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Reflections On Love – Part II

February 15, 2010

The other day I wrote a little bit about love, but looking it over I seem to have fallen into the same trap I often do — speaking too generally, and not giving enough specifics.  Instead of reflecting about love at such an abstract level, I’ll be a lot more practical this time.   Here we go.  I’ll attempt to explain love, and good solid relationships, in practical, everyday terms.  I’m no expert really, but I’ll give it my best shot.

How to begin?  What I most often see people looking for in a partner is someone who has similar ideas toward life, accepts them as they are, and are generally just compatible.   A sort of ease when they’re together.  Conversations are easy.  Spending time together is easy and enjoyable.  They look for someone who they feel comfortable and at home with.   Someone who respects their beliefs and never dismisses things of great concern to them.

That’s how I see it get started in most people.   In young couples, such as high schoolers, and a lot of college students, that’s all there is to the relationship.  They don’t move beyond that, because they don’t live together, have to provide for one another, earn income, depend on one another’s decisions, and all of that.  But enjoying one another’s presence, sharing common concerns and beliefs, etc., are all good factors to get things rolling.  However there’s more hurdles up ahead.  Other matters start to become important as your lives begin to more closely intertwine and depend on one another.

I’d say the first on the list would be finances.    This includes not only how you earn your money, but how that money is spent.  If the couple has divergent views on how the finances should be handled, there’ll be a lot of arguments and fighting.   What kind of place do you live in currently, and where are you wanting to live?  How easy is it for you both to afford?  Do you like your jobs?  Are you trying to move upward to a different career?  How long is that taking?  How easy is it to afford things you’ve been wanting, and how much sacrifice are you having to make, and for how long?  Is one partner lazy, and does this bother the other?  Are you running up bills, such as credit cards and car loans?  Do you both have the same views toward finance and credit?

Finance is a huge factor to me.  I don’t like to waste money.  I’m not a miser, but I hate debts and watching money flushed down the toilet in interest payments.  I shiver when I see a woman running around with a credit card, buying $200 shoes, working a minimum wage job, and being eaten alive at 30% APR.  I think…. woooaahhhh.  Scccarrrrryyy.

I really don’t want to end up with a woman who spends money like its water, and doesn’t understand budgets, how credit works, and the basics of money.  “Buuutttt I wannntttt itttt.” … “We can’t afford it…”  … “We can charge it!” …. “No, if we really want it, we’ll save up for it.”  … “I don’t want to wait.  I want it NOW.”

Get with someone like her and next thing you know, you’re working two jobs, barely getting sleep, and all your income is going to the banks in interest.  She starts to use sex as bartering tool.   American woommaaannnn, stay away from mmmmeee eeeeeee..

I prefer spending my money on things that last, though I like to keep free money to relax as well.  You have to get away from the routine sometimes!  Primarily I like to put top priority on things I spend the most time with, such as getting nice furniture, good home appliances, and so forth, than blow it all in a short extravagant vacation in Hawaii.   But it depends on how easy I’m earning the money, how much I like my work, and how much I’m making.

Then again, with me, after a comfortable environment is established, such as a nice home, with nice furniture, TV, computers, and other things that matter, and grocery money, electric bill, water bill, and other necessities are covered, and significant buffer money in the savings account, the remainder can be spent on whatever.

You need to keep around a year worth of bill expenses in your savings account.  At least six months worth.  That way if you’re laid off, you can continue to make payments and not lose your home, or your cars.  Your electric won’t be shut off.  If you can’t afford to save up that kind of money, you’re living beyond your means.   You need to scale down.  And if you’re already living in the smallest possible apartment, then you should consider going to college and getting a new job that pays decent.

10 to 20% of every paycheck should be put away in savings.   There should be a minimum level in your account which you never fall below.  For a normal person, it should be, say $5000 in your savings.   This number depends on your lifestyle, but it has to match your income and expenses.  It should never drop below that number.  Ever.  That’s money in case an appliance breaks, or the car needs repaired, or whatever.  And once that money is spent, you should start working toward getting that account back up to $5000 again, and cut back your spending. But don’t live paycheck to paycheck, and then let every little problem turn into a crisis.   You’ll put strain on your relationship, and stress yourselves out.

Above some certain level you should just spend it.  Or plan to buy something worthwhile with it all.  Save up for a nice new home.  Go on vacations.  Whatever.  But always keep buffer money.

Don’t let savings become an obsession though.  I know some professors who save every dollar they make, and won’t spend any of it.  One professor makes over $100,000 a year, yet him and his wife both live off her income, and she makes just a little over minimum wage.   Every day he comes into work and eats a cheap TV dinner.  He has millions in the bank.  Probably earns over $80,000 a year in interest alone.

That man eventually died.  His kids ended up blowing all his money he saved up.  What good did that do?  He should’ve taken his wife out someplace nice, and eaten some good food.  Did some traveling.  Bought a new car. Extremes in money are bad.  Extreme misers, and spendthrifts.  You have to be somewhere in the middle.

I’m not a very materialistic person.  I mainly value books.  I have lots of them.  But I value freedom more than anything.  All my money is saved up toward a life of leisure and studying books, traveling around doing scientific research.  I hope one day I can live a life where I’m not bothered with working at all.  But I hate getting caught up in earning that money, because it’s self-defeating if it takes too long.  I have to have time to read my books, or what good are they?

I’m not someone who lives paycheck to paycheck.  Ever.

Next I come to the most important factor to me — intelligence.  The girl has to be intelligent.  As time goes by, that demand is becoming more and more prescient to me.  It’s become a necessity.  When we go out to dinner, if you can’t even understand half of what I want to talk about, in any capacity, I’m sorry.  It’s going to be difficult.

I can’t sit around and watch reality TV shows.  I can’t really watch TV period.  Not for more than ten minutes.

I think every good couple demands that they be on nearly the same intellectual level.

Third would probably be what I’d vaguely label “affection.”  This is simply how much effort you’re putting into it.  Depending on how compatible you are, the easier this will be, but I think all relationships demand both people putting serious effort into it.  One person can’t carry everything.  You have to try to make things interesting, go out with each other and do something, or do nice little things for one another.  Compliments.  Praise.  Buy gifts.  Cook a nice meal for your spouse.  Clean up after them.   Make an effort to put a smile on the other’s face and make their life easier, and more pleasant.

A relationship isn’t like winning a prize or something.  You don’t work hard, achieve the goal, then move on to something else.  You don’t work for it, then are “done.”  Hopefully you’re enjoying the time you’re putting into it.  If you’re not, then maybe you should find someone else.

Thinking on another note, there’s all those things that need to be done around the house.  Taking out the trash.  Washing dishes.  Cleaning out the fridge.  Dusting.  Vacuuming.  Mowing the grass.  Taking care of general “stuff” that goes around, such as getting the car repaired.  Don’t heap all those responsibilities onto one person.  Help each other out.

Care about things, even the small things.  Care about what dishes you use.  What cup you drink out of.  What silverware you use.  How your place is decorated and what is put on display.  Food preferences.  This sort of thing gives your spouse ways to be nice to you, in small ways.

Have your special cup, which she brings out to you at times.  Have a matching set.

But don’t be indifferent.  Care about lots of small things.  And always be working together on fixing the small things that bother you both.  Continual small goals, and achieving them, together, making bonds.

Caring about lots of things gives you both a chance to express what you like and don’t like, and provides opportunities to be nice to one another, all the time.   Overwhelm your spouse with small things, done well.

It’s not always easy to do, but at least try.

All those small things add up to a big thing in the end.  I think instinctively us men have drives to be the provider, and take good care of our woman.  To protect the home, and make it our “territory”, and to make it safe and pleasant for our family.

Hmm.  Ohh.  Don’t nag each other about things.  Everyone hates a nagging person.  Nag nag nag.  Especially annoying things.  And small things.

I myself never ask someone to do a small thing for me, unless I’m sick.   “Woman, fix me a sandwich.”  Get it yourself, lazy sloth.  If my girlfriend started doing that stuff to me, she’d start losing points real fast.  “Pick up the remote for me, I’m buried all under the covers, and don’t want to get up.”   So I get up out of my chair, kneel down under her rocker, dig out the remote, and hand it to her, and go back to my chair.   Or even worse, she starts yelling across the house, acting like she needs something.  “Jason!  Jason!  JJJAASSSSSSOONNNN!!!!”  … I’m in my study, hear this faint voice across the house, close my book, make my way in there, only to find out she just doesn’t want to get up.  Asks me to turn on the ceiling fan.  Oh my god.  That’s too much.  Only if you’re sick, injured, or something like that.

This one guy I know, I mean… I can’t believe he tolerates her.  She doesn’t work.  Doesn’t do anything.  He completely provides for her.  But she complains about doing anything.  And I mean anything.  She calls him up at work and whines that some dishes aren’t washed.  There’s a few plates and some silverware.  I mean, c’mon.  You don’t even work.  You’re not sick.  Your man’s working all day for you girl!  Then he comes home and washes your plates, and you call him at work to nag him about it because he forgot to last night?

Seriously.  I can’t tolerate that level of laziness and pettiness.  And to be nagged about it while at the office?

I think for me, the first offense would be, “We’ll talk about that when I get home dear.”  Then I’d tell her not to call me at work about petty things like that.  Even after working all day long, I could easily come home and wash the dishes, and not even complain.  In fact, I’d just see them in the sink and do it without even being asked.  That’s how I think it should be.  Just do it.  They’re there, it takes 5 minutes.  Do it.

I’ve worked 12 hour days on software projects.  5 minutes for the dishes?  You kidding me?

Speaking of time, a big thing for me is being on time.  Don’t waste my time.  “Hey hun, I’ll pick you up from work.”  … “Ok, I’ll be off around 4:30.”  Then she shows up 5:15.  45 minutes late?  What?  What?  Why?  Flakiness and unreliability.  Can’t stand that stuff.  It’s ok for it to happen every now and then, but when it’s consistent.   Unacceptable to me.  Being on time represents respect for the other person’s time.  Respect one another’s time.

Then there’s sex.  I think both members of the couple should take care of themselves, and not let themselves go.  Exercise and keep a decent figure.  Don’t neglect hygiene.  Take showers.  Brush your teeth.  Cut your nails.  Shave.  Get haircuts. You know, all that stuff.  Women should put effort into their appearance.  As a guy, I can speak for all of us — your efforts are much appreciated it, and your sex life will be better if you do.  Your relationship will also be better.  And guys, make sure to take note of your lady when she looks good, and let her know  🙂

Hmm.  What else.  Let’s tackle social relationships.  First off, don’t embarrass your spouse, making scenes in public.  Do your best to get along with in-laws, ex-laws, family, co-workers, and everyone else.  And it isn’t that hard if you just learn to keep your mouth shut.

If your wife’s cowoker is an idiot, and you’re at one of her work parties, don’t embarrass her by getting into a huge argument over politics, religion, and that sort of thing.  Be nice to everyone there, find something nice to say to everyone, compliment the hosts, and if you have something bad to say, don’t say it at all.  You’ll make life hell for her at work.  Don’t do it.

Try to be nice to all your family members.  Be good to your momma, and your woman’s momma too.   Take time to visit both sides of the family, and treat them all with respect, no matter how different they are.

Also, try very hard to be on good terms with all your spouse’s friends.

What else.  Hmm.  Well, always be honest with each other.  About everything.  Don’t lie or try to deceive.  But also, keep your partner’s feelings in mind.  Be careful when you point out her faults.  Be gentle.  It’s not always easy to balance these two things, but try.

I think good relationships have a general direction they’re both headed.  They work together on common goals, even if they’re minor.   Work together on those things, and bond.  It could be decorating the place, painting, or a common intellectual pursuit.  But have common goals, and celebrate together as often as possible.

Watch what you say, at all times.  Tact. Pay attention to your body language.  This is my worst area.  My personal flaw.  I speak too openly sometimes, and say things which hurt people.  It’s not always intentional.  I’ve been working hard at this the past year or so, but I’m still bad.   I’ll say things like, “That’s stupid.”  … “Do you really think that?”  … “Oh my god.  Just…”  *waves hand in the air in a ‘shoo’ motion*

That’s why I have to date an intelligent woman.  My problem has always been harsh words.  I’m fine as long as nobody’s a complete idiot.  I try hard to be nice, even to idiots, but I naturally just start to lash out on them.  Not humble idiots.  Prideful idiots.  Idiots who think they know stuff when they don’t.  And certain people just annoy the hell out of me.  I can only keep a fake grin on my face for so long.  I can last a maximum of two hours in horrible company.  Then I start to lose it.

It’s like listening to Pat Robertson talking about how Haiti made a pact with the devil, which is why they suffered from their recent tragedy.  I just want to scream, “You sick, disgusting human being! Are you THAT dumb?  Do you even know what causes an earthquake?  Do you?  The devil?  No sir, the devil is in you!”

I’m hard on people.  I lash out at stupidity, and I have to watch it.  I want to change that part of me so bad though.  There’s no need to be mean to anybody. And even when you do correct people, and point out their stupidity, it doesn’t do any good.  Most of the time it’s better just to stay quiet.  That’s what I need to do more often.  Just stay quiet.  I need a good smart woman who’s sitting beside me, and just as I sit up to tell them what I think she grabs my arm and yanks me back and shakes her head, “No.”   That’s when I sit back down, cool off, and say, “No Pat Robertson, you’re not worth it.  I’m going to sit here, and not argue with your stupidity.”

I’m hard on myself too though, which isn’t a good thing really.  I’ve always had high standards, but they’re also way too high.  I’m the type of person who wakes up and immediately goes running.  Wimpy, whiny people aren’t really compatible with me.   I’m not a gentle person, though I sometimes wish I could be.

Naturally I’m ambitious.  Everything I attempt is grand in scale.  I’m not satisfied with the ordinary.  My partner would have to deal with that, and be fine with it.   Ambition and initiative is a big thing in relationships.   Like I said before, it’s good to have common goals, and be on the same page one with another.  Your life directions have to line up and be compatible.

Then there’s what I’d in general just label “drama.”  This includes things like threats of leaving all the time, violence toward one another, yelling, jealousy and accusations, not talking to one another, not forgiving one another, cold shoulder treatments, slamming doors, punching holes in walls, having a huge argument then ignoring it the next day, like it never happened… yeah, that stuff.

I think I’m spoiled really.  I grew up in a family where there was no fighting at all.  Dad never yelled at mom.  Mom never yelled at Dad.  No threats of anyone leaving anyone.  My parents always forgave one another shortly after fights, living according to their Christian morals.

I think I only saw Dad get crazy mad one time.  He was trying to fix a weed eater and he became angry and yelled, “Stupid thing!  My GGOOOODDD!!!”  Then he started slamming it on the ground.  I was there, and found it pretty funny.  Mom would get nervous when me and my little brother were little, especially when we turned the living room into a wrestling rink.  The love seat was the ropes, and I’d throw my him into it as hard as I could, tipping it over.  LOL.   “But MMMaaaaaaaa.  It was Ek… Not mmeeeee.  He started it!”

Dad never would have any of that.  He’d tell me to go outside and cut switches.  If I brought in a flimsy one, he’d tell me to get another one, much thicker.  If I brought another flimsy one, he’d say for me to get another.  Then when I finally brought a thick one, he’d beat my butt with all of them.  And oh man, it hurt too.

Mom used leather belts.  “Don’t make me get out the belt!”

One time I threw this kid through the wall at church.  LOL.  Maybe it’s bad to laugh at that, but it’s so crazy thinking I actually did that!  Middle of church service is going, us kids playing in the nursery then, whooopssss, a kid flys through the wall and into the sanctuary.  I was just playing with him too.  Just imitating wrestlers.  He tripped and fell through the wall.  I got whipped for that one.  Oh man.

The pastor stopped the sermon.  The kid is crying, and I’m standing there, congregation staring at me.  Dad gives me the scariest look I’ve ever received in my life.  Mom covers her mouth like, “Oh my God!”  I was about to wet myself.

But believe it or not, when I got older they were the most lenient parents ever.  I had no oversight.  But then again, none of us were “bad” either.  None of us ever got into trouble.  All good kids.

I remember coming home at 1 AM on school nights.  They didn’t care.  When I was 17 years old I first started my business and was renting an office building uptown.  I wrote software and did work for companies.  I’d work all night long on things, and study my software.  Slept through school, lol.   Still got good grades anyway.

But yeah, got a bit off track there.  Try to keep things drama free.   And the biggest thing is just forgiving people, and accepting various bad things about them.  As they say, don’t let the sun go down upon your wrath.  Forgive each other before you go to bed.  Fix it that same day, and don’t let the steam build.

Thinking of drama, hypersensitivity can create a lot of drama.

One of the top reasons for divorce in the world is hypersensitivity.  I’ve met a few hypersensitive people in my lifetime.  You’re always walking on a tight rope.  I mean, you say one little thing and you can crush them.  Then you spend the next two weeks trying to make up with them.

I have to really watch my words when I’m around a hypersensitive person.  Body language too.  I’ll say mean things, roll my eyes, and be like, “Allllriiiggghhtttt.  If that’s what you want to believe.”

I’ve always admired the guy who’s always smiling, and treats everyone super kind, all the time.  Problem is you can’t run a company and be like that to everyone.  There’s a reason most bosses are strict.  Stuff doesn’t work out if you’re Mr. Nice to everyone. The company has to make money, or you can’t pay staff and the bills.  There has to be standards for customer service, your products, and various work protocols.

Sometimes the workplace requires a disciplined environment.  My mom is Mrs. Nice.  She started a daycare years back, but she had trouble confronting people about anything.   She had employees she couldn’t afford, but was too soft to let them go.  She was too lenient with customers, and they took advantage of her.  Eventually she had to start asking me for money keep the place operating.  Since she’s mom, I helped out.

Like for example.  Parents would come in and only want to them to watch their children for a short time after school.  I think those were called “part-timers.”  Problem is, my mom wouldn’t refuse anyone and the government mandates that there be a certain ratio of staff to children in the daycare at any given time, depending on their age.  One staff member for every four infants.  One for every 12 middle age children.  And so on and so forth.

The parents wanted to only pay for the time their kids were there, yet there was these staffing requirements.  And there was the heating bill in the winter and other expenses.   I would tell her, “Mom, you have to up your rates.  Let the part-time kids go.  You can’t operate with these part-time kids.  Require full time, or only let on a part-time kid in if they’re willing to pay the full time rate.”   But mom couldn’t do that.  She couldn’t confront the parents and say, “I’m sorry, we’ll need to charge you more.”

There was always a sad story.  So and so’s mom’s working two jobs, and barely makes it by as it is.  The Dad would make it to pick up the kids, if only he didn’t work so far away.  I don’t remember everything.  Thing is, what do you do?  You simply can’t afford it.

As things went on, that daycare became a black hole.  I eventually said, “Mom, I can’t keep funding this.  You have to change this business model, start confronting the parents about these things, keep better accounting records, charging proper rates… ” and so on.  They had to close down.

Lucky for her, she never had staff problems.  They always worked and did their jobs.  But you have to be able to confront people about that too.  Especially in a competitive market.  If people start goofing and slacking, they have to be confronted.  You have to be a strong assertive person who tells people how it’s going to be.  That doesn’t mean you’re mean.  You’re firm.  You lay out your expectations beforehand, and let people know when they’re meeting what’s expected of them.  You try to keep those expectations realistic and fair, but you have to hold them to standards.

The opposite is also true.  Praise people and thank them for doing good.  Offer bonuses, rewards, and other incentives for good behavior.

The best way to confront people is to say something like, “Hey Jane.  I’ve noticed you’ve been making a lot of mistakes lately, and coming in late consistently.  This isn’t like you.  Is everything ok?”

You believe in them, and make it clear that you’ve always believed in them since you’ve hired them.  They’re the best, and that’s why they’re working with you.  Stress a “we can” attitude.  But if that first confrontation doesn’t work out, you need to confront them again, getting more and more firm each time.  And eventually, if they’re too troublesome, you have to let them go.

That’s why it’s important to be able to read people, especially the larger your business gets.  You have to be able to see through B.S.  Not only in the boardroom, but when dealing with staff.

Like say someone’s going through a rough divorce, fighting for their children’s custody, and are worried about their future.  They’re being kicked out of their home and having to start a whole new life.  We’ve all seen this.  I can easily see what’s going on there, even if the staff member isn’t talking about it.  You can tell by the way they conduct themselves.

I wouldn’t give a staff member a hard time in that situation.  I’d be very lenient.  Very very lenient. But laziness is a different issue entirely.  “I can’t wake up, I stayed up too late watching movies all night long…” Those people I’m very firm with, and not near as tolerant.

It’s not always fun being that sort of guy, but that’s how it is when you lead.  You have to understand people, and also know what needs to get done.

What else.  Hmm.  You’ll have to treat your partner as an equal. Involve your spouse in every decision that’s being made related to the home.

You should both take part in the parenting of the children.  Don’t abuse the children.  Treat them well.  Be there for them.  It’s important that they’re never considered a burden or in the way.  Make time for them.  Always.

Stay away from religious drama.  Imposing your religious idiosyncrasies on others can make a relationship rough.  Be tolerant of one another’s beliefs, if at all possible.

Dating a religious fanatic could be rough on me.  There are some crazy religious people out there.  I mean, crazy.

I couldn’t imagine say dating a Mormon.  I think it’s the Mormons.  Imagine listening to your spouse go on about how the Jaherdites traveled to the America in 2500 B.C. and founded this huge civilization.  How there’s a big conspiracy by the schools and historical societies to suppress that information.  The book was supposedly written by Joseph Smith, and the story communicated to him by a resurrected native American, who had written the book ages ago.  I just couldn’t handle it.  Even if she was wonderful in every other way.  I couldn’t stay silent and just accept weird beliefs with no historical accuracy whatsoever.  And even worse, listening to her cram that crap into the children.  There’s no way.

And Mitt Romney is a Mormon.  I just.. How can someone like that be the most eligible man to represent the Republican Party?… and possibly be the president of the United States.  How.  How!

Jeez.  What else.  Be careful with alcohol.  A lot of homes are destroyed with it.  You can cause your family immense pain if you’re drunk all the time.  Try to control yourself.

That’ll do for Jason’s advice for the night.  I don’t know if some people would call all this sort of stuff “love” or not.  But I mean, it’s closely related.  Maybe I’ll write up Reflection on Love – Part III, next.

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