Friday, January 22, 2016

Whatever It Is

Zac Brown might know what "It" is.
Zac Brown Band’s great song, Whatever It Is, nothwithstanding, there is something I’ve learned about the most successful romantic relationships. It’s something I began to suspect during the first meeting with my wife when she and I were both 14 years old. I knew from the first words she and I spoke to one another and I know it might sound funny, but I was certain the girl would be my wife. I absolutely knew at that time that I had a connection, beyond compatibility and even beyond what some people call chemistry. It’s something that many years ago I began to refer to as, “It.”
                   
To have a successful long-term relationship, I think most people would agree that two people have to be compatible in a number of important ways. I think, for men, the first level of compatibility is visual. For a lot of evolutionary reasons, a man is simply attracted to a woman who he thinks is pretty. Depending on social and cultural standards at a given time, the traits of physical attractiveness have changed. To some degree, relative attractiveness is also matter of personal preference. Of course, there’s much more than physical attractiveness that makes a relationship successful such as harmonious attributes relating to intellect, spiritualism, creativity, emotions, and a lot more.

For example, a couple doesn’t necessarily have to be intellectual peers, but it doesn’t hurt for two people have to be pretty close when it comes to intellectual horsepower. In one area or another, partners can be either Equals or Complements. Equals operate on the same level and flit and flutter around an idea and the other like barn swallows over still farm pond. Intellectual Equals, for example, talk and debate and philosophize and hypothesize and just “chew the fat” as naturally as they breathe. On the other hand, Complements
Equals. Complements. Compatibility. Chemistry. It is more.
highlight a relative strength that one partner possesses that serves to make the relationship stronger. A good example of Complements is a couple in which one partner is calm and measured in his or her approach to life and the other who is more impetuous. The more composed partner serves as a guidepost during difficult times that relationships inevitably face. The more impulsive may be more creative, however, and provide unique ways to approach complex relationship problems.

Notably, it may not always be the same partner who is the guide. One partner may be the spiritual and creative leader, while the other may be the physical and emotional leader. Also, I think that more successful couples are a combination of Equal and Complement where one partner is the guide in some areas, the other is the guide in others.

Whether Equals, Complements or some combination, two people who are compatible in the important areas of life can, and often do, in my observation have a successful, loving, committed, life-long relationship. Compatible couples may also feel something that many people call “chemistry.” Frankly, they probably have chemistry, if chemistry is defined as finishing the other’s sentences and communicating sometimes with an expression or perhaps with nothing at all. Chemistry lets two people just to know.

It, however, is something more. It includes compatibility. It includes chemistry. It is also something exponentially greater. Although I’ve experienced It, the best way I describe It is, “It is the extremely rare, divine soul that two people share.” Yeah, that clears it up. Maybe, describing what I’ve seen that It does/can do may be a better way to explain It:

  1.  It is something that one person senses for another person very shortly after meeting her (or, for women, him).
  2. It makes everything, from food to physical intimacy to doing the dishes, exponentially more enjoyable.
  3. It does not fade.
  4. It doesn’t prevent disagreements or arguments, but It lets the couple know after the spat, regardless of subject, length, or degree of passion, everything will always be okay in the end.
  5.  Whether the couple is aware, two people who share It also have a purpose.
  6. The relationship of a couple who has It only ends when one partner dies.


In his novel Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut Jr. describes a duprass[i], which is a connection between two people that very closely emulates what I refer to as It. According to Vonnegut, a duprass includes two people:

. . . linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial links are not evident. The two members of a duprass live lives that revolve around each other, and are therefore often married. "A true duprass can't be invaded, not even by children born of such a union.[ii]"


So, how common is It? Well, admittedly, my observations are subjective and anecdotal, but I don’t think It is very common. Considering the divorce rate is “3.6 per thousand[iii]” and the marriage rate
is “6.8 per 1,000,[iv]” the divorce rate is more than 50% of the marriage rate. That means more than half of people absolutely don’t have It. Among those who remain in committed relationships, it’s really hard to say how many are compatible and believe they have chemistry and how many have It.

Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Consider the number of potential romantic partners a single man sees in his lifetime. The answer is probably several hundred or thousands each year. Among those a man speaks only to a few and gets to know even fewer. Considering the “average age of first marriage in the United States is 27 for women and 29 for men, up from 23 for women and 26 for men in 1990 and 20 and 22 (!) in 1960,[v]” how many chances would a guy have to meet a woman with whom he shares It?

Assuming a guy comes into contact with an average of five potential partners a day every day from the time he is 14 years old. That may be a stretch, but if that’s the case, then he’d meet 1,825 a year. Assuming he marries at age 29, then he’d have seen 27,375 ladies who had the potential to eventually become his partner. In reality, with how many of those would he have any sort of attraction? Maybe, one in 100? One in 50? Even the number is one in ten, then the universe of real potential mates is really only about 180 a year or 2,700 during a young man’s single years. But wait. How many of those will the average guy have time, opportunity, circumstance, or has the confidence to initiate a meeting and conversation? Considering many of those potential Mrs. Right’s will be standing in the grocery check-out or walking out of a store with a gaggle or her gal pals, or sitting behind the steering wheel of her car at a stop light, how likely it is a guy’ll be able to say, “Hello,” without any context and not come across as a serial killer? Even if those opportunities are one in ten, which I don’t think those opportunities are even that likely, now there are just maybe 270 real, possible “I do’s.”

Zac Brown Band: Whatever It Is

So, among those 270, with how many will have whatever It is? I don’t know. I know some couples who also have It, but it’s not that many. So, now that we’re single fathers, how many times will we have the chance to find It?





[i] Cat’s Cradle. Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Holt Rinehart and Winston. 1963.
[ii] “Bokononism.” Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bokononism. Accessed 12/17/15.
[iii]  “Marriage and Divorce.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm. Accessed 12/17/15.
[iv] [iv]  “Marriage and Divorce.” The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/marriage-divorce.htm. Accessed 12/17/15.

[v] “Getting Married Later Is Great for College-Educated Women.” Eleanor Barkhorn. The Atlantic. March 15, 2013.