Broken Picker

Two of my women friends coughed up a t’riffic expression this morning.

Like a lot of people, they both said, our picker’s broken. We pick the wrong people with whom to couple.

A broken picker. Who can’t relate to that?

For anyone beyond the age of first infatuation, the realization that we have chosen and continue to choose the wrong people is valuable. Being sufficiently self-aware to the point that we can face our limitations head-on is a place of strength, a springboard from which we can realistically improve.

But: A broken picker might not actually be a broken picker. Because so much of our picking ability is developed early as a result of parental and family modeling, to blame ourselves for poor construction is unfair. What’s really happened is that the relevent parts of our picker were incorrectly assembled, or assembled with some key pieces absent, mis-labeled parts, inappropriate parts, or perhaps all the pieces are still in the box. That was a parental failing.

My point is that a malfunctioning picker reflects only upon those who should have built the darn thing in the first place. However, now we’re adults and recognize our own spluttering choices, we can return to the original parts box to find what’s missing.

Constructing a picker isn’t tricky, but it does require searing honesty and some tools. (Some of which are supplied here.)

Sticking With It

The idea of it is daunting.

Imagine choosing one person in your twenties or thirties, getting to know them for eighteen months or two years and then committing to share your lives together forever. Through good times and bad, failure and success, happiness and sadness, the plan is to stick together.

Absurd as this concept is to the clear-eyed, it works. People make this institution a success and go on to have children who make it a success; that, BTW, adds an additional layer of stress and complexity unimagined at the start.

What’s the secret? Why do we long to make this happen, and how do we claim some of the magic for ourselves?

I wonder if the key isn’t flexibility. Our vision of two people merging into one isn’t helpful. A better simile might be of two dolphins moving together through the ocean. Our dolphins move in generally the same direction, sometimes side-by-side, sometimes in looser formation. Oftentimes they know when the other will change direction, and they change direction instantly or, when they get the picture, after a while. They hang around in the same area playing together, but not necessarily with each other, and they always have their mate’s back.

The two of them are individuals, but it’s clear that even if they’re apart, they remain together…a fact acknowledged by them and their tribe.

That’s a long way of suggesting that flexibility in the face of change might be an under-represented part of the secret to success. Whomever changes must help the other to join them on the path, that’s their responsibility. Whomever is being helped must absorb the change and do their best to keep up.

Obvious caveats about legality, morality and danger apply, but recognizing that we all change is a big step. It opens the door.

After The Honeymoon

The job was for a long time the territory of churches and temples, pastors and rabbis, elders, matriarchs and patriarchs. Good examples became models, poor examples pariahs, and the differences and why were explained, if only elliptically.

Traditional cultural guardians have lost their influence. Whomever has a tunnel into every individual’s brainspace now creates the cachet, the mindset and the norms. That’s not to say that civilized society is falling apart, because it isn’t…but it is fraying at the edges, and the day-to-day maintenance looks to be, well, sketchy.

Dating and coupling reflects this as much as anything. We’re all empowered now to think that whatever we feel we need to be ourselves is the best way to find contentment and happiness. All of those fusty old ideas might have worked back then, but they don’t apply to me. And if I make a mess of it, well, I’ll just re-invent and start over.

Which might work for a while. The trouble is that we have only one shot at life, and getting stuff right-ish makes a difference. To protect ourselves from the dangers of nature (and our fellow-man) we build houses. There are right ways and wrong ways to build a house to do that job, and that will always be the case. Learning how to do so by acting on your feelings or relying on others leaves way too much up to chance. Knowledge of and the application of precedents that work are worth learning.

The question remains: From whom will you gain this understanding?

Online Danger

The victim met the guy online, and had been dating him for a few weeks.

This tragedy uncovers a few horrendous truths about that choice.

First among them is that there are homicidal people out there, and we probably won’t figure out who they are until it’s too late. Someone will know – in this case the parents – but you and I will not.

The most heartbreaking truth is that the victim’s three children will experience the pain of their mother’s death forever. Not only were their parents divorced, now this unimaginable distress. Consider that they are reportedly aged 8 to 12.

And another painful truth is that it will probably happen again.

Drawing any kind of conclusion from one extreme case is neither logical nor reasonable. We all over-ride fear and danger if the perceived reward makes that worthwhile. In this case, the calculation was wrong, and those poor children must bear the burden.

Dating is about choosing to be close to strangers in order to figure them out. Online dating is about being close to strangers whose motives are even murkier than the person you might meet in the course of your everyday life. Is assuming the best always the smartest plan?


Are you happy, darling?

I can see myself being happy with her.

What can I do to make you happy?

I couldn’t be happier. How about you?


For Americans (actual citizens, that is, because otherwise it does not apply) it’s right there in the constitution. It is worth quoting:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

The pursuit of happiness is a lifelong adventure. My experience is that whilst it can appear ephemeral and fragile – like the polar auroras – there are ways to muscle it up. Practice, for one. Choice, for another. And setting a low bar as one’s threshold helps. For instance the cup of tea that I sip as I write makes me happy. You get the drift.

Separate from our own personal happiness is the matter of happiness within a couple. Maybe it’s too simple to state, but I’ll do it anyway: happy couples are likely to be happy individuals.

You see I think happiness is located not in the world around us, but somewhere between the part in our hair and the gaps between our toes. That pursuit mentioned in the US constitution makes you think of chasing bears, but I think those guys in powdered wigs and hose were smart enough to know that, while it might include chasing any number of animals, lasting happiness comes from tapping what’s within.

I am big on being overt about stuff, especially in coupledom, so why not a plan for happiness with your beloved? Talking about how to be happy with your someone special makes a lot of sense to me, mostly because the very act of combining both of your minds will open up a conversation that happens all too infrequently. The question is:

Let’s be happy. How do we find that together?

Addendum: The Claremont Institute has this nice interpretation:

It is worth remarking that the Declaration does not proclaim a right to happiness itself. Happiness is not something we have by nature. Rather we are born with minds and talents that we may use to pursue happiness.