Finding Your Life Partner With Some Help From Aristotle

Bust of Aristotle; Roman copy in marble of Greek original in bronze by Lysippos

How can an ancient Greek philosopher from over 2300 years ago help the modern woman find the right man?

I think that his ideas of friendship will get us going in the right direction.

Aristotle talked about the different kinds of friendship. The three categories were: utility, pleasure and virtue.

When we all go to an event, all of the participants are friends of utility. They are there at the same time for the same reason. This could be a birthday party, a poetry awards luncheon or a museum fundraising dinner.

If two people happen to like each other through meeting one another, whether romantic or non-romantic, then the friendship becomes one of pleasure. They enjoy each other’s company in a social context.

Most dating ends there – friendships of pleasure. People think that potential life partners have to enjoy being with each other.

But that is not all. A marriage, like any relationship, needs to grow in order to stay vibrant. And many marriages grow apart, because the relationship cannot handle the changes that the two partners experience as they get older.

Aristotle speaks of the friend of virtue. This kind of friend is the kind of friend we need because he or she is good for me. Friends of virtue seek to help us get wiser, smarter and more mature. They do not replace friends of pleasure but they are more than friends of pleasure. In fact, they are friends of pleasure who want to help us become a better person.

So now, what is virtue?

Virtue is the habit of doing the right thing.

The ancient Greeks believed in the four important aspects of virtue. These are courage, justice, prudence and temperance.

Courage is having the stamina to stick with something regardless of the personal risks involved. We think of having courage when someone runs into a burning house to save someone.

Justice is pursuing the right and rejecting the wrong. It is making sure that good actions are rewarded and bad actions are punished. The court system exists only to punish the bad actions.

Prudence is practical wisdom. It’s making decisions that get you what you want in the most efficient manner. It could be as simple as buying in bulk one time rather than making multiple purchases as a higher cost per purchase. Or it could be saving money and driving an older car rather than spending a lot of money on a new car every three years.

Temperance is moderation. It is not having too much or too little. Temperance has been associated with alcohol, but it applies to eating, sleeping and every other physical habit. We can eat too much, sleep too much and work out too much. Or we can eat too little, deprive ourselves of sleep and not exercise enough. Physical habits should always be moderate, not extreme.

All four of these aspects hang together. That is, you cannot have one aspect without the others.

You cannot be a courageous hitman for the mob because courage requires a just end, and murdering people is not just.

We should be looking for someone who is courageous, just, prudent and temperate. If he possessed those four qualities and practiced them on a daily basis, he would be a friend of virtue.

So here is my thought. Instead of trying to find the right life partner, I think we should be looking for friends of virtue. Friends of virtue are difficult to find but are easier to find than a friend of virtue and life partner in one package. We should seek to surround ourselves with friends of virtue because friends of virtue are friends worth having for a lifetime. And just maybe, one of those friends of virtue can be our life partner.

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