Saturday, November 5, 2011

Do You Need A Matchmaker?

I remember when I was much younger there was a computer-dating organization called Matchmaker. It was modeled on the old traveling matchmaker who went house to house gathering information to pair up likely couples for a fee. Her job was to take in all the wants and desires of her prospective clients. While she visited over a cup of tea, she also took in dynamics such as personalities and pecking order within the family. The matchmaker knew a strong elder daughter would not suit an equally domineering man, but a younger son would appreciate her assertiveness and willingness to jump in and get things done. The real question is can we find appropriate matches on our own?

It would seem with fifty percent of first marriages and sixty-seven percent of the second marriages ending in divorce, the answer is no. An average American cannot successfully pick a spouse. Consider people you know who stay in horrible marriages just to stay married. I definitely wouldn’t call that a successful pairing. So what gives? Why such a high failure rate? Why do people consistently pick inappropriate partners?

You can put the blame on love according to popular columnist Vicki Larson in her latest article, MARRY FOR LOVE, DIVORCE WHEN LOVE'S GONE. Marrying for love is a new concept and western in origin. People fell in love throughout time, but usually didn’t marry because other factors intervened. A woman married to strengthen family ties with an important and sometimes wealthy family. She could marry to improve her social standing. She often married a man who would provide for her and her offspring too. There was no aspiring rock star for great grandma. Maybe the couple was from warring families, different religions, or even other countries, which prevented their union.

Romeo and Juliet is an example of a relationship based entirely on physical attraction, which is often what we refer to love as—that certain spark.They fell in love in a night, spouted poetry at one another, snuck around, got busy and married in less than two weeks. A marriage meant both their families would shun them. The family meant even more then than it does now. By abandoning the family, Romeo would have no real way to make his way in the world. He would have to start over as a stable hand. Juliet would have to abandon her life of luxury and would blame her husband for it. Maybe Shakespeare knew how things would have turned out so killed off the two while they were still in passionately in love.

Going back to the article, Larson explains most people opt for divorce when they no longer feel in love. What would happen if we divorced our children when they disappointed us? Love changes form as we go along, then, one partner decides that the magic is no longer there. A relationship based on love shatters when it is no longer exciting or hard times show up.

If you think of your first boyfriend, then you remember the fervency of young love. Maybe he had a crooked smile, curly hair, or beautiful blue eyes, but in the end that wild, all-encompassing love that caused you to doodle his name all over your folders, tennis shoes, and hands did end. Of course, your argument might be that you were young and you had nothing in common. That lack of commonality forced you two apart and cooled that initial ardor. It could have been he liked different music than you did. So how is this different from older relationships?

Not much. Maybe we accept different music, but still want to embrace love as the cure all. The old matchmaker knew love wasn’t the cure all and looked for commonalities in a couple that would weld them together in the more difficult times. That didn’t mean she chose people who were exactly alike, but rather complimented each other. People who are reasonably kind and thoughtful of others would make good mates. That hot bod who makes your pheromones jump would not make a good, loyal mate. The seasoned matchmaker wouldn’t waste her time on him knowing how short the relationship would be. It would be bad for her business reputation.

Still, we go running after men and women who are bad for us and in the end will treat us bad. We even call it love. Love makes marriage do-able, even though we may have misgivings. We hope love will magically transform a somewhat doubtful candidate into a loving mate. It doesn’t happen. People often become less of the lover and more of themselves within the marriage frame. Suddenly, the man you drooled over and absolutely had to have becomes irritating. It all falls apart if all you had was love.

My argument is how can you be in love when there is nothing else? Love is an action as opposed to a feeling. Lust is a feeling that fades quickly. People fall in love with love. They fall for the movie version with dramatic romantic gestures and soulful looks. They convince themselves that whomever they meet is the one. Many times this is based on age and availability. Who isn’t afraid of growing old alone?

We are bad at picking mates. Those few happy marriages you know usually succeeded due to plain serendipity. A few happened because they knew each other all their lives. Her people knew his people. This makes a big difference because you get to spot the possibilities of what your beloved may grow into by observing his family…always a good thing to know.

Often the matchmaker’s pool is limited. Sometimes she can’t find what you want so you may have to settle for what you can tolerate. A contemporary equivalent is Millionaire Matchmaker. Did you ever think a millionaire needed a matchmaker? She coaches the people how to act on a date. By acting the wrong way, their actual best match is lost. Makes you wonder how the rest of manage without a dating coach?

It brings me full circle back to my grandmother who laid down the law to her potential second husband and told him her rules for marriage. They were not in love when they married, nor did they expect to be, but they did want companionship. In the end, they were the most loving couple I ever met. By honoring each other and sharing daily tasks, they fell in love. They confirmed that love by rubbing noses whenever they met in the hallway and saying, “Love you, love you.”

I, of course, want a marriage just like my grandparents. Maybe I don’t need a matchmaker just a set of guidelines.

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