Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Have some free relationship advice

Someday I'm going to do a post on why American bookstores are overrun with self-help books. I believe it has a lot to do with something fundamental in the American national character, going way back to the first self-help guru, Benjamn Franklin.

Hell, I might even write a book about it...

Problem is, what I'd have to say about getting your life together wouldn't fill a book, it'd durn near fit in the subtitle. 'Self-Improvement: you've gotten in touch with your inner child, found your erroneous zones, become your own best friend, NOW STOP JERKING OFF AND GET A LIFE!'

Oh, I suppose the specifics could go on at somewhat greater length.

Relationships, for example. I'm a survivor of two really bad long-term relationships. I won't go into the details because, 1) they're really not relevant, and 2) in spite of the Oprah-age, let-it-all-hang-out culture we live in, I think it's vulgar. Suffice it to say, together they consumed a total of ten years of my life and had repercussions that echo to this day.

It wasn't until the end of the second disaster (nice word that, it means "evil star"), that I realized I had made the same mistake as the first. The first was excusable, I was young and new to the serious relationship scene. The second time, I thought I'd hooked up with a partner who was different in every way from the first - physically, intellectually and personality-wise.

What I realized too late was that they had both had something in common that overrode all their basic differences - they were unhappy people.

That's often hard to see though. When you know somebody casually, they're generally wearing their public face. When you get into a deeper relationship, well everybody's happy when they're in love.

Ah love! That delirious feeling, when you glow so brightly that people can see you in the dark. That makes people want to gather around you two and warm themselves by the fire of your passion.

It lasts two years max.

It's not that love goes away, it's that the chemical rush you get from those self-manufactured drugs in your brain wears off. That's when you find out whether you two really like each other and are fit for the long haul together. And that's when people revert to their natural state.

If a person's normal state is unhappy, they revert to unhappy. And here's the rub, they were happy with you while they were first 'in love' - and now they're not. The reaction proceeds in this order: "I used to be happy and now I'm not. You used to make me happy and now you're not. Ah-ha, YOU'RE MAKING ME UNHAPPY!"

This is the period where the relationship proceeds from deliriously happy, to vaguely discontent, to living hell. (There are probably identifiable intermediate stages, but who cares? And it's interesting to note that two-year period. That's about what it takes to adequately detox from a serious alcoholism, drug addiction or broken heart.) And this explains a lot about 'relationship junkies', serial monogamists and people who just can't stop sleeping around on their partners.

I don't know if I'd care to state it as a general rule, but if someone said to me, "You make me happy" I'd want to know, "Do you mean, 'I'm happy with you' or 'You, and nothing else, make me happy'?" If it were the second - I'd consider running.

"So be warned by my lot (which I know you will not), and learn about women from me!"

--Rudyard Kipling "The Ladies"

P.S. My wife and I have been together for going on seven years now, and I'm still crazy about her - a new personal best for me. Good thing too, as we have a couple of kids now.


  • At 11:42 AM, Blogger Eduardo said…

    Hang in there, Steve. She sounds like a keeper.

  • At 4:45 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Yep. And I only had to wait thirty years and move halfway around the world to find her.

    As I'm sure I'm not the first to note, these are bad times for lovers.

    I used to blame this entirely on American women - excepting of course, any with the intelligence and taste to be fans of this blog!

    But lately I've noticed that there are some really spectacular babes around, I mean with looks, intelligence and personality - who can't seem to find a decent guy.

    Which makes me wonder what gives with American guys?

  • At 8:32 PM, Blogger Eduardo said…

    Is that what I have to do?

    I think I fell in love with a Polish waitress once at a restaurant hereabouts. I lived a lifetime in that forty minutes, I can tell you. In my mind we had eight children.

    I don't know what intoxicated me more -- drinking zywiec piwo or hearing the language of my forebears spoken by such a beautiful woman. Alas some other nasty American had already snatched her up.

  • At 10:19 AM, Blogger gilmoure@gmail.com said…

    around 27/28, I took a step back from dating and started trying to see the similarities in my dating disasters. Yup, all unhappy women. I realized I was also unhappy and chasing after women that were 'safe bets' and as troubled as myself. Taking a couple years off of dating, I got myself worked out, found out how to be happy by myself and then started looking for a women in a similar place. Found her, we decided to get married towards the end of our first date (unexpectedly lasted 3 days) and we've been together now for seven years (have daughter, six years old).

  • At 12:36 PM, Blogger Chelle said…

    that last comment was inspiring! 3 day date huh? so hollywood..i love it! & being the relationship junky i am, i pray thats what fate has in store for me...an unconventional situation that ends up being the peerfect union!!

  • At 12:41 PM, Blogger Chelle said…

    that last comment was inspiring! 3 day date huh? so hollywood..i love it! & being the relationship junky i am, i pray thats what fate has in store for me...an unconventional situation that ends up being the perfect union!!


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