Stoicism: Day 21 and Week 3 Recap – Stoic Relationship Advice

My ice bath really froze my toes off yesterday. They did not achieve comfortably numb phase; they stayed in the “this really stings I can’t wait until this is over” phase. I took a warm shower after the ice bath yesterday to accelerate my warm-up process and it felt extra awesome. If you really want to appreciate a hot shower, sit in some cold water for 20 minutes first.

That morning I read an article in the New York Times titled “Good Enough? That’s Great.” The article is about the types of couples that find themselves in a romantic rut. The author divides the couple into three primary categories:


Sneakers have a tendency to flirt online with former boyfriends and girlfriends while constantly wondering “what if.” Instead of dealing with their marriage issues, they’d rather live in a fantasy world where they imagine they married their high school sweethearts.

The Sneakers are constantly thinking about how their lives could better. They’d be better if only they’d met the right woman, or if they delayed having children, or if they lived in a better neighborhood, etc. They are escapists who don’t realize that their problems are within them and will follow them if they decide to leave their marriage for another.


Restorers spend a lot of time trying to re-ignite the flame. They realize they have a problem and will energetically employ all sorts of tactics and activities so that they can feel passionate about their marriage again.

The Restorers are interesting because, in true go-getter fashion, they have decided there is something wrong with their marriage and have chosen to fix it. They have a very American, can-do attitude. The Stoics would be ok with the Restorers weekly date night and their reading of various marriage books, but they would counsel them to accept the possibility that they may not achieve the results they want.

Though they may see improvement, it’s very possible that they will fail.


Quashers accept their unfulfilled desires and figure out how to be ok with them. The author describes a spectrum of these couples, from bitterly resigned to appreciatively resigned.

The author implies that the Quashers on the “appreciatively resigned” side of the spectrum are the happiest of the three.

The Stoics would agree.

The  “appreciatively resigned” sect of the Quashers are the true “relationship Stoics” in the sense that they’ve accepted their situation for what it is. They realize that, though there could be more romance or more shared interests or more of whatever, the relationship could be worse.

This is negative visualization in action, and it leads to an appreciation of the current state of the relationship.

My own relationship

Though I’m not married, I have been dating my girlfriend for six years now. We met while studying abroad in France and our first “date” was a one-week trip to Rome. After the program ended, we spent a few weeks traveling to Istanbul and Greece. Since then we’ve had many adventures. We witnessed the Arab Spring in Egypt.  We became Portland hipsters. Now, we are DC yuppies.

I love her very much, but the nature of the love is certainly different than it was on our first date in Rome. The Ancient Greeks had quite a sophisticated vocabulary and understanding of the different types of love that can better describe how my love has changed.

Eros describes sexual or passionate love, the kind of love that romance novels base their sales on.

Ludus describes playful love, the feeling you get when you are flirting with a crush.

Pragma describes a long-standing and mature love that develops between long-married couples.

The beginning of our relationship was dominated by Eros and Ludus, but over time it has evolved towards Pragma.

It’s a very pleasant evolution, but you need to have the right mindset and vocabulary to enjoy it. If you expect a long-term relationship to be full of Eros all the time, you are bound to be disappointed and will miss out on the pleasures of Pragma.

A Stoic would practice fatalism with respect to the evolution of a relationship. He would accept that Eros will fade after some time and he would fully embrace Pragma as it expands to fill the gap left by Eros.

The Stoics could then avoid worrying about whether their marriage is perfect or is lacking passion or whatever modern society says your relationship is missing.

Being a Stoic husband or wife or boyfriend and girlfriend may be the key to relationship satisfaction.

Week 3 Posts