Am I marrying the right person ? (Pt 3)
Contents of this Part
Compatibility – specific issues (cont.)
Contribution to the relationship
Compatibility – specific issues (cont.)
As a sort of addendum to financial compatibility, in my experience an incompatibility concerning different attitudes to holding on to money is a very important factor in the happiness or otherwise of marriages. In talking of misers, I am talking of people who hate spending money on anything that they don’t consider to be essential, and who then have a pretty narrow view of what they consider to be essential. In other words, people who aspire to be the richest corpses in the graveyard. I am not talking of people who follow budgets to achieve various financial goals (unless, of course, once they achieve those goals they have forgotten how to spend money).
It is possible to have a workable relationship with a miser, but you will need to have your own source of income, and control over it, and you need to go into the relationship with the knowledge that the other person is a miser, and the belief that you can cope with that fact.
Then, there are the half-misers. These are people who are tight with money when it comes to spending it on anyone other than themselves. “Themselves” in that description does not include their partners. It is very hard to ascribe to a half-miser feelings of love towards a partner, but I have heard of marriages between half-misers and a fairly ‘normal’ partner lasting for considerable periods of time, although not necessarily happily.
Contribution to the relationship
Miserliness leads on to a related much broader specific compatibility issue: views on sharing. Rather than just money, I am talking about views on sharing pretty much everything. I mentioned in one of the introductory points to this Section that a happy relationship relies on each partner getting something significant out of the relationship.
There are some people about whose sole concern is what they get out of the relationship. Everything has to be to their satisfaction, they have to have their way on pretty much everything, the bulk of the resources of the relationship should be directed to them, their views on issues are the only views that matter. In the vast majority of cases, I would regard these sorts of actions and views as a deal-breaker.
Thus, to take a specific instance, I would advise you to be very wary if you have got has far as you have in your relationship because your partner has sought, and you have provided, extensive gifts. Continual one-way gift-giving is not a formula for a long happy relationship.
And that applies regardless of whether the gifts are physical objects or not. Your time and energy are also valuable, and if you find that you are expected to provide time and energy without some sort of quid pro quo, beware. Of course I am not suggesting that there needs to be an immediate quid pro quo for anything that you do for your partner, nor that you need to keep close tabs on this exchange. All I am suggesting is that if it seems as if your partner is asking quite a bit from you over time, it is worthwhile to stop at some point and to reflect on the rough balance of who gets what. If there seems to be a considerable imbalance that is not in your favour, you can be pretty certain that sort of imbalance is likely to continue, and that it will continue even if you get married. Unless there are other compensations for you in the relationship, you may seriously want to question whether you are marrying the right person. And that applies with bells on if it appears that your prospective partner has no respect for your views – that surely has to be a deal-breaker.
For the sake of completeness I should just mention a possible exception to what I have said above. It relates to the partner who is a prince/princess – that is, a high maintenance partner, someone who needs a lot of your time, energy and attention. I have seen a number of successful relationships where one of the partners is high maintenance. The trick is to go into such a relationship with your eyes wide open, and having a healthy idea of why you will be prepared to stay in the relationship. I know that in a number of the successful relationships I have seen the high maintenance partner was quite up-front with their partner before they married – essentially they said, be aware that if you marry me I will expect to continue to be treated the way you have been treating me up until now. I certainly do not advocate such relationships – I am merely noting that they exist.
Is your partner perpetually late for meetings with you ?
If so, this is a potential deal-breaker, although unlike some of the potential deal-breakers I have mentioned, it can possibly be remedied.
I should start by saying that this issue is actually a specific instance of the contribution issue I discussed immediately above, and that it also relates very heavily to the issue of respect between the partners.
I should also say that some people will be unpunctual with everyone. But if you have a potential partner who just seems to be unpunctual with you, warning bells and lights should be flashing.
Essentially those who are unpunctual are exhibiting a fairly raw form of selfishness: by being continually unpunctual they are making a pretty clear statement that their time is more valuable than yours.
Now, of course, no one can live a successful life being always unpunctual. There are too many things in the world that offer no leeway to the unpunctual: trains depart at a specified time regardless of whether everyone who has booked a ticket is on the train; a very similar thing applies to planes; and events; and lots of other things. The chronically unpunctual can usually get to these things in time.
That highlights that unpunctuality is not an unalterable condition.
Therefore, if your partner is always late to meetings with you where there is no self-enforcing mechanism such as a train timetable, I recommend that you advise them that you are not happy with the situation, and that you will not wait more than x minutes (10, or 15 at the most) at your next scheduled meeting time, regardless of what happens. At this stage I would not indicate to them that this is a potentially partnership-threatening issue.
And then follow through on that. If x minutes expires, and your partner is not present, leave. It doesn’t matter if they have just texted you that a once in a 1,000 year event has just caused a traffic jam, and that they’ll be there in 5 minutes.
If you doing that causes significant grief with your partner, the ringing of the bells has just got louder. Try to make the same arrangement for your next meeting. If your partner is not prepared to meet on those terms, I would question whether you really want to meet with your partner again. If your partner agrees to the terms, but is again late, I would also question whether you really want to meet with them again. As I have previously said, in my view respect is vital to the ongoing happiness of a relationship. The hassles caused by unpunctuality might be relatively small things in the scheme of your life, but the unpunctuality itself is a harbinger of something that is very important to your chances of having a happy long-term relationship with someone.
There is no intrinsic reason why differences between levels of education achieved by the partners to a relationship should be a compatibility issue between the partners. In particular, whether someone has, or does not have, a tertiary qualification is often a matter of luck, rather than an indication of intelligence or diligence. Life circumstances at the time one gets to the age when tertiary education starts is by far the most important determinant of whether a tertiary education is obtained. Many people who do not have tertiary degrees have the ability and attributes that would have enabled them to get a degree if their circumstances had been different at the relevant time.
Of course, differences in levels of education achieved by partners can be a serious compatibility issue if one of the partners has a hang-up about it. That can cut both ways: the partner with the higher level of education might tend to look down at their partner because of their differences in educational achievement; or the partner with the lower level of education might have feelings of inferiority because of their differences. In the latter case the issue should not be fatal to the chances of a happy partnership provided the issue is tackled head on early in the relationship, and nothing occurs to upset any understanding that is reached. In the former case, in most cases I would suggest that the prognosis for a happy partnership is not good. Feelings of superiority in one partner do not augur well for a happy partnership.
Again, there is no intrinsic reason why differences between the earning capacities of partners should be a compatibility issue between the partners. In the past there was often a dramatic difference in earning capacities between partners, and it was never a problem. In fact it was the norm. But the norm was that husbands were the earners, and anything that their wives earned was a bonus. After all, the woman’s place was in the home. Or at least it was in Western middle-class societies. And even if husbands and wives held exactly the same jobs, in most Western economies that meant that the husband was the superior earner, because, of course, men received more for doing the same work as women received.
These days lots of things have changed, although not the last observation I made – all of the studies into this topic that I am aware of show that for the vast majority of jobs women are still paid significantly less than men for the same work in many Western economies.
What has changed is that there are a lot more career opportunities for women these days than there were in the good old days, and it is now not as unusual as it once was for a woman to have a higher paying job than her male partner. And, of course, an even more dramatic change is that these days there are lots of same gender partnerships in which it is almost inevitable that there will be a difference in earnings between the partners.
In a male/female partnership, if the female earns more than the male partner that has proved to be a source of considerable friction in many marriages.
The underlying reason for that probably has to do with old stereotypes that should have long ago disappeared, but unfortunately those stereotypes still have a pernicious influence, regardless of whether they still actually exist or not. There is no necessity for this friction to exist, and it is definitely something that can be avoided if the partners so will it. But that will at the very least take a full and frank discussion, and that discussion should definitely be held pre-marriage, ideally as part of a wider discussion on how your finances will be organised.
In this regard, I have friends who have been married for well over 30 years. At the time they married the wife earned a lot more than her husband. That has remained the case until now – in fact the gap is now extremely wide. But it has never been the source of friction between them because they accepted it as the way things were, and would remain, right at the start of their relationship, and planned accordingly.
This is a very fraught area, and I only intend to poke a toe into it. By “class” I mean what you think I mean: upper class, middle class, working class, or whatever classifications there may be where you are – that sort of class.
The very existence of the concept of class, and its classifications, is controversial. All I will say is that all the relevant statistics I have seen where the concept is accepted, and the classifications defined, tend to show that the vast majority of people who marry tend to marry someone from the same class as they are in.
So, what if the person you are considering marrying is of a different “class” to you ? Is that a potential problem ?
I would suggest that the situation is very similar to the situation with different levels of education, but with complications. Thus, if neither partner has a hang-up about the situation, there is no reason why this issue should be a problem. But if there are feelings of superiority, or inferiority, there might be a serious problem. Again, as with education, feelings of inferiority can possibly be managed, and feelings of superiority are probably a deal-breaker.
However, the situation is not as straightforward as with education, because a lot of other factors will likely also be present. Thus the family members and acquaintances of each partner in this situation are very likely to try to interfere with the situation, or at least to remind their respective relative or friend of the problems the relationship will face.
In summary, while love might be able to find a way through the jungle here, be very aware that it is a jungle that you face.
Does it matter whether you and your partner have few, or even no, interests in common ?
By “interests” here I mean organised activities. Presumably everyone is happy to go out to dinner with their partners every once in a while, and to do shopping and other things together.
In my opinion, provided you are essentially compatible in most other regards, I don’t think it matters at all whether you do not participate in the same organised activities. In fact, I would almost regard it as a positive thing. You would risk becoming too insular as a couple if you did everything together. It could become suffocating.
However, even if you don’t do many of the same things, for the health of the relationship you should maintain an active interest in what your partner is doing. This keeps the 2 of you “switched in” to each other.
This essentially has 4 elements:
1) How similar are your libidos ?
2) How many hang-ups do you each have that interfere with what the other partner wants/likes ?
3) Are there any problems with sexual health, ability or technique ?
4) Does everybody get a fair go ?
I have also included at the end of this subsection a short subsubsection headed “Left field options”. It sets out some possible options of how to stay with someone you really want to stay with even though you are sexually incompatible.
However, before I begin, I should also mention that up until the last 50 years or so, it was pretty unusual for those about to be wed to have any idea of their sexual compatibility, because it was not the done thing to have sex before marriage. Despite that, marriages that occurred in these circumstances often resulted in long and happy relationships. So obviously knowledge of sexual compatibility before marriage is not essential. Highly desirable, in my opinion, but not essential.
Following on from that, what I have to say below will be of little relevance to anyone contemplating a marriage with someone from a culture where brides are supposed to be virgins at the time of marriage, or a marriage with someone who does not want to have sex before marriage for religious or other reasons.
As a general statement, it is not a great idea for someone who has a high libido (that is, someone who likes to have sex, and to have it fairly often) to marry someone with a low libido (that is, someone who either doesn’t like sex, or who doesn’t like to have it frequently) or who is asexual (that is, someone who has absolutely no interest in sex at all, ever).
But, as with lots of things to do with humans, this is not a simple issue.
The first complication, and it’s a big one, is that on first hooking up with someone, there’s a natural tendency for a couple, once they start having sex, to really get into it with each other for a good while. Then, as time goes on, this tendency starts to wane.
You’ve probably heard of the jellybean prediction. It goes: take a jar and put a jellybean in it each time a couple has intercourse in the first 12 months after they start to have intercourse. Then, from that point on, take a jellybean out every time they have intercourse. The prediction is that the couple will never empty the jar, regardless of how long the relationship lasts.
I know from personal experience that this prediction is not always right, but I also know from personal experience that the pattern that it is based on is quite accurate, and again, on the basis of my experience, my reading and from what I have heard, I am confident that the prediction is probably right a lot more often than it is wrong.
So, this pattern is not necessarily a matter of libido. There are many other possible reasons why intercourse declines between couples over time, and ennui is definitely one of them.
There is also the factor that a person’s libido can change over time.
Despite all of this, from my observation, mismatches of libido are a significant factor in causing unhappy relationships. However, given that most couples don’t agree to get married 6 weeks after they start going out (unlike someone I know), by the time they do actually marry, they should both be aware of where they stand as far as their preferences concerning frequency of intercourse (and honeymoons are usually a chance for another quick flurry of action). Unless it is less than 12 months since you started having sex, it is pretty safe to assume for the first few years of your marriage those frequency preferences will stay pretty much the same, and then they are likely to get worse, so you need to be aware that if you are not happy with your partner in this respect, not much is going to change. This is a pretty important matter, in my opinion, so you need to do some serious thinking. Do you think that you can live fairly happily with the situation ? If not, are you marrying the right person for you ?
Speaking from experience again, most people have, or develop, firm ideas on what they do and don’t like when it comes to sex. The dislikes are the hang-ups. The main dislikes are things like oral sex (both giving or receiving, or how or where it is given); digital sex (I'm talking about fingers, not the opposite of analogue devices); whether certain positions can be used; who’s on top ?; frequency of position changes; whether you like your partner to stimulate you by hand; having, or not having, anal sex; whether condoms are used; where ejaculation should occur; deep penetration; whether there's nipple play; whether toys etc. can be used …
Then there are things like when your partner last washed; whether it’s okay for your partner to wear a watch; whether you can kiss after oral sex; whether it’s light or dark when and where you do it; whether it’s okay to do it if there are others in the vicinity who can hear; where sex takes place; how much foreplay to have …
Both lists are probably endless.
Pretty much everyone has hang-ups of one sort or another. That’s cool, we’re all in this together. Except. Except if there are certain things that you like, and all or most of those things are things that your partner doesn’t like. Or vice versa. If it’s only 1 or 2 things, that’s probably manageable, although even that can be a problem if one of those things is a particular preference of one of you. So in that case, or if there are a fair number of hang-ups, it’s time again for some serious thinking.
Now sometimes someone can have a hang-up about something that they have never tried. Fear of the unknown. It may be that if such a person is gently and competently introduced to the thing they say they don’t like, perhaps it might stop being a hang-up for them. On the other hand, lots of hang-ups are ingrained and unchangeable, regardless of whether or not they were based on a good reason or not in the first place.
So if you have a partner with a hang-up about something that you particularly like doing, the first thing to do is to try to work out which of the 2 above categories it falls into. If it’s in the unchangeable category, you then have to consider whether you can live a life together with your partner never again doing the thing that you like doing. If it is one thing, or if it’s a fairly minor thing in the bigger scheme of things, fine, you will probably be able to cope.
But if not, it’s again time to wonder whether you are marrying the right person for you.
One other thing that can happen is that if one partner has lots of hang-ups, that can severely reduce the variety that can be included in what you do. If that partner then complains that sex is becoming boring ... Ugh !
And then there’s the list of health, ability, capacity or technique problems. The good news here is that some of these problems can be remedied. The first question is whether the person with the problem is willing to try to do something about it. This might involve informal research, or it might involve consultation with appropriate professionals. In this regard I would recommend that you only use Dr. Google to do background research – unless it is a very minor problem you will always be better off checking the problem out with someone who actually has been trained to deal with those sorts of problems.
If your partner has a problem and is not interested in exploring whether it is possible to do something about it, that is probably a pretty good indication that if you want to stay together with that partner, you will probably not have a satisfactory sex life.
And depending on whether a problem can be fixed or worked around, you may well have to ask whether you will be able to cope with a lifetime together with a partner with that problem. In this respect, unless you are aiming for, or are comfortable with, sainthood, may I callously suggest that you have to approach this question from an entirely selfish point of view. Sex is one of the joys of being human, and as a human it is something you are entitled to get pleasure from. Sure lots of people have lived happy lives without it, but most of them don’t know what they have missed out on.
So, if you are with someone who will not be able to give you at least basic sexual pleasure during your lives together, do not be afraid to ask yourself whether you are marrying the right person for you, and even more importantly do not be afraid of answering it in the way that is best for you in the long term (but please read “Left-field options” below before you make any decision on this).
Both partners to a relationship are entitled to get sexual pleasure out of the relationship, and both are entitled to get roughly the same amount of that pleasure from each other.
The days of wham, bang, thank you ma’am should long be gone.
Unfortunately that message has not yet gotten through to everyone. And in this day and age, if the message hasn’t gotten through to someone, I don’t fancy the chances of that ever happening.
If your partner is getting more than their fair share of the sexual pleasure in your relationship, or if they appear to have no concern as to whether you are getting sexual pleasure, or if they pay no, or little, heed to your expressed wishes as to what you like or don't like, you might want to try to suggest to them that this is not a satisfactory state of affairs. But in view of what I said in the last paragraph, you might not – you can save the psychic energy you might otherwise use on that task for something more important.
The situation where one partner is not adequately concerned about the sexual pleasure of the other partner is one of the few situations where I have definitive advice as to whether you are marrying the right person. My advice is: you are not – the person is definitely not right for you, so use that psychic energy you saved before to extricate yourself from the relationship.
And why am I being so definitive ? Well, I think you’ll find, if you haven’t already, that your partner’s selfishness or lack of concern for you will show itself in all sorts of other aspects of your relationship. This sort of person is toxic to relationships, and the sooner you are out of the relationship, the better. But then, that’s just my opinion.
I should also mention here that quite a few people go through life without marrying, and without having sex with another person. Some of these people still have very enjoyable sex lives. Yes, it is possible to give yourself a lot of sexual pleasure without needing to involve anyone else. It’s called masturbation. It usually only needs a hand (your own), but there are lots of devices, machines and other things that can also do the job nicely for you.
So, in cases where you would really like to marry someone, but it is clear that they are not going to be able to give you your fair share of sexual pleasure, masturbation can be a partial or whole replacement for what your partner won’t be able to give you.
It is also worth mentioning that it is quite possible to still obtain a considerable amount of physical pleasure from a partner without your partner touching any body part of yours that is normally needed for sexual pleasure. Human skin is an amazing organ that can be used to give its wearer pleasure in all sorts of ways: simple touching, hugging, stroking (with hand, hair, feather or pretty much any available object), light scratching, light massage, deep massage, massage with oils, massage by hand or with a mechanical massager, tickling, licking, using it as an eating or drinking surface …
And keep in mind that the next largest, but the most important, sex organ in the human body is the brain.
Unfortunately it seems often to be the case that if a person is experiencing problems with their “lesser” sex organs, they often have no great desire to even try using their brains in any sexually useful way.
So, if you like sex, and you have a partner you would like to be with, but it is not likely that your partner will be able to do much for you from a sexual point of view, it is worth considering whether you need to put sex into your compatibility equation.
I note that masturbation is also a very viable option for a high libido partner if their partner has a lower libido. But in this case I recommend that you establish that your partner is comfortable for you to pursue this option before marriage. Some low libido partners have a hang-up about their partners masturbating. Strange, but true.
I have also read of relationships where the low libido partner is happy for their high libido partner to meet their sexual needs with other people, with the obvious understanding that any external sexual relations remain as just sexual relations. Of course, in the “good old days”, if my reading is any guide, the high libido partner just often used to do this without their partner’s knowledge or consent.