Albert Einstein and Me – Different Takes on the Meaning of Marriage
I was reading through the daily newsfeed on Facebook, and came across a post from a friend and fellow writer that contained this quote:
“Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invaribly they are both disappointed” –Albert Einstein
When I read this, I was moved to reply:
Einstein was unsuccessful in love, both as a husband and a father.
This led to an interesting exchange about what it means to have a successful relationship, and what Einstein was describing in that quote. Seemed like something worth writing about in detail here on my persuasive communication and life skills blog, so…
Why do I say Einstein was unsuccessful in love? You can read about that here:
And here are some of my own not-so-random thoughts on the matter of success in relationship.
I’ve long held the view that every intimate relationship is a hall of mirrors. It’s one of the great advantages of relationship, because you get to see and know yourself faster and deeper in an up-close reflection. You may learn things about yourself, about life, about love many times faster than if you were on your own. Whatever you love about your partner, you love in yourself. Whatever you struggle with in your partner, you struggle with in yourself. Whatever you get upset with in your partner, you’re upset with in yourself.
The partners we choose in life tend to be either a reflection of the good we find in ourselves, or a reflection of the unresolved issues we carry into the world.
If the hall of mirrors metaphor holds up, then it’s easy to understand the battle of projections that so many relationships devolve into. Because if a man wishes his partner won’t change, because he sees in her youth, beauty, sexuality, adventure and humor, then perhaps the youth, beauty, sexuality, adventure and humor that the man admires is his own, and when it fades in himself, he projects the loss on his partner.
And if he knows to own his projection? Then within his relationship, intimacy and deepening love (along with beauty, sexuality, adventure and humor) may be his.
Ah, but what if he believes in and invests in the projection, seeks out evidence to bolster that belief? Then perhaps he’ll be trapped staring at himself in a mirror with no clue of his sad reality, the very paradigm the quote describes. Einstein’s quote may state a subjective truth, it is not a universal truth. And in my opinion, it’s not a useful generalization either.
I tend to have funny (as in odd, rather than amused) reactions to generalizations about gender. I don’t think most of them hold up to scrutiny, and I think you can find plenty of counterexamples on the other side of the gender line. Ignorance and intelligence seem equally divided, as do other desirable and undesirable traits. Just as all women are not more grounded in building family and such, neither are all men trapped in a struggle with their projections. And whether you’re a man or a woman, inevitably youth fades. Yet beauty is eternal, and I think an intimate relationship is the context where that’s most obvious.
My friend asked me how I define a successful relationship. So, according to me, there are three relationships that live in every intimate relationship. Each person’s relationship with themself, and the one that they share between them. If any of those relationships is weak, it has a deleterious effect on the other two, with the result that the relationship fails (becomes a trap of bad energy and unhappiness held together by fear, or a boarding house with back to back living and no real connection, or it just falls apart)
For me, a successful love relationship has to be based on three things: (1) Shared values, (2) shared commitments, (3) Increase in love, enjoyment, trust and mutual respect through time.
Shared Values: Nothing holds a relationship together like values, and nothing tears it apart like values conflicts (God, sex, money, roles, etc.) I think this is why the divorce rate is so high. People who don’t know their own values join together and then discover they disagree about what matters most.
Shared Commitments: If you can’t count on yourself, your word is of little value to others. And if you elevate excuses and explanations above promises, you can’t count on yourself. Many relationships fail because of broken promises.
Increase: Our capacity for love, joy and trust grows as we do. A relationship in which both individuals are free to grow and realize their potential and then bring that growth into the deepening of their enjoyment in and appreciation for each other, in which both parties continue to choose the relationship over any others and in which trust holds them together.
In sum, a successful relationship is one in which respect (self respect and respect for your partner) is more valued than blame, self pity, excuse making and projection; in which being intimate works better than wishing for it, being a source of love is more fulfilling than seeking it, and bringing joy, curiosity and playfulness delivers better results than waiting for these elements to appear in the relationship. Said another way, you get back what you put in.
How’s that? What do you think?
Rick is a best selling author and the founder of the Art of Change Skills for Life. His book titles include, Dealing with People You Can’t Stand: How to bring out the best in people at their worst, Life by Design and Influence and the Art of Persuasion. These days he is spending quality time away from the spotlight enjoying the company of his wife and practicing his electric guitar.