s Dr. Ellen Kenner The Rational Basis of Happiness, Choose a person of good character

Choose a person of good character

Copyright © 2011 Edwin A. Locke and Ellen Kenner

Cynthia was immediately attracted to Harry’s good looks, easy smile and charm. She thought, “This is the guy for me.” A few dates, and she was smitten. A few more dates and everything fell apart. Harry lied to her, had an affair with her best friend, and borrowed money from her, which he did not pay back. What went wrong?

We all make automatic, subconscious judgments of the people we meet usually based on readily observable characteristics—the kind that Cynthia saw in Harry. Sometimes our first impressions turn out to be sound, but often they do not. We can miss the deeper layers due to infatuation, which involves excessive focus on one (or more) traits such as looks. What exactly are the deeper layers? The most important one is moral character.

Consider the virtue of honesty. Let’s say the person you’re attracted to is good-looking, charming, intelligent and dishonest. What’s going to happen? That person’s charm and intelligence will be used to deceive you. This will make trust impossible and without trust there can be no emotional intimacy. What about integrity? A person who says one thing but characteristically does another (for example, expresses loves for you and then sleeps around) is also untrustworthy.

How about independence? Does this person have real, authentic values or are they just a mirror of everyone else’s values. How can you love a person with no real identity?

Consider productiveness. Does this person take the responsibility of earning a living (if not engaged in full-time child-rearing) or do they mooch off friends and relatives and drain your life savings?

What of justice? Does this person praise your virtues and defend you against those who disrespect you or does this person toady up to your foes for prestige or approval?

Does this person respect reason or are facts (such as responsible money management) something to be invented or dismissed based on the whims of the moment? Does this person respect his or her own moral character and take earned pride in it or scorn the whole idea of caring about what’s right or wrong? Moral character is the foundation of romantic love. Of course, there are many personal factors involved in romance, but without a moral foundation, those personal factors will gain you nothing but unhappiness as Cynthia found out with handsome Harry.

Take a close look, over time and across many situations, at your potential partner’s moral character. Choosing a person of good character is the first step toward romantic happiness.

Copyright © 2011 Edwin A. Locke and Ellen Kenner