I never finish reading Peter Kramer’s book Should You Leave?

It’s so full of insights and provocative ideas, I keep picking it up and looking at sections again and again.

Here’s a paragraph that fascinates me:

It often seems that I could fill a practice with cases of falling out of love, so common is the complaint. The usual scenario is this: A young couple is well into the phase of family formation – though it is only from a distance that the family formation appears long-standing. The two have recently had their second child, and to one spouse – it could be either, but I shall choose the husband – this state represents the start of family life.

Until that point, the husband experienced himself as single, a wife and first child being elegant accoutrements to psychological bachelorhood.

With the birth of the second child, he discovers that he is permanently a husband and father. And then one day he comes home and announces he is out of love and leaving forever. (p 161)

I’m especially fixated on Kramer’s term, psychological bachelorhood.

I spoke in a recent post about how, although I am an independent and self-sufficient person, I feel like I am half of a couple.

  • Peter Kramer’s example is of a man who, though technically married, is psychologically single.
  • Meanwhile, I am the opposite; though legally single, I am psychologically married.

What’s the difference between the two conditions?

  • I recall my days as a professional matchmaker, and how frustrating it was to work with people who approached finding a life partner as if they were shopping for a car.
  • Many of my clients had long lists of features they wanted to find in a partner,
  • but what was missing was their openness to having that partner change their lives.
  • As Peter Kramer says, they seemed to view a potential partner as “an elegant accoutrement” to their life,
  • and they rejected the notion that a love partner would change their lifestyle or alter their priorities.

I believe that being psychologically married involves

  • understanding that your partner is going to change your life, and
  • wanting that!
  • It means letting go of many of your notions about how your life plan is going to play out,
  • in exchange for the adventure of creating a shared life, in which
  • you won’t always be in charge.

Scary!

Yet, isn’t every worthwhile adventure a little bit scary?


photo of early spring growth, yet to blossom