Mostly the book is fun and funny, but it has real wisdom. The chapter that taught me the most was on online relationships, which I have never really understood. But the chapter that most spoke to me was ominously entitled “Monotony.”
Dan notes that virtually every long term relationship loses some of its sparkle as the years roll by. That is not entirely bad. A good marriage provides stability and security and comfort, which we all need. But stability and security and comfort do not easily combine with excitement and passion. And yet most of us still want a little passion in our lives, to go along with all that stability.
Dan says there are basically three strategies for finding passion when people are in long-term relationships. One is to “sneak.” Dan distinguishes sneaking from having an affair by limiting it to flirtations that don’t get (too) physical. But even thus distinguished, sneaking is not a very honorable way to experience a little excitement. A second is to work at restoring passion in the marriage. Dan mentions several ways people try to do that, but he comes across as doubtful that many of them really work, especially over the long-term.
The third is to “quash” the desire for passion. But here Dan makes an important subdivision. Some quashers give up on excitement in life and become bitter. Others are “appreciatively” resigned. They recognize that we cannot have everything in life. They are grateful for what they do have in their marriage, and they do not want to jeopardize the good by seeking a new passion that would be ephemeral anyway.
This third seems to be Dan’s preferred strategy. It is certainly mine. And I would broaden it out way beyond marriage. This seems to me to be the essence of genuine emotional and spiritual maturity. The fact is, I have, at one point or another in my life, wanted many things that I now realize I cannot ever have. If I focus only on what I don’t have, I could easily become bitter. But if I focus on what I do have, if I pause to thank God for my many blessings, if I cultivate an “attitude of gratitude,” I can make peace with my life as it is and in fact be genuinely grateful for it. Even the things I miss, or the misfortunes I experience, have as a sort of silver lining the opportunity for growth.
So here’s to being “appreciatively resigned!” Or, maybe better, to knowing peace and gratitude for what we have, without worrying too much about what we lack!! And, in case my wife ever reads this, I want to add that I still feel all the old excitement and passion; it may even have increased!