Monogamy and Integrity

A Soldier And His MistressRecent events in national news have me reflecting on a point I make, that in America the ideal marriage form is monogamy not polygamy. Along with this, the American ideal is that these marital partners are not only monogamous in form but are faithful to each other during the entirety of the marriage. Throughout human history soldiers have been separated from their loved ones for extended periods of time and, with all the conquering going on, it was generally assumed that warriors would be sexually active wherever they roamed. However much Americans may be aware of this, we nonetheless embrace the ideal that our warriors, who are married, would remain faithful to their spouses back home even when separated for years and by many miles. For most nations, throughout most of human history, knowledge of what went on away from home pretty well shaped the expectations and acceptance of the people back home. That tends not to be true for most Americans. We hold our military accountable to a higher ethic.

It is by now not an unusual story, the derailing of a notable career in politics, sports, business, government and military due to marital infidelity. It is also a typical part of biographies of past notable figures in these fields having had extramarital relations for a long time without these misbehaviors hurting their career, since the media gave little or no attention to these goings on. In our media saturated world, there is very little privacy left to successfully hide sexual misbehavior for long, especially for those people fortunate/unfortunate enough to demand a media following. The price of fame is unrelenting scrutiny and, largely, the loss of privacy.

A typical phrase heard during times of political campaigns is that, “All politics are local.” This seems to apply also to the undoing of these well-known figures. By that I mean, these people are not brought down by the big issues in the world where they operate or by the enemies, at their level, that they have generated. Instead they are brought down by person-to-person jealousies, rivalries and bragging that thrust the misbehaviors out into the national spotlight. It has long been recommended, somewhat cynically, that whatever you do, don’t write anything down. Had you in times past written things down there was little likelihood, if you were careful, that you were in much danger of discovery. I frankly shake my head in amazement that perfectly bright, technically alert people not only write things down but write them in e-mails which seemingly go everywhere, to everyone, forever.

During my years at Florida State a new constitution was created which used the concept of, “Government in the sunshine,” requiring governmental boards to do their business in the open for all to see and hear, rather than the long-standing tradition of secretive meetings being held to keep the public from being aware of who was doing what. I am once again reminded of the working definition of integrity as behaving as you would behave if everyone was watching you. Doing so would save individuals a lot of personal pain and society at large a lot of turmoil and disruption.

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The Red Light District (not what you think)

For many years I taught a course on how to be more successful in selecting dating partners and ultimately marriage partners.Most of the people who took the course had had enough negative experiences in dating, hoping to find out what they were doing wrong. Most of these people had also read lots of advice columns and even relationship books hoping to become wiser and more skilled in the selection of dating partners and in having dating life be a wonderful experience rather than hurt and disappointment. Having been a psychotherapist for number of years, having taught thousands of college students and being familiar with the material available for someone searching for answers, I quickly came to believe that what was missing was basic information about how and why dating was done the way it was. I realized that most dating, romance and relationship books didn’t start with the basics but started at least at the intermediate, if not the advanced, level. It was rather like picking up a book to help you understand the American pastime of  baseball, only to read 300 pages about the selection of wood to make bats or what type of clay was best around home plate. Reading many books like this would hardly equip you to understand the game or to play it better. So, in this course, I started with the basic idea that the American method of mate selection is dating. This seemed obvious and yet is a recent phenomenon in the whole sweep of human history and is an especially American approach to this very important decision.

I have now written a book using the same basic concepts I used in teaching that course. My purpose is to make what I consider valuable information available to a much larger audience than can be reached by teaching the course locally. This book is also written to be easily understood without having elaborate explanations by an instructor. I use illustrations from real life and many quotes giving wise, and frequently humorous, perspectives on this most enjoyable segment of human life.

Since you will be picking your own dating partners, instead of skipping dating and simply having your parents pick a spouse for you at the appropriate time, it’s crucial that you become sharp in reading people as you meet them, in knowing who they really are in a very short time.I use the analogy of the traffic light to simplify categorizing potential dating partners and to understand clearly what is happening in the relationship as it develops. The red light means stop and go no further if a person has these characteristics. The yellow light means there are issues that the two of you need to share with each other in order to not cause unnecessary stress to the developing relationship. The green light means that things are proceeding as they should at this stage in the relationship and, with eyes wide open, you probably should continue as you’re going.

I also emphasize that, in the partner selection process, equals attract. This means that it is quite important for you to maximize your appeal  to the opposite sex in order to attract someone you would really be pleased with. This doesn’t require an enormous amount of work, just being clued in to upgrading your behaviors, to create a more appealing and competent you.

The book is written to appeal to people who are just beginning to enter the dating world, who likely see themselves as needing no help in selecting and attracting dating partners or in running a romantic life. People who are older than that probably don’t need to be convinced of the value of such a book, having experienced enough of life to know how complicated romance can be.

The electronic version is now available to all those who have e-readers. It is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, etc. It will also be available soon in print version.

Hope Springs

In the movie, “Hope Springs”, Meryl Streep plays a compliant, 30 years married woman who is longing to inject some romantic spirit into her life with her somewhat clueless curmudgeon of a husband, Tommy Lee Jones. While the movie probably doesn’t hold too much interest for the under 30 viewers, it probably hits closer to home with the middle-aged and older. I know how stereotypical it is for young people to be grossed out by the thought of their parents, or parents’ generation in general, being interested in romance, especially the physical side of it. That I have never had any difficulty realizing that romance can be rekindled among people who have been married many years, certainly long enough to have long since found themselves in a rut romantically, as well as not finding it surprising that older, even elderly, people could rediscover romance and sexual interest with an appropriate partner, is at least partly due to the fact that I grew up in Bradenton, Florida and that my dad was a minister. Bradenton always had a large group of retired citizens and, particularly, I remember Braden Castle, where small frame homes with minimum upkeep, set close together, divided only by carports, were filled with retired couples, mostly moving in from up north. These couples became close friends with each other and, as time passed, one person in each couple was eventually left widowed.

As these singles adjusted to their new lives, it was not unusual for romantic interest to spring up between a widow or widower. I well remember going with my dad to tie the knot for couples who were trying marriage yet again, after the death of their previous spouses. I remember how obvious it was that the bride and groom were in love, flirted with each other and were teased by their friends much the same as what I observed at the more typical weddings that Dad performed, where young people were getting married, with all the hope of a wonderful marital future. The friends of the widowed groom did the usual male to male teasing with sexual innuendo. Meanwhile the bride blushed and giggled as she and her friends talked about her truseau and as they teased her about what would happen on her wedding night. It was rather obvious to me that romance could be alive and well at any age. I’m never surprised that singles of any age could fall in love and I’m never surprised to encounter couples who’ve been married for decades, yet still have powerful romantic and sexual interest in each other. This was obviously true of my parents, from my youngest memories all the way through to the day Dad died.

I’ve worked with couples who have been married for many years, who long assumed that the romance and physical lovemaking were gone from the marriage, yet were able, rather like Kay and Arnold in the movie, to reignite their romantic interest in each other. An added plus to the time spent rediscovering the zest in their relationship was that, along the way, they got to know each other better than they ever had known each other, in various ways. While intimacy is frequently used with reference to physical intimacy, it is perhaps best understood as the degree to which you share yourself with another person, how fully you let yourself be known,rather than withholding or hiding, from the other person, significant parts of who you are, what you think, how you feel and what you want.

Fittingly,”Hope Springs” is a romantic comedy. I’ve long found that a key ingredient in budding romance, and certainly in re-creating romance, is a good sense of humor for each partner. You need to be able to not take yourself too seriously and to be able to extend to your partner the same generous acceptance. And it is infinitely better to be able to find humor in your partner’s oddities rather than gnashing your teeth about them.

It’s an interesting world.