Some individuals credit their mates with making them better beings. Though this attribution is very flattering, is it accurate? Can people actually alter others’ essence and conduct?
Being a better person often means transitioning from a primary stance of self-interest to a higher level of moral conduct by becoming more other-referenced.
In “The Moral Animal Why We Are The Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology” Robert Wright describes Charles Darwin’s process and logic in selecting a bride. Darwin felt “unwell” and sensed that he might need in the future “a devoted helpmate and nurse.” Though he already commanded a high status, his insecurities about his “mediocre looks and a lack of brute strength” damaged his confidence. What he sought the most in marriage was “deep affection and eternal devotion.”
Darwin sought an affirming mate who would offer him deep affection and loyalty. In assessing his future marriage, he wrote, “The ardor will surely fade, sooner or later, and the marriage will live or die on respect, practical compatibility, simple affection and determination.”
A few months after their marriage, his chosen Emma wrote, “I cannot tell him how happy he makes me and how dearly I love him and thank him for all his affection which makes the happiness of my life more and more every day.”
It appears that Darwin provided his bride with affirmation, kindness, reassurance and loyalty that he sought from her and thus created the opportunity for reciprocal happiness.
The British Philosopher and political economist John Stuart Mill who was a proponent of utilitarianism stated, “Pleasure, and freedom from pain are the only things desirable at the end.” He believed that providing pleasure and avoiding inflicting pain upon others is the core of one’s moral code and conduct.
Some partners who say that their beloved “makes them a better person” refer to the partner’s modeling moral, ethical, kind and considerate conduct that elevates them to the higher standard.
For others, the spouse’s conduct may model a strong work ethic, a devotion to family, a high level of honesty and integrity in dealing with others, different interests, or being kind, considerate, compassionate and caring about people, animals or the environment.
When your partner inspires you to learn, experience, know, think, feel or act differently than you did before, he/she does enrich your life and helps you become a better, wiser, happier, kinder and more aware person. The joy and pleasure of discovery and living up to your greater potential is rewarding, deeply bonding and your mutual gratitude elevates both of you to a higher level of intimate connection.
Can your partner make you a better person? Yes!
- Understand that “making one a better person” is not a form of parenting or rehabilitation. It is done passively, naturally through modeling behaviors that are worth emulating.
- Realize that good partners often elevate each other to a higher level of concern, caring and love.