Saturday, October 2, 2010

Dating and Mating

I was at the park the other day with Ali. She does half day kindergarten so we have some time in the afternoon together before Will comes home. I was pushing her on a swing when a mom, about the same age as me... maybe a bit younger, started chatting while pushing her daughter on the adjacent swing. To tell you the truth having a young, cute child makes people want to talk with you. It's some kind of societal sign that you're not some kind of sociopath (or at least a high functioning one).

Before I started writing (about 7 years ago) I was a bit of a misanthrope. I know, it's hard to believe. Talking with people just seemed like a chore and even getting out of the house was a drag. Think about it, when you're single a lot of social activity is focused on the other sex (that's a nice way of saying trying to get laid). Being married left the basic incentive for social interaction (for me at least) fairly low. Now, however, I look at any conversation or social event as an opportunity to get material for the blog, a script, or maybe that comedy book I've been considering.

On my never ending quest for interesting tidbits to write about many of the conversations I have with people(especially with people I don't know too well) resemble an interview. Not a hard core Anderson Cooper style interview, but a gentle exploration of the facts. I found out that the mom was going back to school to get her nursing degree. She was going through the local community college and then planning to transfer to a private college in Boston. Most of her classes are at night or on the weekend so her husband has to man-up and take care of the kids, which he doesn't like.

Hmmmm... not only am I interested in getting material to write about, but I'm really interested in how couples with kids structure their time. It's my search in building a better mousetrap and I like to see how other folks do the work-kids balancing act. What I have found, in that non-scientific way, is that parents around my age and younger are typically more flexible in terms of gender roles. That's what I found interesting about this mom and her husband. I probed a bit more. What did I find out?

Her husband was raised in a conservative Catholic family.

Yep, when God tells the man that he is in charge of his family it's not the best starting point in negotiating with their spouse. I know what Goddies will say, "As Christ is to the Church, the husband is to his wife," and that sounds to me like a recipe for some kind of medieval feudalistic relationship. Ick.

But here is the rub.

Her husband is the only child and his mother treats him like the Crown Prince of You're Awesomeville. How a mother treats her son and how a father treats his daughter, I have found, is a reliable predictor of how married life (or any other long term romantic relationship) is going to turn out. Does your girlfriend have screaming fits with her dad? Beware. Does your 32 year old boyfriend's mom do his laundry? Good luck. These patterns have a way of  perpetuating themselves in the best of circumstances. When outside pressures such as children, a mortgage, etc, come into the picture those parent-child patterns that your significant other has with their parent can get much, much worse. These habits can be dealt with and that means not ignoring them. They may never go away, but all you can ask for with chronic problems is that they are managed successfully. 

If you can do that you have accomplished a lot.

From Purgatory.

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