Level 3 - Compatibility
Remember your grandparents’ routine? They woke up, without an alarm, at the same time everyday, and went about their day in a methodical fashion. Every tiny act had its time and place. They knew each other’s routine perfectly, and could anticipate the other’s behavior. Whatever it was one wanted, be it a cup of coffee, a towel, reading glasses or slippers, the other would have it ready before it was asked for. There may not have been spectacular romance, they may have had their tiffs, but even that seemed part of the day‘s script. Overall, it was a picture of security, stability, and compatibility.
Charlotte Lucas and William Collins have such a stable relationship. Already well past the age when most young woman in her day wed, Charlotte seeks marriage for the financial and social security it provides. She has no thought or hope of finding romantic love. In Collins, she sees a respectable future for herself, and she is satisfied. Having been educated at Oxford and been appointed to a lucrative position as clergyman at a young age, Collins seeks marriage as a means to round out the perfection of his social attainments. Charlotte is sensible and practical. Collins is foolish and lost in love of himself. But the two of them seek marriage for similar or complementary reasons that make them wholly compatible with one another. They each accept the other as they are. They recognize the good in one another, and do not waste their time and energy looking for flaws. Their lives are well-organized and their energies are applied constructively, resulting in a stable, harmonious relationship. Charlotte tends to the house and poultry. Collins is engaged with church activities, and spends his spare time in the garden. They are polite and formal with each other as when they socialize with neighbors. They both consider themselves fortunately and happily married. In Collins words, “We seem to have been designed for each other.”
Collins and Charlotte are an example of a positive relationship at this level, because they do not ask for or expect more and they both maintain the good manners and self-discipline needed for relationships to remain positive. Positive relationships at this level are quite easy to recognize. They are stable, consistent and permanent because they are organized on a regular basis around recurring activities such as managing a household or raising a family. They may lack the passion of the previous level but they also lack the turbulence and inconsistency. When the partners are positively related in other respects, they may feel a sense of familiarity, satisfaction and physical harmony. When the partners are in conflict or fail to be well-mannered and considerate of one another, relationships at this level can become flat, dull, boring and empty, but the routine of organized family life may still hold it together.
In these egalitarian times, we frown on references to differences in class and culture, but class and culture can be critical determinants of successful relationship. The problems of incompatibility arising from class differences are powerfully brought out in the relationship between Mr. and Mrs. Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. He is a well-educated, cultured, intelligent country gentleman with a refined mind, excellent manners and aristocratic breeding. His wife, the daughter of a middle class family, is a beautiful, energetic, empty-headed woman with a loud voice, coarse manners and impulsive behavior that often borders on vulgarity.
The two rarely see eye to eye on any subject. They express no affection for one another . She often complains to her husband, but rarely about him. In return he teases and her mocks gently but without meanness. Between them, they run a large, cheerful and smoothly functioning family and estate. They each carry out their responsibilities in an organized manner. Mrs. Bennet manages the household efficiently. She plans her dinners meticulously according to the importance of the guests. She pays attention to the last detail in her daughters’ dresses. She knows all about every eligible bachelor in the neighborhood. Her mission is to get her daughters married, and she prepares for that accomplishment much like a military general waging a major campaign.
Mr. Bennet leaves the household to his wife, takes charge of the estate and the family’s finances. He manages the farm, keeps his family from spending beyond their income, and remains the quiet figurehead of the family. He does not try to dominate his wife. She does not fight with her husband. Neither shout, dispute, criticize or hurt the other. They are not selfish, mean or cruel. They maintain a polite, well-mannered relationship both in pubic and at home. So even in the absence of real affection, the family is positive, harmonious and successful. Though very different, they share common goals and live peacefully and compatibly together.
In Dr. Thorne, Anthony Trollope depicts a successful but unfulfilling example of level 3 relationship. Squire Gresham is a large rural landowner from a distinguished family. At a young age he marries the Lady Arabella, who hails from a titled and far wealthier aristocratic family. The squire enters Parliament as an MP representing his region, as his forefathers did for generations before him. Accustomed to living extravagantly, Lady Arabella and her daughters make enormous financial demands on his estate. Gresham’s problems are aggravated when he changes political party at the instance of his wife’s family and then loses two costly election campaigns while unsuccessfully trying to regain his seat in Parliament. Having borrowed heavily on the family property, he is eventually forced to sell a substantial portion of the estate. Still the debts continue to mount.
The relationship between the squire and his wife is polite and well-mannered on the surface, but marred by an undercurrent of complaint, criticism, and recrimination. Seemingly oblivious of the misfortune that she and her family have brought to her husband by her extravagant behavior, Arabella faults him and constantly decries the unreasonable restraints on her life style. He silently blames her for her arrogance and blind selfishness. The daughters sympathize with their mother, the only son Frank with his father. Through the years the squire becomes increasingly lonely and depressed by his failure to sustain the family property. Though they maintain civil behavior in public and conduct household affairs without open dispute, their relationship has long since lost any sense of personal regard or affection toward one another. When they were married, the union was thought to be respectable and socially advantageous to both families. But in the absence of emotional intimacy, the social differences between them wore down their patience and goodwill, leaving only a shell of formal and functional relationship.
If you would like to raise general questions on romance, love, marriage and relationship or about any of the content in this article, please post your entry in the appropriate forums