When two people meet and “fall in love” observers and participants alike may remember a “rainbows and sunshine” period at the start of the relationship.
Attention is on each other, and every day is an adventure because each thing done together has not been done together ever before.
Novelty reigns supreme and novelty creates stress, which in this case is exciting, something to be faced together..
They say there are 3 phases of relationship: lust, attraction, attachment. The problem as I see it is that we buy into the idea that as if you move from one to the next you leave the former stage behind.
Of course, I call bullshit on this attempt to “move me along.” In defiance of social science bean counters, my suggestion is to “put lust first… and let love take care of itself.”
That said, ideally one of the most critical things that happens during courtship is negotiation.
No one wants to disappoint others: everyone wants to be someone’s hero. Consider then that the hero has no idea of his limitations; the warrior knows exactly what his limitations are.
Be a warrior and consider your life and who you let into it carefully. If you are not good at negotiation, learn all you can about it and get better at it.
The secret to success is cooperation. Making negotiation skills a priority helps you, the people around you, and society at large.
The most important aspect of successful negotiation is to create a win-win to preserve relationships.
That attitude and intention can create understanding and progress in just about any area of life. Can you confidently bargain for what you want?
Can you create understandings with your partner in advance for all the usual pitfalls such as drinking, pregnancy, sex (including sex after pregnancy), housework, friends, work relationships, social expectations, how to argue and make up, diet, and how fat you will let each other get, etc.?
I remember when I told Missus I’d probably forget her birthday.
That’s when she told me that I should go to the card shop that day and get a bunch of cards to keep in my files.
She said, “And on the day of my birthday, when you come downstairs and realize that you have forgotten, you will go to that filing cabinet of yours and fill out one of those cards. Then you’ll put it on the kitchen table, so I’ll know you made the effort to honour my birthday.”
I did as suggested, never once realizing I was committing to a future with her in the process.
Women are closers.
Today is her birthday and I didn’t forget it. We went to dinner last night with another couple and had a delightful time. We even had a babysitter! Both the company and food were grand.
That’s the card I filled out and put on the table earlier today. I didn’t forget the birthday but realized I had no card to leave her in the morning. I went to the files. We’re not married but we won’t quibble, especially not on her birthday.
Courtship is about those little negotiations.
According to attachment expert and professor Sue Johnston, we need two basic questions answered, “are you there?” and “are you with me?” to make things stick. To me one speaks to presence, the other to loyalty.
One gal told me recently about being harried at lunch while being courted by her husband and making him and her son Kraft dinner with sprayed oil instead of butter. Then she barely mixed the dried packaged cheese that comes with it. She said the lot of it was clearly the worst dinner ever.
The man’s straight-faced response to the little boy was to say, “Now, let’s be sure to thank your mother for a wonderful lunch.”
She said she knew right then she’d marry him.
She did and they have four more kids. I’m not sure if that is encouragement or a warning.
Clearly, it works to put lust first, love will prevail.
I negotiated with Missus most of the things that had gone wrong in my previous relationships. Women drinking outside my presence or where I felt she’d be safe, for example. She took it in stride, and I checked off all the boxes. I could find no reason to NOT love this woman.
And that is just it, I think a man can love just about anyone he puts his mind to loving. We are adaptable if anything.
Missus did some negotiating of her own beyond the card-hack close.
At one point she said, “I want people to look at the two of us and wish they were me. Not look at the two of us and feel sorry for me that I am with you.”
Damn if it is not the best advice I have ever received from a woman (and I’ve had all kinds of good counsel from the sisterhood).
If you are a man feel free to adopt it. If you are a woman, share this advice with men around you if you think it will help. Clearly, I needed to hear it.
Can you make a deal similar to Missus’s advice?
For fuck’s sake, she was young when she taught me these things. We are seventeen years in, with two wonderful kids.
If a 20-year-old broad can negotiate that kind of deal with a man who trained in behavioural sciences, taught sales for decades, and has read a book per week his whole life, so can you. Dammit.
OK, with all that said, here’s my last point. There are no guarantees and there’s no way to tell if a woman is the “right” woman or even a “really great woman.”
If you can tell, you should probably move to New York and run a hedge fund. Speaking of which, women are known as conservative investors but make the bet of their life on a man.
What I can tell you is that I am not the same man I was all those years ago. Neither is Missus the same woman.
Dare I say it, we are better, she definitely is. I’m inspired and at times, I hold in me a quiet awe for her.
And that has as much to do with me as it does with anything else. Men lead, women command.
We bring out the best in each other… or we don’t.