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如何让你的爱人变成更好的人

更新时间:2017-9-12 19:30:31 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

How to Fix the Person You Love
如何让你的爱人变成更好的人

At the heart of the American ideal of marriage lurks a potential conflict. We expect our spouse to make us feel loved and valued, while also expecting him or her to help us discover and actualize our best self — to spur us to become, as Tom Cruise’s titular character in “Jerry Maguire” puts it, “the me I’d always wanted to be.”

在美国婚姻理想的核心蕴含着一种潜在的冲突。我们期望配偶能令我们感受到被爱与被重视,同时也期待他或她能帮助我们发现并实现最好的自己,激励我们成为——如《甜心先生》(Jerry Maruite)中汤姆·克鲁斯(Tom Cruise)饰演的杰里·马奎尔所说——“我一直想成为的那个我。”

The problem is that what helps us achieve one of these goals is often incompatible with what helps us achieve the other. To make us feel loved and valued, our spouse must convey appreciation for the person we currently are. To help us grow, he or she must emphasize the discrepancy between that person and the person we can ideally become, typically by casting a sober, critical eye on our faults.

问题在于,伴侣通常无法同时帮助我们实现这两个目标。为了让我们感受到被爱和被重视,配偶必须表示欣赏我们当下的样子。然而为了帮助我们成长,他或她又必须强调:当下这个人与我们心目中那个理想的人之间存在差距,这通常需要对我们的错误保持清醒的批判性眼光。

Americans didn’t always ask so much of their spouse. Until around 1850, the primary consideration for a successful marriage was practical: running a household that kept its residents fed and safe. Love was a luxury. After 1850, as urbanization afforded young people the freedom to make their own decisions, love increasingly became a necessity for a successful marriage. Today, we expect our spouse not only to make us feel loved, but also to be a kind of life coach.

美国人对配偶的要求并不是一贯如此之高。直到1850年左右,对成功婚姻最主要的考量还是现实的:养家糊口、安居乐业。爱情则是一种奢侈。1850年以后,随着城市化的发展,青年人有了自己做决定的自由,爱情日益成为成功的婚姻的必要条件。如今,我们期待配偶不仅让我们感受到被爱,而且也能成为某种生活教练。

Is this a flawed ideal — or the miracle of matrimony?

这是一种错误的理想——还是婚姻的奇迹?

The answer is: It depends. The good news is that some marriages can do it all. My collaborators and I have found that affectionate partners can indeed play a critical role in determining each other’s success in reaching their goals. The bad news is that receiving such support can be brutal. As the psychologists Nickola Overall and James McNulty have shown, spouses who use oppositional, even aggressive methods to inspire each other’s pursuit of goals can increase their partners’ effort and success in the long run, but such methods cause distress in the short run.

答案是:不一定。好消息是,某些婚姻可以实现所有这些目标。我与我的合作者们发现,亲密伙伴确实可以发挥关键的作用,帮助对方成功实现目标。坏消息是,接受这种支持可能会是很残酷的。正如心理学家尼古拉·奥瓦若(Nickola Overall)和詹姆斯·麦克纳蒂(James McNulty)所证明的那样,长期看来,如果夫妻之间使用对抗甚至是挑衅的方式激励彼此追求目标,他们的努力与成就都会有所增加,但这种方法在短期内会导致痛苦。

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Achieving personal growth is an arduous process. A life characterized by the pursuit of self-actualization trades satiation and contentment for hunger and yearning. The path from the actual to the ideal self passes through anxiety, frustration and humiliation. It’s no different when our spouses are helping us get there.

这并不令人惊讶。实现个人成长是一个艰苦的过程。在追求自我实现的生活中,饥渴感总会取代满足感。从现实中的自我到理想中的自我,这条道路上布满焦虑、沮丧与屈辱。就算是由配偶帮我们走过这条道路,也没有什么不同。

Consider the married couple Katinka Hosszu and Shane Tusup. Ms. Hosszu, an elite Hungarian swimmer, underperformed in the 2012 Olympics, going home without a medal. Soon thereafter, Mr. Tusup, then her boyfriend, became her coach. He was ferocious and uncompromising, possibly even inappropriately so. He would publicly upbraid her for subpar performances, sometimes throwing objects or kicking a wall to underscore his disappointment. In the 2016 Olympics, she won three golds and a silver. She largely credits his demanding tactics for her success.

想想卡廷卡·霍斯祖(Katinka Hosszu)和沙恩·图舒普(Shane Tusup)夫妇的例子吧。霍斯祖是匈牙利顶尖游泳运动员,在2012年奥运会上表现不佳,没有获得奖牌。不久后,当时还是她男友的图舒普成了她的教练。他手段激烈,毫不妥协,甚至可能很过分。如果她表现低迷,可能会被他公然训斥;对她失望的时候,他还会扔东西或者踢墙。在2016年的奥运会上,她获得了三枚金牌和一枚银牌。她认为自己的成功主要归功于他的严格训练计划。

Ms. Hosszu and Mr. Tusup are an extreme case. But their dynamic points to a general truth: Helping a loved one achieve his or her goals can require criticism rather than warmth, harshness rather than comfort. It’s difficult to give complacency-shattering feedback while simultaneously making someone feel valued, loved and sexy. When Renée Zellweger’s character Dorothy Boyd pushes Jerry Maguire to excel, she doesn’t mince words: “Don’t make a joke of your life.”

霍斯祖和图舒普是一个极端的例子。但他们之间的关系反映出一个普遍的事实:若要帮助爱人实现他或她的目标,要做的可能是批评,而不是温暖;是严厉,而不是安慰。若要让对方感觉自己备受重视,感觉自己性感且被爱着,那便很难给出打消对方自满之情的反馈意见。《甜心先生》中,蕾妮·齐薇格(Renée Zellweger)饰演的多萝西·博伊德鼓励杰瑞·马奎尔做到最好,她直言不讳地说:“别拿自己的人生开玩笑。”

In the face of this truth — that the modern ideal of marriage is, though alluring, highly demanding — we have two options. The first is that we ask our partner to play only one of the two roles: either making us feel loved and valued for the person we currently are or making us feel motivated to grow into the person we can potentially become.

直面这个真相吧——现代人的婚姻理想固然迷人,但是要求很高——我们有两个选择。第一,我们可以要求伴侣只扮演两个角色中的一个:要么让我们感觉到当下的自我正得到爱与尊敬,要么帮助我们更有动力去成长为我们可能成为的人。

Perhaps we’ll conclude that we would rather have a comfortable life than an ambitious one, or vice versa, and we can look to our spouse to help us achieve that type of life. Or perhaps we’ll decide that we want a life of both comfort and ambition, but that we’ll look to different people to help us achieve each of those goals. Maybe our spouse will make us feel loved and safe, but we’ll count on a close friend to help ensure that we never get so comfortable that we stop striving. Such a distribution of responsibility is sensible, because the skill set that makes somebody effective at nurturing us is often quite different from the skill set that makes somebody effective at motivating us.

这样我们或许会得出结论说,我们宁愿拥有一个轻松愉快的人生,而不是一个胸怀大志的人生(抑或相反),我们可以让配偶来帮助我们实现这种生活。又或者我们既想要舒适,又想要野心,但是我们可以让不同的人来帮助我们实现这些目标。配偶会让我们感受到被爱和安全,但同时我们可以让一个亲密的朋友来帮助我们确保自己永远不会过于安逸,以至于停止继续努力。这样的责任分配是明智的,因为爱护他人与激励他人所需要的是不同的技能。

The second option is to go all in on the spouse-as-everything model, but to do so with eyes open. This option requires that the couple continually recalibrate their behavior, adopting tenderness or tough love as the situation requires. In “Jerry Maguire,” Dorothy follows up her admonition that Jerry not make a joke of his life with a warmhearted reminder of his core values and encouragement that he can live up to them. Such sensitive support requires not only strong compatibility but also significant attention and sensitivity. And with expectations so lofty, the risk of disappointment is high.

第二个选择是全心投入配偶充当一切角色这种模式,但要保持头脑清醒。这个选择要求夫妻双方不断调整自己的行为,根据情况需要,采取温柔或严厉的爱情。在《甜心先生》中,多萝茜告诫杰瑞不要拿自己的人生开玩笑,之后热情地提醒他,他的核心价值观是什么,并且鼓励他,认为他可以做得到。如此善解人意的支持不仅需要很深的默契,而且还需要关注与敏感。而且期望越高,失望的风险就越大。

As such, the second option isn’t for the weak of will. Indeed, the spouse-as-everything ideal is almost certainly one reason the average marriage has been getting a bit less satisfying in recent decades. But building this sort of marriage places within reach a level of conjugal fulfillment that was largely unavailable in earlier eras. For those couples who can pull it off, something extraordinary awaits.

因此,第二个选择不是为意志薄弱的人准备的。事实上,“配偶充当一切角色”这种理想,几乎肯定是近几十年来婚姻平均满意度下降的原因之一。但是,这种婚姻令夫妻可以共同实现一种早年间基本无法达到的满足感。对于那些能建立这种关系的夫妻来说,一些非凡的东西在前方等待他们。

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