Favourite bits from a Ted Talk/New York Times article from Alain de Botton
In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”
——I had a date like this in December.
The problem is that before marriage, we rarely delve into our complexities. Whenever casual relationships threaten to reveal our flaws, we blame our partners and call it a day. As for our friends, they don’t care enough to do the hard work of enlightening us. One of the privileges of being on our own is therefore the sincere impression that we are really quite easy to live with.
——I hold no such beliefs about myself… Although I do have a tendency to think that I, and my way of thinking is “right”, as shown the other day on a date where I told a guy “there’s no nice places to eat around here except place x” and we stumbled upon a nice place and had a wonderful lunch.
The marriage of reason was not, in hindsight, reasonable at all; it was often expedient, narrow-minded, snobbish and exploitative. That is why what has replaced it — the marriage of feeling — has largely been spared the need to account for itself.
——One of my closest friends asked me recently what I thought about arranged marriages. I said they could work as long as both people really, truly consented, and weren’t psychos. There’s nothing more terrible in my mind than a marriage where the woman doesn’t have the resources (i.e. education, money, opportunities) to thrive (not just survive in poverty with her children etc) on her own, or one where the man doesn’t want to leave and lose seeing his children every day.
But though we believe ourselves to be seeking happiness in marriage, it isn’t that simple. What we really seek is familiarity — which may well complicate any plans we might have had for happiness. We are looking to recreate, within our adult relationships, the feelings we knew so well in childhood. The love most of us will have tasted early on was often confused with other, more destructive dynamics: feelings of wanting to help an adult who was out of control, of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes.
——Classic! After 8 years in therapy I thank god I never married, had kids, or bought a house with anyone. My “picker” was definitely not up to scratch; as a very young woman I vacillated between safe, caring, men, or exciting, narcissistic men who liked to wipe their feet on girls. I was on the floor. I’m (usually) not now…
How logical, then, that we should as grown-ups find ourselves rejecting certain candidates for marriage not because they are wrong but because they are too right — too balanced, mature, understanding and reliable — given that in our hearts, such rightness feels foreign. We marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.
——Sad. I would like a “partner in crime”, someone who helps me to be the best person I can be and vice versa. I accept that I might not find that person, and that people grow, relationships change, and sometimes end.
We make mistakes, too, because we are so lonely. No one can be in an optimal frame of mind to choose a partner when remaining single feels unbearable. We have to be wholly at peace with the prospect of many years of solitude in order to be appropriately picky; otherwise, we risk loving no longer being single rather more than we love the partner who spared us that fate.
——I am truly happy being single at the moment. If anything, what I love most is not having to think about anyone else. It’s like why I love travelling alone. I only have to ask myself: “What do I want to do today?” and “What do I want to do now?”. Although travelling with someone else can be great as you share the daily tasks (researching where to stay, where to go next, and of course, you always have someone to watch your bags while you go to the toilet, which is especially useful when you have violent diarrhoea etc).
The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the “not overly wrong” person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.
——This is the key to why I broke up with my ex. There comes a time in many women’s lives where she is ready to have….a dog. He had worked as a postman, and had a phobia of dogs. I tried to compromise, suggesting that if one day we had a house with a garden, couldn’t we get one? He flatly refused. “Well, what about if we live in different apartments?” I suggested.
“If we live in different apartments, it’s a step back, and I will break up with you” he told me.
It wasn’t all him. I too have a phobia: of men. Many women are cautious with men, and men who are allies tend to be conscious that when they are walking home, they shouldn’t walk to closely to a woman as they’ve noticed she walks faster etc.
Watch the TED talk here: