Loving The Wrong Person

This is the special contribution by Alain de Botton , a British-based philosopher, writer and television presenter. His new book, The Span of Love, is out in a few days. Learn more here This short article was originally published by AskMen UK.
When first shopping for a partner, certain requirements we develop are colored by way of a beautiful non-specific sentimental vagueness: we’ll say we actually want to find a person who is “kind” or “fun to be with,” “attractive” or “up for adventure…”
It is not that such desires are wrong, they’re not remotely precise enough within their knowledge of what we specifically are likely to require so as to stand a chance to be happy – or, more accurately, not consistently glum.
Most of us are crazy in very particular ways. We’re distinctively neurotic, unbalanced and immature, but have no idea quite the facts because no one ever encourages us too hard to find them out. An urgent, primary task of any lover is therefore to get a handle on the specific ways in which they are mad.
They have to get up to speed on their individual neuroses. They have to grasp where these have come from, what they make them do – and most importantly, what sort of people either provoke or assuage them. A good partnership is not so much one between two healthy people (there aren’t many of these on the planet), it’s one between two demented people who have had the skill or luck to find a non-threatening conscious accommodation between their relative insanities.
Is Everyone Mad?
Airing the notion that we might not be too difficult to live with should set off alarm bells in any prospective partner. The only people we can think of as normal are those we don’t know very well. The question is just where the problems will lie: perhaps we have a latent tendency to get furious when someone disagrees with us, or we can only relax when we are working, or we’re a bit tricky around intimacy after sex, or we’ve never been so good at explaining what’s on our minds when we’re worried.
It’s these sort of issues that – over decades – create catastrophes and that we should ideally therefore need to know about way ahead of time, in order to look out for people who are optimally designed to withstand them. A standard question on any early dinner date should be simply: “And how are you currently mad?”
The thing is that knowledge of our very own neuroses is not very easy to come across. Normally it takes years and situations we’ve had no connection with. Ahead of marriage , we’re rarely involved with dynamics that properly endure a mirror to your disturbances. Whenever more casual relationships threaten to reveal the “difficult” side of our natures, we have a tendency to blame the partner – and call it each day. For our friends, they predictably don’t care enough about us to possess any motive to probe our real selves. They only want a good evening out.
Therefore, we find yourself blind to the awkward sides of our natures. On our very own, when we’re furious, we don’t shout, as there is no one there to pay attention – and for that reason we forget the true, worrying strength of our convenience of fury. Or we work constantly without grasping, because there is no one calling us ahead for dinner, how exactly we manically use our jobs to get a feeling of control over life – and how exactly we may cause hell if anyone tried to avoid us laboring.
The Privilege TO BE On One’s Own
During the night, all we’re alert to is how sweet it will be to cuddle with someone, but we’ve no opportunity to confront the intimacy-avoiding side folks that would begin to make us cold and strange if it felt we were too deeply focused on someone. One of the biggest privileges to be on one’s own may be the flattering illusion that certain is, in reality, really quite a straightforward person to call home with.
With this type of poor level of knowledge of our characters, no wonder we aren’t in virtually any position to learn who we ought to be shopping for.
This issue is compounded because other people are stuck at the same low level of self-knowledge as we are. However well-meaning they could be, they too come in no position to understand, aside from inform us, of what’s wrong with them.
Naturally, we create a stab at attempting to know them. We call on their families , possibly the place they first visited school. We look at photos, we meet their friends. All of this contributes to a feeling we’ve done our homework. But it’s just like a novice pilot assuming they are able to fly after sending a paper plane successfully round the room.
In a wiser society, prospective partners would put one another through detailed psychological questionnaires and send themselves off to be assessed at length by teams of psychologists. By 2100, this can no longer appear to be a tale. The mystery will undoubtedly be why it took humanity such a long time to get to this aspect.
FINDING THE RIGHT Possible Insane Partner
We have to know the intimate functioning of the psyche of the individual we’re likely to marry. We have to know their attitudes to, or stance on, authority, humiliation, introspection, sexual intimacy, projection, money, children, aging, fidelity and 100 things besides. This knowledge will not be available with a standard chat. We are in need of an even of insight currently generally only open to a psychological professionals at the PhD level.
In the lack of this, we have been led – in large part – with what they appear to be. It matters immensely, needless to say. It’s why we keep thinking how beautiful they look. There appears to be so much information to be gleaned from their eyes, nose, form of forehead, distribution of freckles, smiles… But this is about as wise as thinking that a photograph of the outside of a power station can tell us the essentials of nuclear fission.

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