Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Response to faintstarlite’s video “Marriage?” on YouTube:

First of all, congratulations on your candid and generous-hearted videos. It’s wonderful that you are asking this most important and difficult question. Let me try to offer an admittedly weak attempt at an answer.

I have been in a close relationship for many years - I think of myself as emotionally married, you might say, and neither my partner nor myself sees a good reason (yet) to legalize our relationship, neither of us being either religious in a traditional sense or very impressed by the legal reasons for marriage. (I should mention that we have built a series of legal and financial ties that serve similar purposes as marriage.) We have a very strong commitment to each other, partly (I think) because we are not legally mandated to do so - an aspect of marriage that I personally strongly dislike: imagine being legally mandated to love chocolate for the rest of your life. You might be strongly tempted to dislike chocolate for a day or two, if only to show your independence.

Personally, I feel marriage to be truly necessary only when a couple intends to have children, since children need solid emotional support and strong legal and economic protections. I also believe that, once a couple has children, they should not be allowed to divorce until all the children have attained full majority and are well launched as adults: the emotional strains of divorce on children we are only now beginning to grasp, including a high incidence of inability to form strong or lasting attachments, and even a high rate of psychosis, as reported recently in the media.

In a long-term commited relationship, call it marriage or not, what is vitally important is for each of you to understand that your relationship as of central importance: if you do that, you will do nothing to endanger it. And that is, I believe, the basis of any successful relationship, whether it is as simple as that with the neighborhood grocer or the most intimate relationship of your life.

There is one unfortunate condition, however: neither member of a relationship, marriage or not, can control it, and the attempt to do so will, I think, certainly doom it. It takes the firmest commitment by both sides to make it succeed; it takes only one side to destroy it.

Another important point as I see it is the ability to compromise, often on very serious matters, always presuming that the relationship is central; if it is, and if it gives happiness, apparent compromises will no longer seem so difficult, especially when you realize that the happiness of your partner is an essential component of your own. That may be one definition of love. Lastly, in this very superficial comment, I entirely agree that contempt is the surest destroyer of any relationship - most surely of a marriage. I hope you find these comments a little helpful.


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