the television plays animated movies or Barney instead of MTV; conversation is no longer about sports and rock groups - now it's about schools and breast-feeding. Whenever I'm at this type of party and I realize that this is what my social life has become, I start looking for reasons not to kill myself.
If a parental couple is to spend adequate quality time together, it will be necessary for them to incorporate the children into their relationship rather than view them as obstacles. For example, the whole family can take a walk together or go to the library. All family members can get involved in household chores; for example, a teenager can change the car's oil and an eight-year-old can clean the chimney while their mother eats chocolate and their father watches the playoffs.
If your significant other has kids from a previous relationship, you are probably getting more than you bargained for. I chose not to procreate so that I could spare myself the expenditure of time, effort and money that child rearing requires. Well, life threw me a curve, seeing to it that the one woman I met who was fit to be my life partner would be a divorced mother of two. No wonder I drink.
Accepting someone else's children into your life can be a challenge. They might be spoiled or unruly. You might want to teach them discipline and motivation but be powerless to do so because they're past the age where you can make a difference or because they don't accept you as an authority figure. You might feel resentful because they present a drain on your resources that you do not deserve to be burdened with because you did not create them. It takes a special type of person to gladly raise somebody else's progeny. I am not one of those special people. At first the fact that What's-her-name has children made me not even want to go out with her. Why? Because I'm selfish. If I was gonna get involved with someone, she would have had to be childless because if we were to become life partners then we would eventually live together, and if she had kids then they would live with us and take up some of our time and space. Well, as much as I tried to fight it, the lot of them moved in. As a result I gave up half my living space. The following year, in order to get the children into good schools and provide each one with his own room, I bought a bigger house in a better neighborhood. When they disobey or rebel (as most kids do from time to time), I'm sometimes resentful because I feel as though they don't appreciate all that I've done for them. There are plenty of other people who go through similar turmoil, and as unfair or frustrating as it is, we put up with it because our mates are so important to us. When you love someone, you accept all their baggage, whether it's emotional, physical or familial. So here I am, an accidental stepfather, trying my best to provide a nurturing environment for another man's children while keeping what's left of my sanity. But things could be worse. Every time I start to feel sorry for myself, I remember that the two kids I'm raising have to live with a man who makes beer at home and brushes his dogs' teeth.
Both partners need to agree on proper methods of raising the children. Strong disagreements will cause problems. For example, when a child misbehaves, one parent might believe in quietly explaining to the child exactly what he/she has done wrong and offering direction on how to alter this behavior in the future. Meanwhile the other parent might have a short temper and smack or yell at a naughty child. This situation is sure to bring arguments and resentment. (My opinion on this matter is that you shouldn't hit children. There are far more devious ways of causing them pain. A slap leaves a welt for maybe a week, but telling a child that there's no Santa Claus or that there's a monster under his bed causes years of psychological torture and permanent emotional damage that even modern psychiatry cannot undo.) Another issue is religion. A childless couple with differing religious beliefs can have a satisfying relationship if they respect each other's view of life and don't try to convert one another. However, if they each consider it very important to impose their own particular beliefs on their progeny, then the result will be unnecessary friction. This issue should be discussed before deciding whether to raise children together. For example:
|Partner #1:||"I know that your Jewish beliefs differ greatly from my Catholic beliefs, but I strongly believe that if we have children, we should bring them up Catholic."|
|Partner #1:||"Because if they aren't brought up Catholic, they will go to Hell."|
|Partner #2:||"We live in Newark, New Jersey."|
While kids can be an impediment to a relationship, they can also be a source of bonding. Working together to help the kids grow into happy, healthy, functioning people is rewarding and gives parents something to work on together. In fact, seeing as the hobbies that men get into are usually different from those that women get into, raising children is one of the few things that both men and women consider worthwhile and will therefore want to work on together. Of course, there is only so much that you and your partner can do. Genetics and peer pressure can cause your kids to stray from the direction in which you try to steer them and eventually become felons or lawyers. If that happens, you and your mate can at least take comfort in the fact that you still have each other. Maybe that's one reason people reproduce: they can see each other's good points in contrast to the restless monkeys they raise. However, it isn't necessary to have kids in order to see, by comparison, how wonderful your partner is - just hang out with me for a few hours.
In our naive youth, many of us fantasize about meeting someone who we just know right away is "the one" for us and sharing everything with this person. No need to hold back feelings or keep separate bank accounts because the two of you become one and there should be no walls dividing you. Then when you get into a serious relationship, reality sets in. How do you know he won't leave you and break your heart? How do you know she won't empty your bank account and take off? How do you know he's not a stalker? How do you know she's not cheating on you? When you open yourself up to anyone, you become vulnerable: you put them in a position where they can make you either the happiest or the most miserable person in the world; by a simple act of will they can bring you joy, leave you bereft, buy you gifts, steal your money, ease your loneliness, or take your life. A lot of people have been physically and/or emotionally injured by someone who they trusted too soon. Even people who have been together for decades have gone through horrible break-ups and discovered a dark side in their former mate that they never knew existed. I doubt that Nicole Brown would have married OJ Simpson if she had known how jealous and violent he is. Speaking of which, I'll never forget the conversation that OJ had with his lawyer near the end of the trial:
|Lawyer:||"I have good news and bad news. Which do you want first?"|
|OJ:||"The bad news."|
|Lawyer:||"It's your blood at the crime scene, and the DNA proves it."|
|OJ:||"So what's the good news?"|
|Lawyer:||"Your cholesterol is only 130."|
A lot of people like to think, "Well, other people have hurt, sued and lied to each other, but certainly that won't happen with my partner and me." You might think that your partner is a saint, but when a relationship falls apart, a lot of people turn from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde, as evidenced by the countless thousands or perhaps millions of cases of false accusations, theft, violence and lawyers. People spread lies about the other person. They sue for unneeded alimony or for unwanted possessions out of sheer spite. Which reminds me, this whole alimony/palimony thing has gotten way out of hand. Surely a person left with several kids and no job is rightfully entitled to some kind of support, but greedy people sometimes get awarded settlements that they don't deserve. For example, someone who has been supported by his or her companion and has become "accustomed to" a certain lifestyle can receive monthly payments after they split up that will enable this person to keep up that standard of living without even having to work. Let's take the stereotypical couple in which the man works and pays the bills while the woman does all the domestic chores. They split up. The court awards her a monthly alimony payment that will enable her to afford the same amenities that her man has been providing all along. What I want to know is, if she can continue to live the lifestyle she has become accustomed to, then why can't he? If he is forced to pay her an amount of money every month that approximates the amount he used to spend on her when they were together, then why isn't she forced to cook his meals, clean his house and have sex with him, just like she used to do when they were together? If he is going to have to do without these amenities that he has become accustomed to, then at least half the amount of money that he will now have to pay a chef, a maid and a hooker for these services should be deducted from his ex's settlement.
The caution we exercise might offend our partner. "What do you mean I can't move in with you? Don't you trust me?" "How can you not buy me that television for my birthday after all we've been through?" Whenever someone asks something of us, we might question his/her motives. Until we've reached the point where we're certain that this person is our soul mate, we might be careful not to spend an inordinate amount of our resources to please him/her, especially if we've been hurt before and we realize that it could happen again. We'd like to know that this person is right for us and will never hurt us, but unfortunately we just can't be sure. Not yet. And so for those first several months we size up our partner, watch what s/he does, take note of whether s/he is making our efforts worthwhile, and gather up all possible evidence to help us judge this person's character. If we're gonna drop our defenses and make ourselves vulnerable to someone, then this person is going to have to pass some rigorous tests. I certainly scrutinized my mate for quite a while before granting her the position of Life Partner. In the beginning I made her pay her way for dinners, trips, etc, just so she'd know that I'm not a "sugar daddy". I paid her no special attention and went off to parties and beer festivals whether or not she wanted to go, in order to let her know that I am an autonomous person with a life and that I am not one of those pathetic saps who let women walk all over them and who drastically change their lifestyles in order to accommodate someone. I told her that I was not sure we would stay together, that I did not think she was the prettiest woman in the world, that there are a lot of other women out there who I could go out with, and that I consider my freedom and integrity to be more important than an intimate relationship. She tried many times to get me to open up, but I remained cautious. I said no when she badgered me to let her move in. I kept silent when she wanted to know if I had a job. I maintained my silence when she demanded to know if I was seeing anyone else. I refused when she asked me to tell her my name. Boy, what a pest! Slowly, over the course of a year, she proved her worthiness to me, and only then did I open myself up to her: I told her my name; I allowed her and her kids to move in; I let her know that, yes, I had a job; and I introduced her to the other women I was seeing.
Why are some people less cautious than others? Some folks trust everyone they date right away, and sometimes get engaged in just a few weeks. Do they have some sort of insight that the rest of us don't have? Usually not. Most people who are that trusting are just ignorant: they've never been betrayed and they don't know anyone else who's been betrayed, or perhaps they or someone they know has been betrayed but they're stupid enough to think that it can't happen again. Hence the old saying, "Fools rush in." In some cases it's desperation rather than ignorance that causes people to jump into relationships: they want so badly to be in one that they don't mind risking life, limb and property; they're so lonely that getting hurt would, they believe, be a lesser pain.
Even when you've established that your partner is trustworthy and that the two
of you are together for the long term, there are some personal boundaries that
must be maintained. You might share a house and bank accounts, but you are
still individuals. Being a couple means maintaining your individuality as you
nurture each other, not melding with your partner so that each of you becomes merely
an extension of the other. You each have needs, you must both put an equal
amount of work into the relationship, and you want to be respected. A woman
does not want her man to demand that every meal be perfect and that she indulge
his every sexual desire; she does not want to be treated like a slave. A man
has an equal aversion to having his woman demand that he buy her clothes,
jewelry and vacations; he hates being viewed as a wallet with feet. This basic
human desire to be treated like a person and to get from a relationship at
least what one puts into it causes people to vie for position, negotiate
responsibilities, etc. This power struggle is necessary for making sure that
neither person gets walked on because our own needs and desires are often at
odds with those of our significant other. Thus we stumble through myriad
problems in our intimate relationships, sometimes arguing or yelling or not
speaking to each other as we wish that our partner would just see things our way,
|When men say...||they really mean...|
|I like being with you.||I'm horny.|
|I need you.||My hand is tired.|
|I'm hungry.||I'm hungry.|
|Are you going into the kitchen?||Get me a beer.|
|Do you want to go to a movie?||I'd like to have sex with you.|
|Can I take you out to dinner?||I'd like to have sex with you.|
|Can I call you sometime?||I'd like to have sex with you.|
|May I have this dance?||I'd like to have sex with you.|
|Nice dress!||Nice tits!|
|What's wrong?||What meaningless self-inflicted psychological trauma are you going through now?|
|I love you.||Let's have sex now.|
|I'm romantic.||I'm poor.|
|I think we should just be friends.||You're ugly.|
|Haven't I seen you before?||Nice ass.|
|You're not my type.||You won't blow me.|
|I've been thinking a lot.||You're not as cute as you were when I was drunk.|
|I had a wonderful time last night.||Who the hell are you?|
|It's time to express our love.||Give me head.|
|I still think about you.||I miss the sex.|
|Sure, I was listening.||Huh?|
|When women say...||they really mean...|
|Did you come?||Because I didn't.|
|I've learned a lot from you.||Next.|
|I want a commitment.||I'm sick of masturbation.|
|I think we should see other people.||I have been seeing other people.|
|Is there something wrong?||Is it supposed to be this soft?|
|Do what you want.||You'll pay for this later.|
|We need to talk.||I need to complain.|
|I'm not upset.||Of course I'm upset, you moron.|
|The trash is full.||Take it out.|
|The dog is barking.||Go outside in the rain in your underwear and see what's wrong.|
|You're certainly attentive tonight.||Is sex all you ever think about?|
|Be romantic - turn out the lights.||I have fat thighs.|
|I heard a noise.||I noticed you were almost asleep.|
|No, pizza's fine.||Cheap bastard.|
|Nothing is wrong.||Everything is wrong.|
|I'll be ready in a minute.||Take off your shoes and find a good football game on TV.|
|Am I fat?||Tell me I'm beautiful.|
|You never listen.||You never listen.|
|You have to learn to communicate.||Just agree with me.|
|Are you cold?||Get out of bed and close the window.|
|Hang the picture there.||No, I mean hang it there!|
|Fine.||You'll get yours, asshole.|
I'm glad I'm a man, so tall and so proud. My hormones are steady, my voice isn't loud. I don't watch Oprah, or complain and fuss, or drown my sorrows in Häagen-Dazs. Okay so I drink, my clothes are a mess, but I don't burden you with my PMS. I don't always diet - I'm better than that. I don't ask you, "Does this make me look fat?" I don't spread idle gossip, my head is on straight, and when I get married I don't put on weight. If I'm at a bar and you ask me to dance, I don't assume you wanna get in my pants. It doesn't take me hours to get ready for work. When you want to relax I don't drive you berserk. I can fix a flat tire and change my own oil, and a handsomer man doesn't make my blood boil. I don't spend an hour deciding which shirt, or talk on the phone til my ear and neck hurt. I don't make excuses when you ask for a date. I don't play with dolls unless they inflate. I can eat food that's been dropped on the floor, and not discuss feelings after I score. I don't criticize your favorite sitcom. I can wear underpants that I've had since my prom. I love my dog and I hate your cat, 'cause I love affection - what's wrong with that? So women, don't tell me that I am a slob. I keep myself fit and I've got a job. Maybe if you weren't so bitter and mad, your view of men wouldn't be quite so bad.
I'm glad I'm a woman, so strong and so sure. You can show me your worst and I'll come back for more. I don't waste my time watching baseball or hockey, or run for the door when our marriage gets rocky. Okay so I cry when I am upset, but when it comes to birthdays I never forget. I don't spend weekends fixing the car, or hanging out in some seedy bar. I don't hide my feelings or harbor resentment, or belch and fart to show my contentment. I'm not too cheap to buy a good meal. My breasts aren't huge but at least they're real. I don't need to prove that I'm good at sports. When I drink beer I don't chug seven quarts. My trophies and mugs don't clutter the shelf. On Friday night I don't leave you by yourself. I don't get motor oil stains on my pants, and after I'm married I don't lose romance. I teach our kids to be nice and polite, while you tell them to screw and to fight. I can cook dinner and not burn the pan, and no one can love you the way that I can. Who buys the groceries and washes your socks? When you go bald who still thinks you're a fox? I am the one who makes our house a home, and worries about you wherever you roam. So men, don't tell me that I aggravate you. You take me for granted and still I don't hate you. We need each other so rather than doubt me, think of how lonely you would be without me.
Until Ben met Cathi, he was a rude, offensive, uncouth, womanless, beer-drinking Neanderthal. Now he's a rude, offensive, uncouth, beer-drinking Neanderthal who has a woman. You'd think that after years of being in a relationship he would clean up his act. No such luck. But Cathi stays with him, not just because he's a charity case, but to fulfill the community service portion of her sentence.
Ben's relationship with Cathi has, for some reason, made him more attractive to other women. Perhaps they see him with her and think, "Well, he can't be all bad, because if a personable, intelligent person like Cathi wants him, then he must either have a lot of money or be a really good lay."