Any psychologist worth his or her salt will tell you that the most important decision and determinant you can make to create a happy, productive life is choosing an appropriate and healthy mate.
A friend recently told me she had concerns about her daughter's boyfriend, as she had in the past concerning both her daughter and son's paramours. She was correct to be concerned and, without knowing their lovers, I penned some thoughts for her to transmit diplomatically to her kids and, incidentally, for her own edification.
Here's my letter:
These are simply the highlights of our wide-ranging chat about Mr. "X".
A marriage for many years, if it will involve children, is an extremely complex partnership and here are some nuggets that I have gleaned over the years from experiences, my therapist sister and the hundreds of self-help books that I have devoured as a frustrated shrink myself.
1. The relationship with the mother is the major psychiatric "architecture" in a man's attitude and behaviour toward women. A troubled or enmeshed relationship is a deal breaker or must be addressed with lots of therapy.
2. The relationship with the father is the major architecture that determines a man's attitudes toward other men, authority figures, about masculinity, his place in the world, ambition, career choice, fatherhood and the role of being a husband.
3. Research shows that opposites don't attract or work very well either. Persons from happy childhoods should partner and those from unhappy childhoods should couple up. Mixing the two creates another obstacle to a healthy relationship and can only be overcome with therapy, honesty and vigilance.
4. My own experience is that culture trumps love. This is not just about ethnic differences but also about religious and most importantly social issues. Your daughter or son's mates must be interested and happy within an extended family environment, such as you have created. Becoming an in-law is like joining your fraternity/sorority -- lots of people, lots of parties, lots of fun and warmth. This is not just about introverts and extroverts but also about social graces, social values, behavior and the appetite for lots or little of it.
5. Birth placement is important but not a deal breaker. First borns are more achievement oriented, more domineering while "subsequents" are more socially adept, collaborative because they have to get along with that first born.
6. Stats are that first marriages end in divorce roughly 50 per cent of the time while second marriages 80 per cent. This is because most second marriages are between two rebounding persons and that leads people to couple up out of desperation, guilt, delusion, fear, social shame or to overcome rejection. Rebounds are necessary but rarely a match.
7. Finally, there's the "biological clock" or the plus-30 females who are insane and driven toward finding any working male in order to have the 2.1 kids, picket fence and traditional status that I had hoped women were past. Tell her to freeze eggs just in case Mr. Right doesn't come along, then create a great career so she can hire help with the parenting.
8. Same stuff applies to your son or other guys too. They must rely less on their gonads and more on their analytical skills to commit to Mrs. Right too.
Hope that helps. Looks like a looming self-help book outline doesn't it?
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