Can We Both ‘Marry Up’?

It is a common assumption made by most dating resources and, indeed, most people, that relationships are a zero-sum game: that someone has to be better for having the other, and that for that to happen, the other must therefore be worse, having made a sacrifice to improve their partner. But I have already discussed why this is not necessarily the case.

What I’m getting to today, thanks to an interesting post by IB last week, is the mentality that brings about this assumption. Because there actually seems to be a step in between “I observe that most relationships are unbalanced” and “therefore there has to be a loser”. And that step is “everyone wants to marry up”.

In and of itself, the statement is innoccuous: of course everyone wants to marry up. We want the genetically fittest partner we can get, as well as a compatible one, so we look out for one who is generally an improvement on us. Sexier, richer, younger, more mature, more famous, brighter, etc. Thus, we look for something better. But the implication is that for someone to be better than us, they must be “hyper”, or “above” us. Thus, we win and they lose.

But the reality is that we also seek compatibility in our genetic fitness. The masculine seek the feminine, the feminine seek the masculine. The creative seek the scientific, the scientific seek the creative. The doctors seek the nurses or the patients. The artists seeks the muse, the model an artist. We want someone who can do what we cannot, what we either do not have the time or the energy or the skills to do. If it had a term, it would be “paideiagamy”: the pursuit of someone who rounds us out, who makes us a complete unit of society.

And this is where we find that middle ground of “marrying up”.

You see, there are two ways of marrying up.

The first is when partner A is clearly beneath partner B. Not just in one aspect, but as a sum total of their desirable qualities. In these cases, only two results are possible. Either partner B becomes idle, and lets slide the characteristics that made them better, causing an evenly married couple where partner A resents partner B for “bait and switch” and partner B resents partner A for “ruining B’s life”. Or partner B continues to work on improvement, or at least maintenance and grows distant, causing partner A to become insecure about the quality gap, causing anger on both sides. In short, you cannot just “marry up” and rest on your laurels.

But there is another kind of marrying up. This is where the partners are either equal or equivalent. Equal in that they are approximately the same in all desirable qualities. Or equivalent in that, despite specific differences, their sum total of desirability is even. However both partners are focused on improving themselves and extend that efford to each other. In working to improve each other, they end up with a continually better partner: one who gives them better access to that which they desire. But they are also improving, incentivizing their partner to also invest in them. Through this process, each member of a couple will appear to have benefitted greatly from the relationship. Their friends and family will compliment the quality of their partner for “fixing” them. But in reality both have improved.

Of course, the second kind of marrying up is all an illusion. Neither married someone objectively better than themselves. You’ve just married your approximate equal and both encouraged each other to improve, giving the impression to everyone but yourselves that one of you struck gold. But “true” marrying up is as much a recipe for failure as marrying down, or being lazy in a relationship are.

So the answer is: Not really. You can’t both marry someone better than you, not in absolute terms. But being unable to both “marry up” does not lead to “zero-sum game”. You can just as easily marry an equivalent, a slight superior or a slight inferior and end up both vastly better off for it. Which may make others assume you married up after all!

Ultimately, you can only win at the game when you play it together.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

What is your perspective on improvement through relationships? And what would your paideiagamy look like: focus on complementarity, on similarity, on contrasts, on better qualities..? Do you think there are any more steps to the disillusion->marry-up->zero-sum-game mentality?

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

7 Steps to Dealing With Yourself In Relationships.

Following an article and a response a while back, I decided to construct my own reply.

Biblical Gender Roles began with “7 Steps to Dealing with a Lazy Wife”.

7 Steps to dealing with a lazy wife
Step 1 – Know beforehand that this will hurt her

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:6 (KJV)

Very few women if any will take it well when their husband tells them he believes they have been lazy and neglectful in their duties to their home. But it must be said.  This is the sacrifice of discipline that you must make as a husband.
Step 2 – Speak the truth in love

“14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:” – Ephesians 4:14-15 (KJV)

The “L” word is not a swear word. In some Christian circles a man saying his wife is acting “lazy” is akin to him calling her a cuss word.  The KJV uses two words for laziness – one is “slothfulness” and the other is “idleness”:

“By much slothfulness the building decayeth; and through idleness of the hands the house droppeth through.” – Ecclesiastes 10:18 (KJV)

So yes speak the truth in love – but speak the truth.  If it walks like a duck and acts likes duck – it’s a duck. In fact the Bible says that a godly wife is NOT a lazy wife:

“She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.” – Proverbs 31:27 (KJV)

There is no sugar coating this gentlemen – if a wife is not keeping up with duties of her household she is being lazy and she must be called out on this.
I think that initially you should try and handle this in private with your wife away from your children and with most other issues.  But at a future point if she continues in this sin of laziness it will become evident to the children that mom is doing something wrong.  I will talk about this more later.
Step 3 – Make the consequences for her laziness clear

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” – Revelation 3:19 (KJV)

At first give her a warning. But let her know that if you come home and see the house is a mess, laundry is not done, the home is not clean or dinners are not being prepared there will be consequences for her laziness.
I have talked in more detail about how men can discipline their wives in my post “7 Ways to Discipline your wife”.
Step 4 – Follow through on disciplinary consequences if she fails to change her ways

“Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” – Hebrews 12:11 (KJV)

If you thought confronting your wife about her laziness was the hardest part you would be wrong.  Following through on the consequences you promised will be the most difficult part.  But remember why Christ sacrificed himself? It was to make his bride holy and so to you must do this to try and yield the fruit of righteousness in your wife’s life.
Step 5 – Attempt private discipline first
Once you have examined “7 Ways to Discipline your wife” you will notice that most of these methods could be instituted in a way that does not draw attention to your wife from your children.  I would suggest you try these kinds of private discipline first.
One method of private discipline that I added as an update to “7 Ways to Discipline your wife” is using your time as a husband as a method of discipline.  This is especially important to men in Tom’s situation where finances are tight. Many women value their husband’s time more than almost anything else.  A man can use discretion with how much of his free time that he allocates to his wife as one method of discipline.
Step 6- Move to more public discipline if private discipline does not work
An example of public discipline would be turning off the internet or cable in your home. Perhaps you might lock these things out with a code only you know. If you need the internet for work or children need it for school you could put the new code only in your computer and theirs and not your wives so she will have no access while others can still use it.  If you have to do this to shake your wife from her laziness this will get the attention of your children as it affects them.
Contrary to what some Christian teachers may teach – you do not have shield your children from your correction and discipline of your wife especially if she puts you in the position to have to do things that are more publicly visible to the rest of the family.
Some might say that this type of discipline undermines a mother’s authority in the eyes of her children and dishonors her before them in direct contradiction to I Peter 3:7’s admonition for men to honor their wives. But this could not be further from the truth.
The mother has dishonored herself by placing her husband in the position to have to elevate his discipline of her from private to public. Matthew 18:15-17 teaches us this principle that first correction is to be attempted privately but if the person remains in unrepentance their sin is to be made public.  Wives and mothers are not an exception to principle.
Step 7 – If she spurns your discipline then bring her before the Church

“…How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof;” Proverbs 5:12 (KJV)

An now we come to the most public form of discipline a man might have to bring against his wife.
As husbands we have a duty to discipline our wives for sinful behavior. But whether it comes to our wives or our children there is only so much that we can do to discipline them and try and get them on the right path. If they despise our discipline and rebel then we must leave them in the Lord’s hands.
It is only when we have exhausted what we can do and if they continue in steadfast rebellion against our attempts to discipline them that we then should bring them before the church (Matthew 18:15-17).
But again they may not even listen to the church.
We must face the fact that discipline does not always yield the results that we want for those we love that are under our authority and spiritual care. But discipline requires two active parties for it to be successful. It requires the authority to perform the discipline and it requires the one under authority to learn from the discipline and change their way.
However, even if the wife does not learn from the discipline and change her ways this does not mean removing the disciplinary measures.  Once all measures have been taken those measures should stay in place until repentance is made.

VioletWisp then followed up with “7 Steps to dealing with a Sexist Partner”:

1. Insist from the start of a relationship that everything is split equally, don’t fall for nonsense notions of men choosing, paying or opening doors.
2. Once co-habiting, ensure household chores are evenly split, so outdated roles aren’t assumed without thought, and the joy of maintaining a well-kept, shared space is appreciated fully by all.
3. Always stay in some form of employment if possible, or at least keep skills up to date, so that a finance card can never be used against you.
4. Let sex fall within a natural rhythm when both of you want it. Never feel the need to go at it for the sake fulfilling an unwritten quota, and risk it becoming something you don’t look forward to.
5. If your partner ever mentions disciplining you, as if you are a child and he is a terrible parent from previous centuries, run a mile.
6. If your partner ever suggests that the egalitarian teachings of the character Jesus can be used to force you to submit to him, tell him you’re joining the Quakers and kick him out.
7. If your partner suggests you are lazy, get pens and paper out and each write down all the shortcomings you see in each other and discuss if either of you are willing or able to change. If you can’t come to agreement and feel the shortcomings are a deal breaker, go your separate ways.

My own reply was a comment at Violet Wisp’s page, but I felt it might be a breath of fresh air among so much… confrontation.

Seven steps to dealing with a relationship as adults:

1. Observe your capabilities from the start of the relationship and give freely and happily. Do not expect returns on investment other than when you invest love and do not keep score. You know, as though you love them.

2. Once co-habiting, ensure all household chores are DONE, whoever the hell does them. Who cares if you slip into traditional or nontraditional gender roles, the dishes need washing.

3. Stay busy earning or saving, but try and get one of you to work part time or from home, just so someone’s there for money saving tasks, animals, children and general conveniences. Plus, being at home all day is a luxury that the recipient will not leave unappreciated.

4. Talk about sex openly and honestly. Have sex when you both want to. Agree to masturbate or compensate sexually for each other when you’re not quite in the mood for proper intercourse. Hangups and frustration suck.

5. If your partner ever mentions disciplining you, first see if you are being unbearable in your demands or denials. There are very few people who will even threaten discipline without feeling sorely hurt. If they are not hurt, you’re dating a nonempath.

6. Work constantly to move towards a better future as a couple, rather than worry about who is or is not in charge. Disagreements are fine. Final decisions can be made by anyone. But when the argument is one vs the other, it will end in disaster.

7. If your partner finds shortcomings in you, talk about them and see if you can see the same issues and whether they bother you. If they do, change them. If they do not, offer your partner an out. Bringing up lists of negatives about each other, mulling them over and going on about them all the time is a great way to stop loving someone. Slight idealizing results in longer, happier relationships. Besides, what sort of a person are you if you can only bring up problems as a response to someone else’s complaints? Why not deal with every problem as they arrive?

Because there is no formula, Biblical, feminist or otherwise, that will make your relationship work, that will get you the “results” you want out of the independent agent that is your partner, that will make everything awesome all the time. There is only the two of you and your own agency. Your partner is not a puzzle piece in your life, nor a project. Cut loose and work on yourself and your relationship. There is only so much you can control.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

 

For help starting out homemaking, check out The ESSENTIAL Beginner Homemaker’s Guide. For help budgeting all your everday and not-so-everyday essentials, from food to transport to clothes, check out On A Budget: The good homemaker’s guide to economizing.

Let’s Have A Serious Discussion.

There is a lot of debate on the subject of serious conversation in relationships and how good or bad it can be. So I am weighing in with this revelation: serious discussion is not kryptonite to romance.

There is a social rule that says that when in polite society you don’t discuss religion, politics or air your dirty laundry. And for some reason we have decided that every romantic relationship, from teenage dates, to courtship, to marriage, is the most extreme form of polite society. That you will never get the attention, sex, affection or commitment you desire if you speak about such terrible matters with each other. Keep your opinion on abortion between friends and your religion for your family, but your husband doesn’t need to know. Talk about foreign policy with your brothers and your emotional hangups with your best friend, but don’t let your girlfriend hear a word.

Of course, this is all well and good if you’re starting out in a relationship with a lot of interest in the other person, a specific goal in mind and don’t want to ruin it by having a huge argument about welfare programs a week into knowing them. You want this to work and, of course, until you’ve got to know each other a little, you don’t actually know whether their religion would be a dealbreaker to either of you or whether you are happy to live with their diagnosed mental disorder forever.

But it seems that people hold onto this approach far beyond it’s usefulness. It’s the standard idea that if something has worked for a week or a month, it will still work. And, of course, far more relationships make it into the third month when you see each other once a week, hang out like teenagers and never meet the other’s family or learn their ideologies. So your head does the math and says “Well, it seems we are more successful at keeping people around when we just don’t talk about anything serious.” And you keep doing that. Which is fine if all you want is to go along for the ride and then to step aside when a better prospect moves in.

But if you want something specific or lasting, that approach just isn’t conductive. Your two hundred exes don’t make you a relationship expert who is doing the right thing. They either make you someone who only wants sex and/or brief companionship or someone who is going about romance and relationships all wrong.

Instead, what you should do once you’ve built that basic layer of trust and familiarity is build intimacy. And intimacy is built by showing your emotions and expressing your thoughts, not by keeping up a facade indefinitely. Frank, friendly debate is good for that. It allows you to deal with charged topics in an amoral setting, to discuss things that matter to you without worrying that this discussion will harm the relationship.

Of course, in the modern world where we’ve come to believe everything is a debate platform, it’s also important not to let your discussions turn into cold political shows for any possible onlookers. When you start a debate on abortion in a restaurant, be certain your partner will be more defensive of their point and appearance than loving towards you. This sort of discussion isn’t exactly organic, but it does flow naturally when in a private setting where both of you feel at ease being honest and appreciative. You don’t want them to be on the defensive. You’re not trying to convert or convince each other. You’re just talking in a relaxed, private setting, to get to know each other. In such a setting, not only will the debate become deeper and more varied, but you will learn a lot more about the other person. And learning about someone in a private setting is good for bonding. Even if what you learn isn’t all good, the little details and those shreds of humanity that you pick up on can make you realize whether they, the relationship or your perspective are more important to you.

Not only is it possible to love someone passionately and disagree with their stance on the housing crisis at once, it can also be a source of romance to have that debate, to tickle each other’s brains and establish that playful push and pull that makes you close. If you can create playfulness and intimacy around serious disagreements and still love someone despite believing them to be objectively wrong, it’s also arguably a sign that you’re going to last a long time. After all, if you are able to discuss all sorts of things, find no dealbreakers and understand that everything is less important than you two as a unit, then something is going right. And the longer the relationship is and the more you talk, the more comes to the surface. Meaning being ten years into an honest relationship where you see each other daily puts you on better ground for knowing where it’s headed than being ten years into an uncommunicative relationship where you see each other weekly. If after ten years of talking the butterflies are still there, that is important. If after ten months of never talking the butterflies are still there, that is meaningless.

So whether your relationship started as one of tens of ignorant romantic partnerships or arose from one of tens of close friendships, if you want it to last, a discussion on Faust wont do anything that another two months wouldn’t do anyway.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

Marriage As A Team.

With the advances of no-fault divorce, women usually being secondary or non-earners, staggered alimony and the assumption of female primary caregiving, it makes sense that a lot of men aren’t really all that interested in marriage. From a purely economic perspective, even if the stats actually show your risk of divorce is well under 50%, there’s still a risk. How many people would put their head into a tame lion’s mouth? It’s still a lion.

However, curiously, women have started to question marriage. At least during the years when we are likely to have a more successful marriage, which is 25-35. Which is odd, considering that we risk very little in marrying and stand to gain so much from either a lifelong marriage or divorce. From a purely objective standpoint, women should at least be ambivalent for men’s sake, at worst be callous supporters. But, as a population, we’re not.

The social demonization of marriage that started in the 60s and 70s is catching up with us. The angry, bitter radicals who called marriage slavery out of one corner of their mouths whilst stalking a man across the globe have finally persuaded most of Western society, men and women alike, that marriage is an evil institution. And they have done so by making it a zero-sum-game.

The basic concept of a zero-sum-game is: someone always wins, someone always loses. In the context of partnerships: one of you will be better off than when you were single and one of you will be worse off than when you were single. And the idea that marriage or long term partnerships are zero-sum-games has infiltrated every corner of our society. Feminists will claim that marriage is anywhere from manipulation to slavery for women, so they must seek to control their relationships carefully. PUAs will claim that marriage and long term relationships are shackles to the minds of men who do not dominate their relationships. Your Joe and Joan Average will work their very hardest to evenly split all their work, incomes, chores and time, so as to guarantee a balance. Everyone is convinced that if you aren’t getting more out than your partner, you’d be better off single.

Which is very scary, considering it undermines one of the main functions of marriage: to grow with each other. The purpose of marriage is to create a mini-community. Which, in our fairly empty, disconnected, callous world, is highly needed as many of us don’t have a larger community anyway. It’s meant to bond two people, get them working in sync so that they both have more than when they started, so they can look after their elders and have and raise healthy, happy children. That was the entire point of marriage.

Therefore, when we try and treat it as a zero-sum-game, as an individual vs individual competition where when you aren’t doing better than them, you’re losing, we aren’t in a marriage. You may have the certificates, but all you’re doing is coexisting, or, worse even, competing.

Instead, when you’re in a long term relationship of any kind, you should be looking at the relationship as the whole and yourselves as the halves. You are not factories, but production units in a little factory. And you should be working on everything you can to keep the factory (your relationship) functional and profitable for both of you. And this becomes quite a cycle. For example, how Jon and I work together to give ourselves a better life:

  1. Jon works full time so he can afford to rent this house. +space
  2. I care for the house so he doesn’t have to. Meaning the house is more worth having and leaving us more together time. +time
  3. I can cook him far better, healthier meals than he could cook himself in the time he used to have, saving us money on snacks and supplements. +money
  4. Because the house is so big, I can use the spare bedroom as an office to tutor from. I can also grow our own food in the garden. +money
  5. Because I work as a private tutor, I can earn £10-25/h, rather than minimum wage of £6.50/h not including travel and expenses. +money
  6. Because I work from home, I work on my own hours. +time
  7. Which means I also can arrange my work day to take advantage of discounts, offers, reduced price foods. +money
  8. Which means his disposable income hasn’t actually dropped much from when he lived in a single room. +money
  9. Which means the need for overtime is reduced. +time

If we both worked full time, split the chores when we got home and only had that little remainder together, we’d have less money, less free time and eventually not be able to afford the space we live in, the quality of food we eat or the entertainment we use. In short, if we acted as individuals, our quality of life would go down. So basically, by working together, as a unit, viewing time together as our main free time, and our assets as shared rather than split, we have both improved our quality of life. He has a larger home, better food, more time with me, more time for leisure activities, more flexibility with work and more money in the bank at the end of the month than when single. I have a larger home, better work prospects, more time with him, more time for leisure activities and more money in the bank at the end of the month than if I were single. We’re in a relationship and by viewing the relationship as the unit and ourselves as component parts: we both win.

So no, long term relationships aren’t a zero-sum-game where there has to be a loser and if you can’t spot the loser, the loser is you. They are a team game where you both work together and use your assets to protect each other’s assets, multiplying the rewards for your work. They are an investment in a partner that, if well -calculated, will pay you back. If you can’t spot the loser, but you’re richer, happier, with more free time and a generally higher standard of life than before: you’re not a loser, you’re playing the game right.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

What is your view on long term relationships? How does your relationship or marriage work? What do you feel your personal investment gives back to you as a couple? Do share!