Doing the homework before saying ‘I do’ can save you years of trouble

2011-09-01 00:00

EVERY year, divorce statistics seem to climb. Divorce is ever popular. I know, I speak from experience. In this game of chance, the odds are not very good.

From the outset, you have a 50/50 chance of failing.

There are many factors that contribute to this phenomenon and, as devastating as it can be for the families and individuals involved, it never stops the number of romantic hopefuls that line up in their finery to take the vows to “love and to cherish until death do us part.”

John Pistorius’s self-published book, Choose The Right Partner, ­offers some advice for people considering taking the plunge. For we who have failed ( we have our reasons and justifications), but is it possible to ­follow Pistorius’s logical steps when it comes to choosing a marriage partner?

Pistorius is a logical person, a former lawyer and judge, who spent some recent years in business management. He saw the tragedy of the divorce courts often representing warring parties. But his own relationship record is sound. He was married for 34 years to his first wife Ann, who died of leukaemia, and he later married Elizabeth and remains happily married.

He answered some questions:

What prompted you to write the book?

I became particularly interested in problem-solving and decision-making systems. It occurred to me that if these management approaches worked in business, why could we not apply them to our personal lives? ­Specifically the high rate of divorce in the Western world, where an average 50% of all first marriages fail (and the East is catching up fast). I therefore developed an approach using simple management principles to help people make the most important decision of their lives — choosing their relationship or marriage partner.

Your book is very practical, but don’t you think most marriages are based on emotions, not logic, therefore people would not read this book unless they had already failed once before?

That’s the problem — we make this important decision in our lives mainly by our feelings, emotions and hearts, and not enough by our minds. As someone said: “It is about deciding with your mind, and not only with your heart”. Significantly, arranged marriages have a higher success rate. In the ­excitement of love and attraction, we tend to brush aside early warning signs which could later ­destroy a relationship. You are right in ­saying that ­people who are divorced will be particularly interested in the book. They have been hurt, and want to avoid this ­happening a second or even third time.

How does chemistry come into the equation? If you think someone is right, but there is no physical attraction?

This is a serious problem. In the book I refer to “the relationship wheel”— a technique which is applied at the start of the relationship and marriage-selection process. Here, I point out that there are four main spokes which hold the relationship ­together, namely: love, trust, communication and intimacy. If any of these are broken or impaired, the wheel will not turn properly . There are of course other lesser spokes which also ­influence the wheel/relationship. Therefore, if there is no attraction or intimacy in the relationship, it is likely to encounter problems.

Have you had feedback on the book?

Yes. I tested the approach with people while I was writing the book and readers have found it very useful, and in some cases have made important decisions about their relationships.

You mention red lights or warning signs. What are common red lights?

This “self-help guide” is about seeing and removing red lights, as part of the process of choosing the right partner. A red light is a potential relationship breaker. Problem behaviour that occurs in the early stage of a ­relationship, which, if ignored, will ­impact badly on the future ­relationship or marriage. Warning signs can include a tendency to drink too much, substance abuse, physical or ­emotional abuse, infidelity or overly flirtatious behaviour, lying, ­intellectual incompatibility and so on. A red light starts out as a small ­problem which then develops into something far more serious, which eventually engulfs or destroys the relationship. You have the choice to stay or leave — and if you decide to stay in the ­relationship — I offer some suggestions for removing the red lights.

It’s a common joke that women ­always want to change their partners after marriage. Are men more realistic?

Changing behaviour, particularly in a personal relationship, is difficult. I don’t think men are more realistic.

Most marriages end as a result of money problems or infidelity — surely these indicate a problem with societal values?

Money problems and infidelity are symptoms of the underlying cause, which is that one chose the wrong partner in the first place. Sure, I agree that the high rate of divorce is a reflection of the society in which we live. But then we have no option but “to learn how to dance in the rain”.

Would you say that Hollywood is to blame for the “romanticisation” of marriage and people not seeing it for what it really is?

Yes. As Leo Tolstoy said: “What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility”.

Do you think men and women want different things in marriage?

We are all uniquely different, and men and women are no ­exception. That said, there are basic expectations from both sexes, but each person has their own hopes and dreams.

Do you think that marriage in its ­current form will be obsolete in the future because of the high failure rate?

No. Although increasingly in some societies, more people are opting for relationships outside of marriage, it still serves a vital function in society. We must just get better at it.

 

• John Pistorius’s book can be ordered directly from him at landen@ mweb.co.za or you can buy it at selected bookstores across the country.

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