Friday, February 19, 2010

How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy

A fair number of Baha'i Thought readers seem to like discussing relationships and marriage. I just stumbled over an article on The Daily Beast from the authors of a book provocatively titled "How Not to Marry the Wrong Guy: Is He the One or Should You Run". Below are their top five reasons that women date and end up marrying the wrong guy:

1. Loneliness and insecurity.

“I was needy and lacked self-confidence, despite my professional success. I sought to fill that gap with a man.”

Latching on to a man for the sake of latching on will not make you feel better. It might work for awhile, but it won’t last. Want unconditional love? Get a dog or cat instead.

2. Belief that a relationship is a solution to their problems.

“I didn’t want to keep foundering in my life all by myself.”

Don’t look to a man—or a relationship—to solve your problems. Figure out what’s really bothering you—your job, unrealistic expectations of yourself and others, your harried 21st-century lifestyle—and tackle your issues by yourself.

3. External pressures (passing time, friends, family, etc.)

“All my friends were dating seriously. I think I subconsciously planned on getting serious with the next person that came along. It didn’t really matter who it was!”

No one’s opinion matters more than your own. Don’t let outside pressure or some arbitrary timetable dictate your life. It won’t end well.

4. Belief that he will fix her/she will fix him

“I convinced myself I could make any relationship work. I would be whoever I needed to be to make it work.”

It’s not your job to fix him or change him. And you shouldn’t change who you are in order to make any relationship work. If you need something fixed, hire a handyman. If you need to fix yourself, find a good therapist.

5. Ignoring red flags and gut feelings

“Honestly, I always had a gut feeling he wasn’t the right one, even from our first date, but I went with it because he really pursued me.”

Instincts are to relationships what Pepto-Bismol is to indigestion. Your gut feelings are your internal warning system. Ignore them at your own peril. (Read the whole thing here)

I wanted to try something a little different this time. I want readers to have a chance to share their thoughts about this first and then I'll tell you what I think. Why do you think some people end up marrying the wrong person? What can people do to avoid this? Do you agree/disagree with what the authors of this piece are saying?

Update: February 24th

Thanks to everyone who offered your thoughts on this subject. Our success or failure in choosing our marriage partners wisely has serious implications for our lives, our families and perhaps even our souls. Here are some of my thoughts.

Loneliness: Some would say that loneliness is a kind of epidemic in some societies. However, this not simply loneliness for a romantic partner but a sense of deep disconnection from people generally and from God as well. You can feel this kind of loneliness even if you are in a relationship because it can't be cured that way. What's required is a change of consciousness that becomes reflected in changes in behavior: the consciousness of the oneness of humankind and striving to build bonds of love and unity with all people, not just the ones we hope to hook up with:

For this reason must all human beings powerfully sustain one another and seek for everlasting life; and for this reason must the lovers of God in this contingent world become the mercies and the blessings sent forth by that clement King of the seen and unseen realms. Let them purify their sight and behold all humankind as leaves and blossoms and fruits of the tree of being. Let them at all times concern themselves with doing a kindly thing for one of their fellows, offering to someone love, consideration, thoughtful help. Let them see no one as their enemy, or as wishing them ill, but think of all humankind as their friends; regarding the alien as an intimate, the stranger as a companion, staying free of prejudice, drawing no lines."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 1)

Relationships as a solution: What's the point of the problems we face in our lives? We have to start with understanding the point of life itself:

'What is the purpose of our lives?'

'Abdu'l-Bahá. -- 'To acquire virtues. We come from the earth; why were we transferred from the mineral to the vegetable kingdom -- from the plant to the animal kingdom? So that we may attain perfection in each of these kingdoms, that we may possess the best qualities of the mineral, that we may acquire the power of growing as in the plant, that we may be adorned with the instincts of the animal and possess the faculties of sight, hearing, smell, touch and taste, until from the animal kingdom we step into the world of humanity and are gifted with reason, the power of invention, and the forces of the spirit.' (Abdu'l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 176)

Problems provide us with the possibility of acquiring virtues. They are part of the training program for our souls. If we go into a relationship to solve our problems, we are in for a rude awakening because relationships will and should provide us with new problems, new challenges.

Going with your gut: Here's the deal, your gut is not infallible. Feelings are not facts. Your internal warning system may not have been assembled properly. Going with your gut sounds like sage advice only if you don't take these realities into account. I would say that intuition functions most effectively if it's combined with consultation:

Take ye counsel together in all matters, inasmuch as consultation is the lamp of guidance which leadeth the way, and is the bestower of understanding.
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 168)

How not to be the wrong guy (or gal): I believe it was Ghandi who said that we have to be the change we want to see in the world. To paraphrase Ghandi, we need to be the person we claim we want to marry.

Say: Honesty, virtue, wisdom and a saintly character redound to the exaltation of man, while dishonesty, imposture, ignorance and hypocrisy lead to his abasement. By My life! Man's distinction lieth not in ornaments or wealth, but rather in virtuous behaviour and true understanding.
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 57)

Folks are welcome to keep this conversation going.