Don’t settle for love ladies! Insist on strong character instead!

Capitalism – how that is our enemy
Love – or rather professions of love, are the cheap alternative to character. All a man has to do is open his mouth and make these professions, and try to look as sincere as possible. OK, maybe throw in a few romantic dates, artfully arranged tealights – and it is on that cheap basis that he wins access into your life.  When I say cheap, I don’t mean in financial terms.  What really makes a man worthy of marriage, is all the hard work he has been doing over the course of his life, to learn to be a great person, to control his emotions, to learn how to lead with grace, and gentleness, to be respectful towards women. To work hard, to apply himself, to learn how to disagree with others, or be on the receiving end of his wife’s perhaps irrational anger, deal with it gentle, graciously, and move on. It is this behind the scenes effort that you really need to evaluate him on, not what he can throw together in a few minutes or hours with sufficient budget.

  • I’ve been reading more stories, on YouTube – these stories might not be real, but in the comments, people relate about going through similar experiences.  So these kinds of things do happen. We read about these kinds of things all the time – in the traditional media and now Reddit, YouTube – many people, especially women, often men too, find themselves caught in relationship nightmares. And for me, the answer seems so simple: for an observer, looking on and reading about one dreadful account after another, I think to myself, or the protagonist says that “if she had known who her future spouse truly was before getting married,she would not have initially gone near him with a bargepole.” If she had known that he was going to become a domestic abuser or if she had known that he was going to flip after having children or if she had known that he would be capable of financial abuse or any other one out of dozens of scenarios that we read about recycled endlessly in these various accounts, then of course she would not have ever gone out with him, let alone married him.  So for me as a single woman then, after reading these hundreds, if not thousands of accounts, the answer is clear – I need to make sure that I know before I go near him or marry him that he is not going to be any of these things, but is instead consistently going  to “treat me right” – over the course of years, and decades, so that X years from now, I will not be the one saying, or rather crying to whomever will listen “If  I had known“!This is the issue I have with the concept of romantic love:  it is offered to us as a cheap substitute for really knowing your date/husband. It is not framed in that way of course. Rather to make it worse it is presented as the be-all and the end-all of (modern) relationships. I know I’ve already written this post or something similar (a few times by now, surely!)  And then men withold their professions of love, and present them as this kind of special prize that we as women need to win. Please. It is not, of course that there is anything wrong with love, or having deep and profound feelings for your spouse.  These are good, and are to be welcomed. However, I believe that the question of love is only relevant when you have already established that your spouse to be has outstanding character. And I urge everyone reading this to take proper time to establish that fact before even almost going near someone romantically.I honestly believe that we as women would be far better off marrying men who might have no special feelings for us, but who have invested themselves in developing truly excellent character, and who are committed to us.  Here’s the thing:  it is only if the man has demonstrably excellent character that you can truly trust his commitment anyway!

    When looking back on a relationship that I read about online, where the spouses/partners barely knew one another before getting married, and then it exploded into an abusive disaster after marriage or perhaps they did not get married, and things turned sour after a few months, I will ask myself: “Why on earth would a woman put herself into a position of such vulnerability with someone she barely knows?”  And the answer is almost invariably “love”, (that is, assuming the woman was relatively self-sufficient to start with, and not previously living in some kind of desperation – in which case the answer is more likely to be “desperation”.)  The fact is, when you embark upon a relationship with someone, that puts you, especially as the woman, in a tremendous amount of vulnerability.  Why on earth do women do this with people they’ve known for a matter of days or weeks?  If you took away the concept of “love”, would it ever be plausible to move in with a near stranger, and start sharing your finances with him?  But is it almost as if that word “love” has magic powers. When a man professes that he “loves” you, then the way that that is portrayed in our world, it is as if the utterance of that magic word is enough to win your trust!  Because he “loves” you, then therefore, he is worthy to be trusted with your finances, even your very life itself!

  • And when people say “Are you sure he truly loves you?”  that just reinforces the silly power that we ascribe to this one word.  Because the insinuation is that if it is “true” love, then that is a guarantee that he would “treat you right” throughout your relationship, which is itself bound to last for ever. All these examples that we read about on Reddit, and YouTube and the media refute this notion that “love” has this magical powers of guaranteeing good behaviour in a relationship. But instead of then sitting back, and rethinking the power we give to the concept of love, people instead double down.  “Yes,” they insist – “but those examples do not represent true love!”  So you as a woman are then sent on this silly goose chase of trying to categorically prove that this love is “true” – and the way it seems to be defined is this:  as long as the relationship seems to hold together sufficiently, then it can be considered “true” love. But as soon as it starts falling – then it is not true, and it never was in the first place! OK I’m definitely oversimplifying things, and to be fair other people do talk about character, for instance when they refer to red flags. Let’s talk about the concept of red flags. When people talk about red flags, they are actually pointing out character traits that indicate that someone is not a good person to be a in a relationship with. However, the way that people talk about red flags makes it sound as if character is an afterthought, when it should actually be front and centre. So the assumption is that you get together with someone, you start planning your life together, until you notice some red flags. In fact, even then, you still continue, until the number of red flags gets “too many”, and then you leave the relationship.  No people.  The way to do it is to truly get to know someone first,  get a comprehensive idea of who they are, including all the red flags and negative character traits, before you allow yourself to go anywhere near them, romantically. [And people just normalise the idea of jumping into bed with someone you’ve known for a matter of days or weeks, or even hours. This is not spoken from a place of being judgemental, but it is so dangerous, in terms of your physical safety, especially as a woman. There are cases that spring to my own mind just now, but I’m sure we can all think of one case or another. The true wonder is not that some women get injured or worse, but rather that so many come out of these situations unscathed, knowing that there are so many predators out there. ]

Just as an aside, a stranger tried to chat me up about a week ago, and ask me out and I gave him my usual gentle but emphatic “No!” And then he tried to argue that he “deserved a chance” as if as a woman you are obliged to give absolutely anyone a chance who might express an interest in you. Yeah, no!  I honestly don’t care what the rest of the world might be doing, or what is considered convention, or normal.  Just trust me that I will never wilfully put myself into that position of vulnerability with someone I’ve literally just met, and the fact that as a man you would expect this of me, even try to insist on it, just to me demonstrates that you are absolutely not to be trusted.

Someone else’s professions of love are simply not a strong enough foundation on which to build your future life and relationship, especially when these professions of love are exchanged between people who barely know one another. Love that is expressions of love, is not an expression of character, nor is it a good substitute for character. I can almost guarantee that if we were to look into all these crazy examples of domestic abuse that read about, whether it is physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, financial abuse or whatever kind of abuse, it would have been preceded at one point by some flamboyant expressions of love and romance. Also, love-bombing is a thing, (and guess it has also happened to me – seriously!!!) I can think of so many examples where the woman is recounting her tragic tale of domestic abuse, (that is where she actually survived to tell the tale, of course) where she will say that he started off being “so loving”, and he swept her off her feet and won her heart by showering her with flowers, and expensive chocolates, sometimes spontaneous gifts and holidays, he was really attentive to start with, he always a great listener. And then three months later, “he suddenly changed”, and he started hitting her, and demanding to know where she was at all times, and going through her phone, and becoming insanely jealous every time she so much as looked at another man. And then this will go on for perhaps two or three years, until she finally finds the courage to break free and leave him.  In the meantime she will often have had children for him, which would then make the task of leaving him even harder. (If a man is hitting you, then why on earth do you sit there and have children with him?)  Initially she will blame herself for the drastic change in his behaviour, and she will do her best to please him so that he would go back to being his loving self….

How many times have I read almost these exact words, verbatim?  Too many, that’s how many.  And these of course are the stories of women who survive.  Sadly many women do not survive their abusers, and tragically, it is often when these women have finally made the moves to escape that their exes find them and end their lives. I remember this story I read a year or two ago about a woman who was being abused by a husband she had been married to for approx thirty years. Off the top of my head I can’t remember how many of those years were abusive. It may well have been the entire span of their marriage. And then when she finally tried to leave him, he could not accept it, and he killed her.  I wish that there was a more gentle way of putting that.

Please believe me that in terms of effort all these things: flowers, chocolates, teddy bears – they are all cheap cheap cheap, and they do not in any way address the underlying issue of strong character which is what you are going to need to actually have a good relationship. Ladies stop putting so much weight on love!  When a man asks you out and you don’t know him, and you cannot possibly have had any chance to thoroughly assess his character, say a big fat “No!”.  Let him take his love-bombing freak show somewhere else – which unfortunately means to the next naive sister.

You know what?  I am single, and I can’t pretend that I am altogether happy in my singleness, because I still dare to dream of a beautiful marriage. However I know that I am a lot happier than I would be if I was stuck with one of these poor exemplars of manliness, especially if I had made the mistake of having children for him!
And if you have already made the mistake of getting together with someone like this, then I would say, please make efforts to leave – but please do it as diplomatically as possible.  Don’t whatever you do, tell him beforehand. By abusing you, he has forfeited any right to transparency and openness.  I am not a trained domestic abuse counsellor. I would abuse you to look on their websites, and learn best practices.

If ultimately, I end up having a better marriage than any of these women, it will not be because I am an inherently better woman than any of them. It will not be because I have invested more effort into my marriage. Rather it will be simply for the reason that I insisted on the right thing – that is character, rather than this magic but utterly silly concept of romantic love.

So instead of asking myself – “does he truly love me?!”,  the  questions I would prefer to ask myself are these: “Does he have outstanding character?  Does he pray?  Does he surround himself with wisdom and truth?  Who are his friends? What/who does he listen to?  Who is he subscribed to on YouTube?

What character is – and why it represents true value.  Romance etc etc is cheap, because you can throw it all together with a minimum of thought, and you can convince someone that you truly love them, just because you manage to flex your card enough.  But it does not necessarily point to any deep ongoing effort in your life the way character does.
Character is about learning how to be in the world in a way that is full of integrity, and does the right thing, because it is the right thing, not because anyone is watching.
Character is a commitment, because it is in no way an inevitable part of growing up, or the passage of time. Many people will choose to do the right thing, if they know that they are being watched, or if they know that they are going to pay the price otherwise. That is not character. That is just a kind of prudence. Because it can be so easy to get away with doing the wrong thing, someone has to make up their mind that they want to truly live with integrity, not just that they want to appear on the outside to be upstanding.

So first of all, to grow in character, you have to want to do this. Another thing is that it is often far easier to do the wrong thing. Many times associates, or friends will encourage you to cut corners etc, within the last year this has actually happened to me with a pastor. When we live in a system where everyone else is doing whatever seems most convenient, then it is always easier to go along with the flow. A commitment to character is always being tested because things are always coming up where it would just be easier to lie, or do whatever else it is, and sometimes it is our very commitment to telling the truth etc that would seem to hurt our families whom we are so desperate to protect.  An example:  say we’ve got a growing family, and we need to buy a bigger house, or car or whatever, or just buy better or more nutritious food for our family. The job that we are working in is not quite enough to pay our bills. And then a better job comes up which would literally be perfect. Ultimately it involves less work, and is far better paid. But unfortunately we are drastically under-experienced. If we enter our true experience on the online application system we would be automatically rejected. However, if we were to tweak our experience just a bit, we know that we would be in with a good chance of winning that job, and more adequately providing for our family.
So then the question is what would you do?  Some people, some friends, would argue, that out of love for your family, you have an imperative to tweak the qualifications, to land yourself with a good chance of getting the job, and bettering the position of your family. I think that many people, if not most, would choose to tweak the experience, and have a chance of going for the job. And yet true character means a commitment to telling the truth at all times. And here is the thing: perhaps no-one would ever know! Perhaps you do win the new job, and in it you are lauded and feted and win all kinds of accolades. But the question with integrity is what is right? And even where you have an opportunity to tell a lie to improve your family’s situation, integrity tells the truth. You know what, there have been situations when I have lied, or bent the truth because I was desperate or whatever else.  And yet each time I’ve done it, I knew I was offending my own commitment to integrity.

The thing is that these things become a habit. If you get into the habit of lying at work, trust me, you will eventually start lying at home too. Your wife might appreciate your getting a better job for the sake of the family. But she probably will not appreciate you lying about other things that directly concern her. And she almost definitely will not appreciate your getting into an embezzlement scandal and getting sent to prison for a few years.
You know what, sometimes it is even the spouse who encourages the husband to lie.
Character is very broad. Telling the truth is just one part. There is also telling yourself the truth versus lying to yourself, dealing with your insecurities rather than trying to project them onto yourself, evaluating and dealing with your tendencies towards jealousy envy.

You know, while writing this, I have realised for the first time, that character which to me always seemed so “black and white”, can be considered a trade-off. So for instance, as a spouse, you might actually encourage the fact that your husband “bends the truth” on his CV to get a job that he is not altogether qualified for. But then the trade-off is that he might lie to you at times too. However for me, when I read all these accounts of abusive husbands, whatever the issue might be, the cure to me always seems to me to be to insist on outstanding character.  So for the kind of marriage that I would like, character is paramount. For other people, they might be willing to take the trade-off. However, I’m sure that in many cases, the same character flaws that you initially wink at, that you might benefit from, will eventually turn around and bite you. So the same cunning that your husband uses to push out his business partner, seemingly benefitting the family, is the same cunning that he will use to hide his assets if ever you find  yourself contesting a divorce.  The same roving eye that settles on you, winning you an established successful man that you have managed to steal from his existing wife, will likely  settle on someone else in due course, as the next adventuress manages to steal him from you in turn. And so on and so forth. For me, I would rather work within the constraints of true integrity, and build things from the ground up if necessary. I of course mean in my better moments, when I do not let myself be coerced by desperation. I would rather refrain from starting a family, and work within the limitations of a tighter budget with my husband, getting to the place where we can legitimately afford to start a family, without having to lie on CVs. I believe that this is what Jesus is talking about in the Bible in His parable about building your house upon a rock. Rock is reliable, it is consistent. It might require, most likely will require some difficult sacrifices in the beginning. Yet once you have built the house of your marriage on it, on telling the truth, on cultivating faithfulness to one another, on dealing with your emotions, on living with integrity – and being able to trust your spouse to do the same – then you can trust that your marriage will stand strong and firm, with no fear of being washed away in some flood.  I have actually been watching many videos about house building and guess what?!  Two thousand years after Jesus walked the earth, the principles are exactly the same. If you want a strong house, then you need to deliberately build on a strong foundation. It might take some work in the first place to establish that firm foundation.

Part 2:  In which I blame a possibly unlikely culprit – Capitalism
The speed of life in our days sounds like this: now! now! faster! faster!

How did people do this historically?  They grew up together

You know, I was asking myself once again how people used to manage these issues historically.  And that led me to reflect on the differences between “olden days” and now. And you know what my knee-jerk conclusion is?  Modern dating is an absolute sham, and the best thing that you as an individual can do is to get rid of it altogether.  I mean for different reasons than I usually talk about – I mean that different points have occurred to me in the context of this post.

So yeah, I was asking myself “how did people in “olden days” have relationships, or settle down?  And what are the differences between their days and now? And you know what?  I’m sure that abusive relationships have always occurred, but simply not to the extent that we have now.  Looking back into history, and just thinking off the top of my head about communities like the early settlers in the US before it became the US, or Nigerian villages where my ancestors may have lived, or anywhere else around the world, I am sure that historically around the world, what characterised a good man, and from that a good marriage, would have been responsibility and reliability. As opposed to, for instance, someone who drank too much. And I think that if historical relationships worked, that would have been the reason why.  I am absolutely sure that our modern day focus on love and feelings is a more recent thing, and the worst thing is that we think that we are so sophisticated, and yet our relationships are not working. And yet as I think about it our attitude towards love is almost frivolous

Life in those days used to be a lot more physical, of course, for both men and women. People used to work off the land directly, in many parts of the world people still do. For the sake of sheer survival, as a wife, as a family you needed a man who would literally pull his weight in terms of building a house, from scratch if need be, likely with the help of his friends, ploughing the fields, sowing the crops, literally getting his hands dirty to do whatever needed be done. In these hardworking communities, who would have time for flowery poetry? OK perhaps at times of relaxation, but I guess the issue is to keep it in perspective, to know that this is the icing on the cake, or the ornamentation of life, and not life itself. I have in the past read lots of Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer and other historical romance, of varying levels of quality.  Many of these stories are set among the gentry, or nobility, or aristocracy. So these people often enjoyed lives with a strong element of leisure, unlike the hardworking working class who served them. And yet even among these people who enjoyed a certain element of leisure, poets who wrote flowery poetry were often derided as being a little bit silly.

This is somewhat conjectural, but all the same, I suspect that the questions that women have been asking of their potential husbands since time immemorial have been:
1. Is he truly responsible and reliable?
2. Is he a kind man?
3. Will he be committed to me?
4. Let’s be candid, money has always been a consideration – so will he be able to provide for me and any family we might have – but then that would often have been answered by Question 1 – when people directly worked off their own land, or “owned the means of production”, in capitalist parlance.

And I believe that as they were likely the most important questions then, they also remain the most important questions now.

And then in many cases you know, women would know the answers to these questions because they have grown up with these men.

How capitalism is our enemy:
Well firstly, we as workers in capitalist societies, no longer own the means of production. So unfortunately, the question of someone’s material prosperity is no longer tied to the matter of how hard they work. So it is more than possible for someone to be responsible, reliable, and prepared to work as hard as necessary, and still be stuck in seemingly unshifting poverty.  But that is just an aside.

What I really want to focus on here is this: the issue of time.  Because of the ever tightening requirements of capitalism, that is our jobs and “the market”, jobs tend to grow ever more demanding. And yet job security is also getting lower and lower and more and more workers are finding themselves in the merciless clutches of “the gig economy”. At the same time house prices are rising higher and higher, also food prices, energy prices.  It seems as if everyone, except the capital owning class is having to run faster and faster just to survive. this is the way things currently seem, I don’t know whether this is a historical glitch, or whether it is somehow written into the fabric of capitalism that things are guaranteed to continue this way indefinitely.
Either way, what it currently means is that it seems like everyone is working different shifts, and always working at that – more and more hours at work.  Developing friendships and clubs requires us to be able to consistently meet regularly.  That may have been possible 20 or 30 years ago when everyone had more free time. However now, as people are having to put in two or three jobs just to afford rent, then many people just don’t have the luxury of being able to schedule off consistent blocks of time.  As well as relationship subreddits, I also read the antiwork subreddit. A consistently recurring theme there is this:  “I told my manager before I started work that I would never be able to work XYZ (weekday evenings, Saturday mornings, whatever it may be). They agreed, but then one day they went back on their word and insisted I needed to work that day. But I refused, and now I’ve lost my job!”
But friendships, and relationships, need a consistent time to develop. So for many of us, at least those who work in working class jobs, life is more chaotic and unstructured.  These means that such people increasingly miss out on these consistent times where they can grow friendships – or get to know people. And I believe that short of growing up with someone, regularly spending non-romantic time together for instance in church is the next best way of being able to assess character.

Enter dating apps.  I believe that these are optimised for a world where everything is fast, faster and faster yet. You make almost instantaneous decisions on people based on physical appearances. The whole thing is gamified. You’ll chat for a few weeks, then if it progresses that far, you might meet up in person, evaluate the chemistry. And then in the blink of an eye you’ll be describing yourself as being “in a relationship”, and seeing how far it can get. Sorry to anyone who uses these apps, but this is simply almost guaranteed to fail.  Even if you do manage to get this relationship to the point of marriage, it would not surprise me – at all, if this marriage does not quickly sputter and then go out.It is a wonder to me that any of these relationships manage to survive, and even thrive.  Because you know nothing about this person, and you have not had a chance to thoroughly observe his character. Furthermore, the fragmentation/atomisation of daily life means that the kind of support that has historically held communities, families and marriages together is fast disappearing. And somehow, some people manage to stay together despite all those challenges? A big kudos to them.


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