Friday, July 10, 2015

On Commitment

Reasonable Man, Bill Clinton, and White House intern, Monica Lewinski
Have you ever wondered how exactly in the flippin’ world that then President of the United States was able find the cojones to testify under oath, “I did not have sex with that woman, Monica Lewinski?” For the love of Mike, he was an attorney.

Well, my guess is that Mr. Clinton applied a legal theory known as the “Reasonable Man,” which denotes “a hypothetical person in society who exercises average care, skill, and judgment in conduct and who services as a comparative standard for determining liability ( “Reasonable person theory (redirected from reasonable man theory).” Accessed 6/21/15.).” In other words, Mr. Clinton used the Reasonable Man theory, also now known as the politically correct Reasonable Person theory, to disavow that oral sex constituted sex because he believed that the majority of Americans similarly did not believe it to be true. He was probably right. “80% of young adults surveyed believe oral genital contact doesn’t count as sex, (“Most young adults: oral sex is not sex.” Kelli Miller. April 10, 2010.)” and I’d guess, in the late 1990’s, there were still folks around who were born during the Roosevelt administration – the Teddy Roosevelt administration, who’d never even conceived of oral sex.

Where am I going with this?

Committing one’s self to another person, like a marriage, is a contract. Simply, a contract is “an agreement with specific terms between two or more persons or entities in which there is a promise to do something in return for a valuable benefit known as consideration ( "Contract." Accessed 6/21/15.).”  If one person promises to love, cherish, and forsake all others until death do us part in exchange for the same promise from the other, that is a contract in which that valuable benefit. A contract can written or verbal and can be as simple as a promise by one person to paint the other’s kitchen while the foyer owner promises to give the painter $350. If the painter finishes the job, but the foyer owner doesn’t give the painter $350, then the contract is breached.

Considering “In the United States, researchers estimate that 40%–50% of all first marriages, and 60% of second marriages, will end in divorce (Should I Keep Trying to Work It Out? A Guidebook for Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce (and Before). Hawkins, Alan J., Fackrell, Tamara A. Utah Commission on Marriage.  October 2009.),” two things are clear. First, there are a lot of people who don’t understand the definition of the marriage contract. Second, and perhaps more significantly, a reasonable person in our society may no longer consider marriage a “until death do us part” contract.

According to Hawkins and Fackrell in Should I Keep Trying to Work it Out?, there are several variables which put couples “at higher risk for divorce: marrying at a very early age, less education and income, living together before marriage, a premarital pregnancy, no religious affiliation, coming from a divorced family, and feelings of insecurity (Should I Keep Trying to Work It Out? A Guidebook for Couples at the Crossroads of Divorce (and Before). Hawkins, Alan J., Fackrell, Tamara A. Utah Commission on Marriage.  October 2009.).”

As an adult single father who has dated and regularly interacts with other single fathers who’ve experienced divorce, I have my own ideas about identifying a partner who has similar views about commitment to mine. While, for a single father, marrying at an early age is no longer relevant and the detriment of premarital pregnancy may be mitigated by maturity and financial security, here are a few things I’ve noticed about others’ views about commitment and proclivity for divorce/breaking a commitment. Of course, this applies to both men and women who are looking for a committed life-partner:

1) If a person is already divorced, there is a good chance, about three out of five according to Hawkins and Fackrell, that person will divorce a second time.
2) If a person’s parents are divorced, that person is more likely to take the easy road (and divorce) rather than do the hard work to fix a relationship.
3) If a person has been unfaithful to other partners, there’s a better chance that person will be unfaithful in a new relationship.
4) Jealousy resulting from insecurity is deadly to committed relationships. If your partner is jealous or insecure, the relationship faces an uphill battle.

Muggsy Bogues guarding Michael Jordan
Of course, it is wrong to judge someone based solely on his or her circumstances, whether physical, socio-economic, or anything else. (That's called prejudice.) Like in the NBA where success and physical height are strongly correlated, 5’3” Muggsy Bogues thrived, every case is different. Perhaps, a divorced woman left the relationship as a result of physical abuse, her partner's substance abuse, or maybe her partner broke his commitment in some other way. Maybe, your potential soul-mate’s parents were divorced, but the experience reinforced her belief in the importance of keeping one’s promises. Each person’s circumstances are unique and dating is the way you discover whether your and your potential partner’s values match.

Still, if you have questions or doubt, these facts about the woman you’re dating will at least give you some clues about where you should be looking and just how reasonable a person she is.