Friday, July 25, 2008

Getting What You Deserve

Back before my CH was the angel that brought the sun which warmed my spirit and brightened my days, he was my pen friend. During the brief period of time when we weren't over the moon about each other, we each made a list of the attributes we both felt should be present in a perfect mate. The discussion of this list may have been fueled by a latent attraction or the fact that the CH long before he was my CH had gone through an emotionally difficult break-up with a girlfriend. The types of things he did and did not want were foremost in his mind when considering what went wrong, particularly since his ex is a nice person and they got on so well before it all went wrong.

When we compared our list, I recall that we each listed 10 items and that he fit 8 of my criteria easily and possibly all of them in some sense. The only one he felt somewhat strongly did not apply to him was "ambitious," though he probably saw "ambition" differently than I did. I wasn't hoping for someone who was going to become a doctor or join the peace corps. I was thinking mainly of someone who wanted to engage in some sort of "professional" work. In other words, I was hoping for someone who didn't aspire to no more than working in a local gas station or convenience store and spend most nights at locals bars getting sauced then cheating on their wives by sleeping with their sisters-in-law. That was the way that most of the local males in my area ended up. Though the list is lost forever, I do recall that certain things were not on it. Being attractive, tall, rich, having high status, and an impressive education were all absent from my list. Mainly, I wanted someone who was intelligent, emotionally stable, funny, kind, communicative, affectionate and attentive.

I often tell people that they get the spouse they deserve based on their priorities and I completely believe that is true. If you get someone who is a shallow gold-digger, then your priorities in choosing your mate landed you that type of person. It will likely come as no surprise to anyone that many people (from my own culture, I don't say this to Japanese people) disagree with my assertion in this regard. The most vigorous disagreement comes from those who have had bad break-ups and divorces. I'm sure such people feel as if they were wonderful and were tricked, taken advantage of, duped, or witnessed a dramatic change of character when everything went wrong in the relationship. Such people are likely misunderstanding what I mean when I say you get the spouse you "deserve" though this is likely due to my choice of words. I certainly do not mean a person with a bad spouse is a bad person who "deserves" the pain of a rotten relationship. It's more the case that the way in which they rule out certain parties and include other parties results in them getting the person they ended up with. If you're going to reject good people in favor of people who have shortcomings, then you deserve the one with shortcomings. More often than not, beauty is the reason those shortcomings are ignored initially.

Note that I have rarely met anyone who didn't put "attractive" on their list of priorities (near the top or at the top) except my husband and I. That is not to say my husband isn't as cute as all get-out and doesn't have the kindest face ever to exist (even my students will remark immediately after meeting him that he has "kindly eyes"), but rather that that was a "bonus" and not a requirement of my loving him. Inevitably, anyone who puts physical beauty on the list defends this choice by saying that it is natural for humans to want beauty and that you can't marry someone to whom you are not sexually attracted. This is true, but the fact of the matter is that beauty is one of the worst criteria for choosing a mate in modern culture where producing off-spring is not the most important result of the relationship and relationships revolve around higher order needs than putting bison on the table for dinner.

What most people either don't realize or simply fail to consider is that every positive "yin" you get in a person's character will come with a negative "yang". Ambition often brings single-mindedness, a lack of attention, and one's partner appearing lower on the totem pole than a job. My CH's laid-back nature (which I adore) brings a certain amount of laziness and a lack of ambition. Fortunately, these things don't trouble me. In fact, one of the ways in which I have become sanguine about aspects of my mate's character which initially troubled me was to realize that they were the flip-side of the coin. I couldn't have the things I treasured in him without some of the things which may not make my life the easiest. If I can't live with "tails" coming up once in awhile on the character coin, then I can't have "heads". You have to appreciate the good aspects of your partner enough to be patient with the not so good ones or you're simply being unfair.

One of the lessons I teach is about relationships. Part of the lesson is asking the student what they value in a partner. After hearing their lists, I try to impress upon my students that they can't have it all. I also try to dissuade them from making appearance the highest priority by letting them know that beauty lasts 20 years at best and then you live with only the personality. It's the structural integrity of the house that matters, not the attractiveness of the facade.

All of these thoughts about relationships were initiated when I saw pictures of Joseph at Tame Goes Wild with his fiancee. He's getting married very soon and seeing pictures of him and his bride-to-be planting a tree before leaving England for Japan further fueled my belief that they are going to be the type of couple who deserve each other in the best possible way. I met Joseph when he worked as a temporary worker at my former office and he was quite a different person then compared to now (as was I, I'm sure). He's aspiring to be a positive person who contributes to the world in the best possible way and I hope he and his *Twinkle* spend the rest of their lives working together to do all the good things they dream about doing. I'm sure the world will be a better place for their union.

Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. *Twinkle*, and many happy returns!


Liz Stone Abraham said...

So much to respond to. Packing for Cape Cod. Will comment as soon as I can. Keep writing and I'll try to keep up with you!

Melanie Gray Augustin said...

I agree with so much that you've said. I also had ambious on my list, and that doesn't really describe my dh. But on the flipside, I've got a lovely attentive, caring husband, who cooks, cleans and looks after me, while my ambious side gets distracted in achieving things. We really compliment each other that way.

Liz Stone Abraham said...

Yes, certainly you must expect to take bad with the good. After nine years, I think that my husband and I are still working towards that goal. I'm moody but can pull myself together if he needs me. He's a perfectionist but (sometimes) accepts my haphazardness.

But I must question the concept of "getting what you deserve." I know people who have deeply loved their spouses and have been devastated to discover that the spouse was unworthy of this love. Nothing cosmic about it; they just made a mistake.

Orchid64 said...

Melanie: I think unambitious men may actually make better husbands for ambitious women. ;-)

Liz: I had hoped to clarify what I meant by "deserve", but perhaps I didn't do the best job of it. It has nothing to do with karma or being a bad person or a good person. It has to do with the choices you make netting the resulting spouse you end up with.

As an example, let's say you go car shopping and you choose a nice, shiny red sports car because it's so cool-looking, but ignore the loud muffler, rusty underside and spongy breaks. When the car has problems, you can say that you got the car you deserved because of the priorities you put on its appearance over other concerns. That's the sort of "deserve" I mean.

Joseph said...

Belatedly, many thanks for your kind words and congratulations! They were much appreciated by both of us.

I totally agree with you in that people get who they deserve, and perhaps who they need at that time in their lives.

I am constantly amazed (and grateful) that I 'got' *Twinkle*, and incredibly appreciative of how rewarding and educating the relationship has come to be. It's interesting, as many of the qualities in *Twinkle* that I most admire and appreciate now didn't become apparent until some months in to the relationship (such as her sensitivity towards / ability to understand others, her willingness to help me move beyond my comfort zone, in addition to her own desire to be the best person she can be).

I'd like to be able to say that physical attractiveness would not have been on my list had I had a list, but alas I think that that would be a lie. It certainly wasn't a priority though, more a bonus.

Thinking of our 'connection', I was pretty stunned by how this extended to our parents too; they got on so well when they came over last week for the wedding. Like neighbouring pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, they've become best buddies (despite the language / cultural 'barrier'), sharing many interests (including anthroposophy, which isn't exactly a common philosophy). They're a perfect match!

I feel there's some pretty strong connection between us, something that we are not necessarily meant to understand, and whilst I do find her wildly attractive now, I reckon that that unseen connection will still lie at the core of our passion for the relationship when we're in our 90s! (although of course I will think she is the cutest obaachan on the block!)