Committed?

Being committed is not for everyone todayI’m a bit put off by Elizabeth Gilbert

The author of the phenomenally popular Eat, Pray, and Love has been on TV, promoting the paperback edition of her sequel, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. In it, Gilbert applies literary analysis and self-reflection to the subject of marriage.

 
Ms. Gilbert — who has embarked on her second marriage after much soul-searching — recommends that couples write down and disclose their five worst character flaws.
 
What silly advice!
 
 
She told an interviewer that romance and seduction lead to marriage; you show yourself in your best light. But then the reality of marriage cannot sustain it.
 
 I worry about people who would rely on a list for that information. They are obviously rushing into a marriage with someone they don’t know well at all. Gilbert is not wrong that we need to know the character of the person to whom we pledge our troth. Frankly darlings, right before marriage is a little late to discover a person’s character flaws – at least for my taste.
 
People don’t change
The biggest mistake women, and some men, make when they fall in love is thinking a person will change. Few people do and even fewer ever change for love. Cheaters keep on cheating, spendthrifts spend, and slobs, well, you get the idea.
 
Many people can be little lax about their behavior in university. They may party it up or be a little sloppy. But a year or two out of school, you should have a pretty good preview of who you will be getting as a partner. If you are dating someone in their thirties or older, shut off the oven — they’re cooked.
 
So, if there are things about them you don’t like — stinginess, bad temper, big debts, or some other deal-breaker — move on. Odds are they won’t change. Trust me darlings, he may be fabulous fun or good looking, but if he has huge debts, is crazy jealous, or has some other fatal flaw, move on.
 
Men are better at spotting trouble than women. I know a lovely woman. She is accomplished and talented, but she is an emotional handful. Men sense the drama and leave her quickly, despite her good looks and charm.
 
But you can fine tune
I had another friend, whom I am pretty sure will always be single. She nit-picks every man she meets. She wants her ideal man to speak several languages, be brilliant and well-traveled, and have an impressive job. She is cute, but a little pudgy. She speaks several languages and has a good, but not fabulous, job. She does not find too many men who meet her standards. I could also mention the competition she faces from younger, prettier women as she has reached 40, but I don’t think that’s her real problem. Her biggest problem is one I see all the time; she can’t see possibilities. She never spots a good fixer-upper. She is so full of her own demands and sense of entitlement that she is blind to what some very nice, successful guys have to offer.
 
You can’t change people but you can change their clothes, their apartments, and even some of their annoying friends. Men who are good, kind, smart, and fun — but a bit scruffy — often are waiting for a good woman to spiff them up.
 
Getting noticed
Wise woman and single-girl maven Helen Gurley Brown talked about a woman’s total package of assets. Helen’s definition of ‘package’ included looks, personality, wealth, career, and fame. She is a practical woman. She also said it is hard to attract men who had a much better package than you. Like it or not, she wasn’t wrong. So if want a lot in mate, do as Helen Gurley Brown suggested, and increase the value of your package.
 
Deal-breakers
Troubles can a rise from different domestic, financial, or child-rearing styles and expectations. Deal-breakers are personal. They are things on which you just can’t and won’t compromise. It’s insane how many women try to hide their true likes and dislikes in the initial stage of relationship. It’s crazy too. If you don’t like sports – I loathe them – can’t he watch them with his friends? Why pretend to be someone you are not, to attract someone?
 
Deal-breakers include big- and small-ticket items. They include fidelity, finance, and children. They can also include things such as having your own bathroom or study. I need my own bathroom, it’s my sanctuary.
 
Make a list of your deal-breakers and keep track of any potential partner’s “deal-breakers” too. They are easy to spot, if you look.
 
Financial disclosure
Anyone who marries today without financial disclosure is insane. It’s that simple. A good friend, almost on the eve of her wedding, discovered that the person she was about to marry had no assets and was in serious debt, despite a good income. They are happily married today, but the spender had to surrender his credit cards to the saver — before the ceremony.
 
Romance and seduction
Darlings, I have been lucky to know too many people who have good marriages. It is becoming a rarity. Marriage is not for everyone, but it can be a wonderful, if you enter it knowing that no one marries a perfect person – not even the person who marries you.
 
I remember two newlywed diplomats in Russia. They constantly bragged about the perfection of their union. They even had the same first name; it was too cute. Soon we were all rolling our eyes as they held forth on how they conducted their “dream marriage”. They lectured us happily long-married couples on the merits of banning TV in favour of long dinners and baths together. Before they left Moscow they took to declaring they “couldn’t wait to go to Italy and have babies”. None of us were surprised to hear they had divorced – in Italy.
 
I think romance holds a marriage together. If you lose your sense of romance, then you have one of those marriages that people dread – dull, boring, or worse. But it requires small daily acts of romance, not the big daily show, as the doomed newlyweds had attempted. Taking time to make your home attractive, to share a cocktail and a good dinner are the things that season a relationship with romance. Love notes written after years of marriage are romantic and affirming. Flowers for no reason and taking pleasure in a shared glass of wine may be clichéd, but they are the stuff of everyday romance.
 
If you are looking to be “committed” for the long run, take care of the practicalities, but never my darlings, forget the romance.
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