Shawn Smith, author of "The User’s Guide to the Human Mind: Why Our Brains Make Us Unhappy, Anxious, and Neurotic and What We Can Do About It", sent an e-mail to Dr. Helen Smith after reading her best seller "Men on Strike", decrying the plight of many men stuck between the rock of a poor marriage and the hard place of a divorce system that does not reflect a truly equal society:
"But as it stands, men who choose their wives poorly might pay the price for decades (along with any children who are involved) because the courts not only allow for bad behavior from abusive women, they indirectly encourage it."
How can the generation of men coming of age as well as older men reeling from a failed relationship avoid this sad fate of choosing their wives poorly until the day comes when our archaic divorce laws are finally reformed? Sadly, men and women have been brainwashed through the media of music, television, film and the internet to seek love at first sight. The media have bestowed heroic status of on those who think that sexual attraction equals love and to those who use physical attraction, charm and approval seeking to obtain a lover.The common plot device of the last century of literature, movies and television shows is that infatuation can overcome any mismatch of personality or temperament. The constant immersion in a culture of romantic illusion has taken its toll on even the best of us.
Today, American men are choosing their wives with little regard to long-term compatibility. Like desperate King Salmon leaving the freedom of the open ocean to swim upstream to Alaskan spawning ground, men are single-minded in mating with no regard to the long term cost. Just like a salmon after the inevitable spawning, these men figuratively float down stream, emotionally and physically spent. They are resigned to an immediate future bound to someone they would never otherwise seek out for friendship, doing things they would never otherwise imagine themselves doing.
Using physical attraction, charm and approval seeking, couples believe that their passionate feelings for one another will overcome the steep odds of such a whimsical romance ever actually providing a lifetime of personal fulfillment to each partner. Even when these relationships fail, there has been a heroic sense attached to them, of dating and mating boldly and recklessly. Our media reinforce that this is the way to live life to its fullest. Thus we long to read about love af first sight, watch them on the sliver screen and hum along to ballads of foolish love. Given the chance, we act them out as our real life romantic fantasy.
Unfortunately the romantic fantasy of love at first sight has real life consequences. After the thrill of the physical part of the relationship fades, each partner starts to see disturbing glimpses of another, less pleasant person than their dream lover. The pain of living with someone of few common interests, differing world view and clashing temperaments will gradually become acute. Physical intimacy will lose its pain-killing potency as the relational differences come creeping out from beyond the shadows into the light of day. It becomes harder and harder to stifle feelings and tastes as each partner receives a diminishing sexual reward.The inherent conflicts in the relationship soon dominate the marriage. Given the punative divorce, alimony and child custody laws, many men find themselves trapped in a bad marriage.
Prevention is the best cure for choosing a spouse poorly and ending up in such mirage marriages. Teens and collegians should develop their own interests first and then seek out friendships with members of the opposite sex that share their passions, world view and goals. Use the dating process to select likely partners among those of the opposite sex of compatible temperament and significant common interests, values and life plans. Learn to give a relationship time to develop in an atmosphere of honesty and candor instead of trying to close the deal like a real estate agent. Finally, once you think you've found The One, determine if you can flesh out complementary and supporting roles as a couple. This is a decision that must be made with minds clear of the intoxicating fumes of infatuation. The disciplined decision can spare one from The Divorce Trap.