Elisa had had it with her husband. She has been to the emergency room twice after he punched her in the gut and twisted her arm badly. She has taken abuse from him for years. Elisa had had it…that is until this past week. The therapist asked if she wanted to press charges against him as she had been seriously considering doing. No, Elisa replies, he's found God, he says he's mending his ways. He now insists that she and her children read the Bible, go to Bible classes and live their lives in lock step with the "moral principles" of the Bible. She tells the therapist that her husband no longer wants her to go to therapy since it promotes a secular, heathen view. She drops out of therapy. She can't fight him on those terms. He has the Lord and the power of religion on his side.
Terry has not done anything with his life. He was given opportunities to go to college and to go into business. His siblings were not as bright as he was. They are now remarkably successful. His sister is an executive in a large retail firm; his brother opened his own trucking company. Terry hates their success. Terry sponges off his girlfriends until they catch on and leave. Deep down, he hates himself. But then he found an "out." The more he read about the environmental movement and the trend against the business world, the more brazen he became. He became a spokesman for one such organization and went around preaching how it is the responsibility of each and every one of us to be a "steward for the earth" and not to despoil it with material goods and longings for Wall Street. What a windfall for him. He can now attend family holiday events since he has adopted the persona of a moral crusader. His family can't chide him for his envy or his primitive, unambitious lifestyle since it is done in the name of the environment – a moral cover.
Manny has been the mastermind of some fairly corrupt and very successful "business" ventures. He has tricked many unsuspecting, honest people into investing in his various schemes. Over time, he finds it harder and harder to look in the mirror in the morning. It becomes harder to evade his own corrupt character. He then discovers the community service movement and uses his same dishonest tactics to rise to the top and become the head spokesman. He is now seen as a "great" man – helping "humanity". Many of his associates see through him and are disgusted with his lust for power, but refrain from criticizing him since he now has the veneer of a "moral crusader".
Elisa's husband who "found God", Terry who found an anti-business moral cover and Manny who found a philanthropist cover for his desire to control others – all these cases have something in common. All are using the veneer of morality to evade the responsibility of facing up to their own bad choices. They present a whitewashed image of themselves to the world.
Will Elisa be happy with her born again husband? Will Terry be able to become a productive person whom he himself can admire? Will Manny face up to his dishonesty and make fundamental improvements in his character? Unlikely!
What explains such individuals' attraction to "moral" crusades? Do they genuinely want to improve? In what other ways could these people have dealt with their problems? Elisa's husband could admit to his wrongdoings, come to therapy with Elisa and work very hard to find healthy ways to express his anger rather than by abusing Elisa. Terry could admit to himself and to a therapist that he has had a history of sponging off of girlfriends and do the thinking required to become productive and self-supporting. He could openly address his envy of his siblings and work to make himself a better person. Manny could have made a sincere switch to a healthy career and over time, he could have paid back the people he swindled.
All were running from the responsibility of thinking, of taking their own character seriously. They ran for cover – the bogus cover of an alleged "moral cause." All of them know, on some level, that it is a cover – that they are the same ugly souls underneath the moral flamboyancy.
Dr. Ferris, a corrupt character in Atlas Shrugged, unveils the thinking behind such "run for moral cover" schemes: "You see…people don't want to think. And the deeper they get into trouble, the less they want to think. But by some sort of instinct, they feel that they ought to and it makes them feel guilty. So they'll bless and follow anyone who gives them a justification for not thinking. Anyone who makes a virtue – a highly intellectual virtue – out of what they know to be their sin, their weakness, their guilt…. That is the road to popularity". (p. 324)
Who gives them a justification for not thinking?
Elisa's husband, the wifebeater wants to control his wife. The church gives him a justification through its policy of "forgiveness".
Terry doesn't want to work. His siblings are an affront to him. The environmental movement gives him a justification for not working by means of its anti-business rhetoric. It's a handy cover for those who want to evade the responsibility of productive achievement.
Manny wants to dupe people but be known as a decent person. The mandatory community service movement gives him a justification through its policy of ignoring his character and focusing only on his "helping the needy", regardless of who helps them or how.
How would one stand up to such a person? If you buy into their guise of "moral cover," you cannot stand up to them. You cannot fight them on their terms. To protect yourself, you must discover what morality genuinely is and why their chosen cover represents additional corruption of their character – not a genuine effort to change.
It helps to know the difference between what true moral behavior is and how it differs from a moral-cover-up.
For example, how can Elisa stand up to her husband who has just found "the Lord"?
Here is what Elisa might tell her husband (protected by the police standing next to her):
"You tell me that you have found God and I tell you that that has no weight with me. I am sick of being controlled by you. First I was told what I could and couldn't do. Then, when I tried to voice my own opinion, or pursue my own interests, I found myself physically beaten again and again—by you. Now that I have found help and I've been able to do some serious thinking about this situation, I recognize that what you have done over the years is wrong. I am disgusted that you run for the cover of religion, and try to use that as a new weapon in your arsenal to control me. I am pressing charges against you and I have filed a restraining order on you."
Don't let anyone use the window dressing of "morality" to intimidate or abuse you. The only proper moral code is one that respects your rights as an individual.
"The RATIONAL Basis" is a registered trademark of Dr. Ellen Kenner
From Dr. Kenner's original interview by the University of Totonto Objectivist Club and published in part by that club's newspaper The New Intellectual.
7- What is the connection between love and sex?8- What do you think about masturbation? The religious view of it would be that it's some kind of "self abuse". But if sex is not a base or disgusting activity, does masturbation have a proper role in one's sex life?9- Do love and sex involve compromise, sacrifice or selflessness? What happens to people's sex lives when they hold this view?10- What do people's sexual choices reveal about what they think of `themselves'?11- What advice would you give to a college student seeking a romantic relationship?12- What advice would you give regarding sex?
7-What is the connection between love and sex?Pathetically sometimes there is none, as in the case of the macho man who womanizes and keeps tabs of the number of woman he's "laid." However in romantic love, love and sex are intimately connected. Love is your response 1) to what you value most in yourself and 2) to your awareness that your partner also embodies these same high values. Romantic love is a mutual expression of your own self-esteem and the highest esteem of your partner
8-What do you think about masturbation? The religious view of it would be that it's some kind of "self abuse". But if sex is not a base or disgusting activity, does masturbation have a proper role in one's sex life?Masturbation is healthy and a great way to learn what movements or fantasies give you pleasure. The religious view is so highly irrational that it can be easily dismissed. To tell a person that what gives him (or her) intense pleasure naturally, is "self-abuse" is a contradiction, meant to destroy a person's self-confidence and self-value. It's just another weapon religious individuals use to induce unearned guilt. They use it to destroy an individual's confidence so that this individual turns to the "pious," sexless, religious leaders and becomes selfless putty in their hands. Another outcome of the assault on self-pleasuring is that a person goes underground. He or she secretly allows him or herself to enjoy self-pleasuring, while publicly denouncing it. They hide it as a shameful, guilty secret – the outcome is that they know they are being hypocritical. Religious prohibitions against self-pleasure are a form of abuse and torture.
In an unusual children's book, What's Happening To Me, Peter Mayle includes two pages on masturbation. The author lets children know that it is healthy and feels terrific. They add "You'll hear all kinds of strange stories about masturbation: that it makes you go blind, it makes you go crazy, or even that it makes hair grow on the palms of your hands. It does none of these. It's a perfectly healthy and normal function…Don't let anyone try to make you feel guilty about it."
9-Do love and sex involve compromise, sacrifice or selflessness? What happens to people's sex lives when they hold this view?Yes, in the healthiest meaning of love and sex, they absolutely involve compromise, but not sacrifice or selflessness. Sacrifice indicates that you are being dishonest with yourself and with your partner. Such dishonesty only breeds resentment. For example, you tell your partner that it's fine for him to choose a particular career even though it means that you shift your career goals, but you didn't mean it when you said that it was okay. You were sacrificing. At some point, your built up resentment will break through the floodgates. "After all I sacrificed for you…the least you could do is…" Sacrifice, the giving up higher values for lesser values or non-values, breeds dishonesty and resentment.
Selflessness is a recipe for a lousy relationship. You often hear one partner say, "I want nothing for myself…all I want to do is to make you happy." If the partner responds "I too am selfless and want nothing for myself. I just want to please you." You can see how humorous this is. Neither can please the other because the other doesn't want "anything for myself" - the other professes that he doesn't want to be pleased – that's too selfish.
Some people use the term selfless in contrast to the "me only" type of beast – the controlling person who doesn't want a mutual relationship in which both partners work within a rational framework to both get their needs met, with open, non-sacrificing compromises when conflicts arise. The me-only person, by contrast, wants a slave as a partner. I call such partners "bulldozers." They demand that their needs be met apart from any concern for their partners. If the partner doesn't comply, they launch a character assault on him or her. Neither the selfless person, nor the me-only person make good partners. Only the self-valuing person is ready for healthy romance.
10-What do people's sexual choices reveal about what they think of `themselves'?Your sexual choice reveals a lot about you.
Some people shoot lower than themselves. For example, a guy may feel that he's only able to hold a "dumb broad" he picks up at a bar. He knows he can control her and not lose her. What's does his choice reveal about him? His view of himself, his view of woman, his view of relationships and his view of his chances in the world would not show much self-esteem or be optimistic. Dumbness in a woman becomes an important selection factor for him.
Some people shoot higher then themselves. They want someone who can take care of them. They fall into a dependent relationship. If a woman says, "I married my husband because he had a lot of money and I knew I'd be taken care of and be able to have a country club life style." What does her choice reveal about her? She doesn't think she could live independently or become successful on her own. She feels she needs to be dependent upon a man. Money becomes an important selection factor in her choice for a partner.
Some people shoot at what I call "eye level." They try to find a partner who is similar to themselves in terms of self-esteem and their view of the world. If you choose a partner with traits that are similar to your own, e.g., matching on levels of ambition, intellectual curiosity, ability to communicate openly and effectively, then your choice is a tribute to yourself, demonstrating your self-esteem. You value yourself enough that you look for a match, not someone to look up to you, nor someone that you have to peer down at. Level of self-esteem and healthy character traits become important selection factors.
11-What advice would you give to a college student seeking a romantic relationship?Most importantly, value yourself. Make yourself into a person you admire and whose company you enjoy. Some people mope around saying "I need a guy (or woman) to make my life interesting; I'm bored with myself." The primary problem here is not the lack of a partner, but a boring person.
If you have achieved high self-esteem, if you value yourself, then rejections won't be as difficult, which will give you the flexibility to date different individuals without feeling depressed after each "failure." If you value yourself, you will spend the time and energy needed to find a romantic partner. Like any important value, sitting home chomping on popcorn in front of the tube is less likely to bring you success then actively searching for a partner. If you value yourself, you won't accept someone with an inferior character. You will also be motivated to learn the skills to communicate well with partners, to ask the difficult questions (e.g., regarding past sexual history), and to find mutual activities to enjoy together.
12-What advice would you give regarding sex?Know what pleases you sexually and why. Listen carefully so that you learn what pleases your partner. Don't try to impose activities on your partner that he or she doesn't like. Experimentation is fine as long as it is mutually agreed upon. If you don't like something, understand why and don't force yourself to repeat it. At all costs, enjoy your own sensuality during sex and avoid a duty approach to it.
"The RATIONAL Basis" is a registered trademark of Dr. Ellen Kenner
From Dr. Kenner's original interview by the University of Totonto Objectivist Club and published in part by that club's newspaper The New Intellectual.
What is sex?
What are some common views about sex? What do most people think about it?
One view of sex is that it is just an animal capacity. Is it just a reproductive function? Is it just "physical" or "chemical"? Or do human beings have a potential for something more?
What is psychological visibility and how does it relate to sexual desire?
What explains people's sexual preferences in partners? Do similarities attract? Do opposites attract?
What role do the differences between the sexes play in sex?
1-What is sex?I can picture asking an adolescent boy this question and he'd say "You don't know…?!" We all know what sex is on the general level. It's a capacity and action that is an emotional response to someone we find appealing, physically and mentally. Sometimes we don't know the person (e.g., a Victoria's Secret model, Pierce Brosnen) but we project onto that person our ideal fantasy person and we feel sexually aroused. Even in fantasies, sex is tied to what a person values. What actions are considered sex? You can define sex more narrowly as limited to intercourse but that would leave room for devious politicians to claim innocence. You could explain sex technically as the stages one goes through (excitement, plateau, orgasm and recovery) but that is typically only of interest if you're having trouble in one of these stages. Sexual expression varies from a gentle caress, a fiery kiss, to oral sex or intercourse.
2-What are some common views about sex? What do most people think about it?I think most people start out loving sex from their first discovery of their capacity to experience such an intensely good feeling either while fantasizing or when first feeling aroused with a potential partner.
For an example of a common view of sex that is seriously damaging, the religious is one of the worst. I was never raised religious, but in my practice I have seen the damage done by religious doctrine; it usually is a deliberate assault on a person's sexual capacity. First there is the unearned guilt in which children are taught, that touching their private parts is somehow dirty. Then there are sex and reproductive myths. Follow that up with leaders who are supposedly virtuous by being sex-free. You can see how they destroy a person by making one feel as though one's body is low and dirty and one's sexless mind is lofty. They have what's called a mind-body split. The consequence of their policies results in ugly perversions. In my state alone we've had multiple cases of pedophilic religious leaders. Or look at the "good" religious mothers with 8-10 children, who are tearing their hair out. Most faiths see abortion, an option in our society, as murder. You are supposed to have sex only for procreation. Pleasure, they try to convince their worshipers, is not a value. Religion has mutilated romantic sex for millions.
Another common view, that can happen with a religious or secular viewpoint, is that sex is a duty, something that you have to do to make someone else happy. That's a deadly formula. Sex is fundamentally a self-valuing, selfish act. If you don't allow yourself to relax, enjoy and feel erotic sensations, but exclusively focus on pleasing someone else, then you will be watching the clock till the dastardly deed is over, as unfortunately many long-term married woman do.
3-One view of sex is that it is just an animal capacity. Is it just a reproductive function? Is it just "physical" or "chemical"? Or do human beings have a potential for something more?Of course they have the potential for something more. Any individual can perform a simple thought experiment. Think of the most repulsive person you know – I mean corrupt, ugly, smelly – and imagine having sex with this partner. Nauseating! Rabbits might be indiscriminate, but to us, sex is more than just a physical action.
Maybe you mean by "is it just physical" that it is physical attraction only. A guy sees a voluptuous woman in a bikini and becomes immediately aroused. If you're a guy, try another thought experiment. Imagine having sex with this woman. I suspect you imagined that she had character traits that you value. If you met her in real life and discover that she's a child abuser and she stole your wallet, notice what happens to your arousal. Even a lovely body can't cover up a lousy character. You mention chemical response. There are street drugs that mimic an orgasm. If you were told that you could become a crack addict for life, would you choose that instead of finding a romantic partner? Something is still missing. Crack doesn't carry on a stimulating conversation or look sexy in a bathing suit.
A healthy sexual response involves two positive evaluations: you admire your partner and you yourself feel worthy of that partner (you admire yourself). When that admiration is intense and mutual, romantic love flourishes.
You can probably think of a range of examples of sexual attraction that violate the above description. For example, there are womanizers who try to "conquer" as many women as possible, men (or women) who use sex as a method of controlling another person, rapists, masochists, individuals with fetishes, casual sex and so on. We are certainly capable of inferior, subhuman varieties of achieving orgasm, but that doesn't rise to what is our actual potential: sex as a response to another person's admirable character and a celebration of similar qualities in yourself.
4-What is psychological visibility and how does it relate to sexual desire?Every person holds fundamental ideas about himself. Take Tom who thinks "It's important to make healthy, honest choices in my life. I want to feel proud of the way I'm leading my life." He values, not only the interesting goals he sets in life (e.g., adventures, career path, hobbies) but his own choice-making ability, his self-made character; he values himself. He feels admirable and desirable (as opposed to the con-artist or the person of low self-esteem). For Tom, it would be lonely going through life without friends or without a special woman who recognizes and values his virtues. If he were living among nagging, female con-artists, he would feel psychologically invisible. They would be unable and unwilling to admire the best in him -- they may despise him for those very traits. But if Tom meets Julie and discovers that, not only is she attractive and she has similar interests (e.g., skiing, hiking, dancing) but she shares the same virtues (e.g., honesty, thinking independently), then he will sexually desire her. Tom's sexual desire stems from an evaluation of himself (as worthy) and of Julie (as an embodiment of his highest values in a woman). It's a desire for more than a friendship – to feel a mental and physical bond. Julie's admiration of his good qualities gives him an opportunity to view himself in an accurate, psychological mirror; this is psychological visibility. Her love and sexual desire are a recognition and a response to his (and her own) actual virtues. They both feel visible on psychological level – they profoundly admire each others virtues.
Contrast this with an unhealthy sexual desire which comes from a different source. If a man has made himself into a con-artist, then he may desire a woman of good character to con himself. He may want her to help him fake that he is better than he is. His erotic feelings may translate into "let's see if I can make her worship me and see how great I am." He has to engage in double delusion -- deluding her about his true nature and deluding himself – faking a self-esteem he has not earned. He's dishonest and manipulative; he has no good virtues to celebrate. In his case, "sexual desire" is the desire to fake to himself and to his partner that he is better than he is. It does not stem from an accurate evaluation of his character. He's trying to rig the psychological mirror to make himself look better than he is.
5-What explains people's sexual preferences in partners? Do similarities attract? Do opposites attract?To answer these questions, ask yourself who you're attracted to and who do you find repulsive. I dated a lot when I was in college. I was attracted to intelligent, decent looking men who were good listeners, men I could look up to and felt comfortable around, men who were not embarrassed about sex. I was attracted to men who admired in me what I admired in myself. I was not attracted to athletes involved in spectator sports, I was repulsed by con artists or those on drugs.
So in one sense, I was looking for similarities: intelligence, a decent looking chap, a good listener, a romantic person and, very importantly, a rational atheist. I was repulsed by anyone who bought into any sort of irrationality.
In another sense, I definitely wanted a partner who had what I lacked. I was sometimes shy. I wanted my partner to be someone who was confident so that I could learn from him. I was disproportionately work-focused. I wanted someone who was work-focused, yes, but able to relax more so that I could learn to unwind. In that sense I wanted an "opposite," but in a specific context. I wanted someone who had what I lacked character-wise, traits which I admired and wanted to achieve for myself. Notice that opposites on other fronts were repulsive to me (e.g., a drug user or a religious fanatic); those traits were very unsexy and unromantic, irrational.
Why did I throw in my dig about not liking men involved in spectator sports? I did it to illustrate that your experiences from your own family are not irrelevant in terms of your personal selection factors. My dad was obsessed with the damn (not Yankees) but the damn losing Red Sox. I spent much of my childhood watching his mood deteriorate because of a strike-out or some such nonsense. I vowed that I would never subject myself to that torture when married and a finding a partner who could care less about sports was important in my selection process. In fairness to dad, I wanted to find a partner who had his level of ambition, his sense of adventure and his light-hearted sense of humor. Those too became selection factors.
You may find some similar dynamics in your selection process (e.g., I want a woman who never nags me – my mother drove me nuts; I want a woman who cooks as well as mom).
Regarding the sexual act, there's a wide range of sensual activities. You want to match on that dimension, or be open to experimenting. If you are repulsed by oral sex and your potential partner loves it, that might be a factor that is non-negotiable and it could spell the end of this relationship, even though you enjoy each other in other capacities. If a woman was raped in childhood, she may hate intercourse throughout her lifetime; that may absolutely rule her out as a partner if you love intercourse.
6-What role do the differences between the sexes play in sex?Ask a gay or lesbian couple and you will get a different response from asking a "helplessly heterosexual" man or woman. This demonstrates that sexual attraction involves a complex set of factors such as your sexual history (maybe you had a close same-sex companion as a young child and you experimented and enjoyed your budding sexuality with this person), your experiences with the opposite sex in general (maybe the men you dated were always forceful), and other factors.
In the normal course of events, men get highly aroused by the sight, thought or image of their ideal woman. Woman, likewise get aroused by the opposite sex. Both fantasize about giving themselves and this ideal partner pleasure. The biological and physical differences are obvious here, but as illustrated with gay couples, male/female attraction can be overridden by your values.
The differences in physique, i.e., male, female, are intriguing, an adventure. The masculinity of the man can be very sexy as can be the femininity of the woman. You don't have to be a size 6 woman to feel sexy and appealing to a man. A woman at our dance studio is easily a size 16, yet she sways her hips, smiles confidently, wears short skirts and heels and does one hot mambo with her male partners.
Why is low self-esteem such a serious issue for women? Why is it important that we work to cultivate a more positive self-image?
Self esteem is your own emotional estimate that you are worthy of pursuing your happiness and capable of functioning well in the world. Or, as Ayn Rand put it, "Self-esteem, [is your] inviolate certainty that [your] mind is competent to think and [your] person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living."
Many women feel insecure, or are perhaps drowning in self doubt. Why? It's likely that they have learned that being a good person means self-sacrifice (being the "good wife," the "good neighbor," the "good daughter" — the saint or the martyr). They've learned, from countless sources, that morality entails giving up their desires, their dreams, their goals — for others. Given such selfless (altruistic) standards, it's no wonder that the more they strive to be "moral" (giving up their values), the more unhappy they become. They find themselves in a bind: being a doormat in life should bring satisfaction, but in truth, it brings resentment and low self-esteem. Many try to "put on a happy face" while privately suffering. They feel trapped and are faced with the monstrous choice: be moral (sacrifice) or be happy (selfish).
Consequently, such women often feel guilty even thinking about important personal values. I've worked with many a woman (young and old) who has said with exasperation "I've spent my whole life catering to my parents, my kids, my husband, . . .. I feel there is no "me" anymore!" When asked what they would like to do if they owned their own life, I often hear, "I never allowed myself to think about that. It would be selfish!"
And that raises the question: Is a proper focus on your self bad and immoral — or is it the foundation for building genuine self esteem? Are the people we typically call "selfish" (the liar, the cheat, the scoundrel, the narcissist) truly focusing on valuing themselves or would it be more accurate to describe them as self destructive?
To truly liberate yourself, discover that properly valuing your self is essential to your happiness, short range and longer range. Discover a rational moral standard by which to judge yourself. If you want that wonderful feeling of waking up in the morning to another exciting day in your life, then you'll want to make yourself into a person you admire. That involves, among other skills, building good moral character and self esteem (e.g., being honest, thinking for yourself, being productive, having integrity, learning to take pride in your strengths and in your achievements).
You might take a look at your moral code. Do you have a moral code that promotes selflessness, low self-esteem? Or one that promotes a "my way or the highway" view of life? Neither an altruistic (selfless) moral code, nor a narcissistic one will achieve genuine happiness.
But discovering a rational moral code that views you as your highest value will give you the ability to unapologetically make your life rich with your values (e.g., in romance, in your career, in your personal hobbies, and with special friends and family members you love). You can then pursue your dreams (provided you never take advantage of anyone else). When you discover a rational (reality-based) code that clearly shows that you have a moral right to pursue your own personal happiness, you will be free of being a doormat in life. You will have the best chance to live happily and successfully. As Ayn Rand has said, "The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live." And cultivating your self esteem on a healthy foundation is the key to happiness.
What is one concrete tip - something a woman could do right now - to improve her self-esteem?
One tip is to nurture yourself by starting a journal and writing about your personal desires, dreams and goals in four important areas. Spend 3 minutes (or more) on each of the following questions:
Career: What career(s) or job(s) would I most enjoy?
Romance: What would make my romantic life better? (e.g., learning how to search for a partner, learning how to be more assertive with a partner).
Hobbies/leisure: What hobbies or leisure activities bring me the most pleasure?
Friends/family members: Who do I feel closest to and how can I let them know that--and spend more time with them?
The surprise divorce is all too common these days. Learn how you and your spouse can avoid it.
There are surprises you can spring on your spouse, but "Honey I want a divorce" is not the kind of surprise anyone wants. Marie and Hunter had been married for 12 years. They had two boys, ages 7 and 10, who seemed relatively comfortable with their lives. They had good friends and families who were close. Their marriage didn’t seem too different from those of their friends. Marie tended to the children and had a part time job.
Although they struggled financially at the outset, they were finally comfortable; Hunter’s skills in computer science had paid off nicely. All seemed quiet when suddenly Marie dropped the bomb, she wanted a divorce. Hunter was dumbfounded. It seemed to come out of the blue. Hunter had never been abusive, nor had he had an affair; and he was not a substance abuser. Sure they had had arguments, but never screaming fights. Hunter asked Marie why, but she refused to talk about it. What’s going on here?
Of course, Marie might have secretly fallen in love with someone else, but even that does not usually happen out of the blue. It is very likely that Marie was unhappy about many things. Was Hunter not helping enough with house and yard work? Was he leaving dirty clothes all over the house? Did he have unappealing personal habits? Did he not share enough with childcare? Was he not satisfying Marie sexually? Did she resent not being able to pursue a full-time career? Was Hunter spending too many hours at work or going out with the guys? Did he ignore her when she was sick or upset? Was he failing to build an emotional connection? Did Hunter make Marie feel invisible day after day?
Marie’s error, most likely, was not speaking up more assertively for what upset her or about what she wanted. She let resentments build and build until she reached the breaking point and suddenly decided, "I’m outta here."
Hunter undoubtedly made errors of his own, such as not genuinely listening when Marie did complain, and taking little or no action to address her concerns.
Marie and Hunter, one can assume, had one overarching problem in common: the failure to communicate and to resolve conflicts effectively. It’s very likely that they didn’t listen to one another attentively and that they didn’t tune in to each other’s strong emotions, or negative body language and work to understand the cause. They faked that all was "okay" even when it was not. They expected one another to read their mind, to just knows what was important to them. They didn’t resolve even small irritating differences in habits with one another. They never worked out a mutually agreed upon division of household chores and childcare in their marriage, they just fell into a pattern that Marie resented. They didn’t take the time to learn about one another sexually and come up with a sexual style that satisfied both. And they didn’t nip escalating tensions in the bud.
Marie and Hunter probably didn’t know how to treasure one another. How can you do this?
In small everyday ways send the message "you’re important to me" (send a loving e-mail, cook a special meal, offer help with a project, give a small but meaningful gift).
Recognize one another’s strengths, and encourage each other to pursue their values.
Put aside time just for yourselves—to nurture your relationship, either with a shared hobby (e.g., walking, gardening, dancing), love-making, relaxing or enjoying some leisure activity.
Use humor and playfulness to make life more fun.
They didn’t fully know how to cherish one another. These four treasure-tips are ways to help divorce-proof you marriage, and to express and deepen your love for one another.
Not all conflicts can be resolved successfully—sometimes one partner ends up going in a different direction in life, and the other partner does not want to go there. But many conflicts can be resolved if the right methods are used.
Valuing one another—maintaining that initial sparkle that brought you together—is not innate. It is something that needs to be tended to throughout your marriage, like making a flower garden thrive. Marie and Hunter could have avoided this "surprise-ending" to their marriage had they done the work that marital happiness requires.
To avoid unwanted surprises, never let your relationship go on automatic. Together, learn the communication, conflict resolution, and valuing skills that will help you enjoy years of playfulness, success and emotional intimacy together.
If you have some vague sense that everyone else is somehow more important then you are (your husband, your wife, your parents, you friends and your family), it's well worth asking yourself "why?
Some people would have you believe that you have two choices: 1-either you focus only on yourself and you don't give a damn whom you manipulate, control or hurt (The "life is a one way street…my way" view) or 2-you focus only on others and let them use, abuse and manipulate you.
What a lousy view of human nature—the choice they offer you is "take advantage of others or let them take advantage of you". Do you see anything wrong with this choice? If you have fallen for this phony alternative—then it's time to expose it and proudly regain your life back.
"Be a bully or be a doormat". That's the phony choice. Many good people mistakenly choose the doormat route. They say to themselves "I don't want anything for myself. I just want to make everyone else happy." Does this sound familiar? If you try to follow this policy, making yourself into a second class citizen, do you notice what effect it has on you over time? Do you find that it is hard to stop that ever-growing resentment as you watch others achieve their dreams while you stagnate and cater to those others?
You may start to think, "What am I, a doormat? Why am I always doing the laundry, cleaning the toilets, making the beds, and giving up the hours of my days to please them? I notice they don't try to please me."
"Why do my relationships always seem to involve giving to those who are willing to take? Why can't they take responsibility for themselves? Why can't we deal with each other as equals? Why do I tend to put myself in a one-down position?" Do you look back on your life and wonder why you have not achieved happiness? Instead you may feel anxious, inadequate, and depressed.
You may tell yourself: "I always did what I was told was right—to put others first. I gave up my dreams. I sacrificed for my family. I let them decide what I should do, whom I should befriend and what hobbies I should pursue. I lived to please them. I was good! Why do I now feel so empty and bitter?"
Why has this self-less lifestyle made you feel as though you were without a self? Why do you now feel unfulfilled, unhappy, bitter, depressed, anxious and cynical? You were told this code—put others first—was one that was supposed to bring you happiness!
If you are caught in this trap—you desperately need to know that the choice to "take advantage of others or be a doormat" is a choice you should scream—"no" to. Both alternatives lead to unhappiness. They are both irrational. One says take advantage of others and manipulate them. The other says let others take advantage of you. It's like saying to your child: Do you want to beat me up today or do you want me to beat you up?
That's a false choice. The child should answer—let's respect each other and each pursue our own healthy interests. Notice that that is the choice that is left out.
What about the choice in which you focus on your rational interests without ever taking advantage of others and your friends and family are free to pursue their own personally chosen rational interests without taking advantage of you? You deal with each other as traders, not as slave and master.
I guarantee that you will like yourself more and have much healthier relationships when you discover this option.
You have probably been told, throughout your life, that you are second class, less important than others. It's not said in those terms. It's said in disguise - in simple comments such as:
"Take care of everyone else first before you take care of yourself" or "Do this just because—I don't want to hear any lip from you" or "Be polite, don't say what's on your mind - it might hurt others feelings" or "Keep quiet and do what your father says" or "I don't care what you want. I know what's best for you and you'll do what I say".
These simple statements often translate over time into the more generalized rule to put others first (i.e. you come last). The idea, that others are more important than you, destroys your life and happiness when it becomes your mental operating policy. This notion, "others are more important", is a vicious idea. It typically cuts you down just as you are discovering your own interests and values in life. And values and valuing skills are essential to your happiness. By valuing skills I mean valuing yourself as a person by achieving good character traits (e.g., honesty, independence in thought and action). You want to fundamentally admire the person you are. You want to feel worthy of pursuing, not your mother's, not your father's, nor your spouse's dreams for you, but your rational dreams. Your parents had their chance to pursue their own dreams. If they defaulted on that, they don't get a second chance by living their dreams through you. Don't allow them to push you into the career of their choice, not yours.
What are YOUR rational dreams? Have you paused long enough to take stock of what makes your life worth living? What have you always wanted to achieve or to accomplish? Did you want to become an inventor, or to be a dancer or an actress, or to write a novel, or to learn to fly a plane? Have you had a lifelong hidden fascination with the culinary arts? Maybe you dreamed of opening your own restaurant… but your parents wanted you to become a lawyer. You gave in. You told yourself "to be respectful of them". Did this choice cost you your happiness? When you abandon your possible dreams…well, you know the rest of the story all too well. What do youwant in life?
Notice I did not say "should"—what "should you do"—that word will typically send you on a thought path marked "duty" and "guilt" - typically an unearnedguilt.. What are your deepest interests? I said what do you want to achieve? What are your buried dreams? What would make you wake up each morning, pop out of bed with vigor to start the day with an interest you love? Why would you want to spend another year, day or hour of your life on unchosen duties imposed by others? Now be careful. This does not mean that you can abandon your children. You have valid responsibilities that you have chosen. But how much of your day (today for example?) is being spent doing things that are your personal rational interest or passion…and how much of today will you whittle away on less important or unchosen obligations.
If you find that you are whittling away your life, if you feel trapped with unchosen obligations and chores, how do you gently disentangle yourself from this psychological prison? How do you mentally recapture your right to your own life? How do you do so as a self-respecting, responsible person? In this process of recapturing your own life there is one major mistake you can make.When you have spent your life existing to please others, catering to their every need at the expense of your own happiness (the servant or slave version of life) you may conclude that you now want to break free. But many people break free in a disastrous, equally bad way. They switch from slave to slave driver. They may think "I've sacrificed so much for others—now it is time for them to sacrifice for me." "I've been pushed around just about enough—now it's time for me to do the pushing". They start to manipulate and take advantage of others. This is the slave driver/bully version of life—it is another fatal mistake. You still believe that life involves sacrifices—either you serve others or they serve you. You now choose the latter.
I am suggesting a much healthier alternative to the slave or bully version of life. You can respect yourself and your ability to think. You can learn to speak up assertively and to identify your strongest rational interests. You can do the thinking and take the actions needed to achieve your values… without ever running roughshod over others. If you feel trapped, imprisoned, if you allow others to take advantage of you, if you are always trying to please others, if you find yourself frequently apologizing when it is unnecessary or over-explaining yourself—open up those psychological prison doors. Learn the valuing skills to achieve your happiness.