Friday, November 10, 2006

on marriage & looks

My Hong Kong correspondent writes:
I myself have been wondering what is the most important thing a woman shld seek in a man. And what elements contribute to a successful marriage. (You think your sober husband will be able to come up with an equation?)

My actual big question is "Are looks all that important"?
I showed this to the Sober Husband, and he backed away from the computer. I think that quite possibly he could come up with an equation for a successful marriage, but he would, in the interests of self-protection and marital harmony, not be willing to show it to me. (And, if one scoffs at the idea that such a formula can be determined, I direct you to the formula for determining how many men a woman has slept with, which offended me when I read it but yet, when I went through the steps, it was dead-on for me personally. And no, don't ask me to go into further detail here. Some things are best left unsaid).

I don't know the Secret to a Successful Marriage definitively, but I think that I know how to predict whether one will fail. Again, as with so much in life, I learned this from the Wall St. Journal (90% of what I know comes from my subscriptions to the WSJ and the New Yorker; less than 5% probably comes from my time at Stanford. Skip the student loans, young people; just take out some subscriptions). On August 6, 2002 the WSJ covered Professor Gottman's divorce prediction test: an observer can predict, with amazing accuracy, whether a couple will stay together by observing whether or not they roll their eyes at each other. It is expressing contempt for the other person, even if done in a light, humorous way, which is deadly. I was deeply impressed by this, not least because I had the habit of sarcastically rolling my eyes at Husband 2.0 from time to time. In my defense, the man surely elicits eye-rolling when he gets on his crank topics, such as "I don't believe in vitamins. What is a vitamin, anyway? A molecule? No. A mineral? No." But since reading the WSJ that August morning, I have striven mightily to maintain discipline of the eyeballs, no matter how cranklike the Sober Husband may get.

And it's true that treating my views, no matter how drunken I might be when I express them, with contempt or derision is the most inflammatory thing the husband could do. I used to complain rabidly that he was "the most condescending person I have ever met", and it's been years since I've done that.  He learned over the years not to condescend to me.  For a while, he was supposed to repeat the mantra "my-wife-is-competent; my-wife-is-competent" when he felt a need to correct me superiorly, and it must have had an effect.  It's probably not coincidental that the frequency of our arguments has declined; some years, we may only have one or two real fights (often coinciding with visits from his mother).

As for looks: I think looks attract someone, but they can't keep the person for the long haul. Looks fade (hell, mine have more than faded; they have positively evaporated. I was a hottie when Husband 2.0 and I hooked up, but no one is exactly calling me arm candy after ten years and two children). There are plenty of ugly people out there who have found passion and love, and there are plenty of conventionally gorgeous people out there who can't manage a relationship. Just don't roll your eyes, my friends; don't roll your eyes.


Jim McKee said...

Hell, you get major kudos just for using the phrase "I have striven mightily". That's some powerful stuff, there.

Anonymous said...

Wow I'm very impressed with the formula! But I'd have to try it on afew friends before I believe it really works.

Hey thanx for addressin my question. Actually, I think in this day and age with so much choice and distraction it's real hard to be content with what you have. Alot of people like myself strive for "more" and stray.

My major prob is I have the ideal and then the reality and am always working to merge the two, and in the process my eyes keep rolling and rolling! :)

Cheers to WSJ!

the Drunken Housewife said...

Dear Rups, you must strive mightily (thanks, jim mckee!) to forget the ideal. There is no such thing as a magical, mystical soulmate, someone whose eyes will meet ours and we'll be lost in a haze of simultaneous orgasms and no arguments, never. No one is perfect.

Anonymous said...

Darlin, you are brain candy!

And you are right about the eye rolling thing. Who would want to be with someone who wasn't treating them with respect? This was a big problem with my former husband. he stopped respecting me, and started acting like a jerk. Finally I decided I had had enough!

Heck, even my incredible partner and I get frazzled and snap at each other occasionally, or have misunderstandings, but we don't disrespect each other. It's the healthiest relationship I have EVER been in!