“You know, some of the reason why we marry the wrong people is that we don’t really understand ourselves. I mean, sometimes I say to people, ‘Do you think you’re easy to live with?’ People who are single. And the ones who say, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m pretty easy to live with, it’s just a question of finding the right person.’–massive alarm bell rings in my mind. …And so we go into marriage unable to convey that knowledge to a partner. We don’t understand them. They don’t understand us. We don’t understand what marriage is. Let’s stress that. …Be incredibly forgiving for the weird behavior that’s going to start coming out. You will be very unhappy in lots of ways. Your partner will fail to understand you. If you’re understood in maybe, I don’t know, 60% of your soul by your partner, that’s fantastic. Don’t expect that it’s going to be 100%. Of course you will be lonely. You will often be in despair. You will sometimes think it’s the worst decision in your life. That’s fine. That’s not a sign your marriage has gone wrong. It’s a sign that it’s normal, it’s on track. And many of the hopes that took you into the marriage will have to die in order for the marriage to continue. That some of the headiness and expectations will have to die. …It’s very dark. But in love, darkness is a real friend of relationships. Because so many of the problems of love come from unwarranted optimism. And so we need to be dark about so many things. …I think that there are aspects of a good marriage that should encompass a kind of melancholy, as we realize that we’re trying to do such a complex thing with someone. We are trying to find our best friend, our ideal sexual partner, our co-household manager, perhaps our co-parent. And we’re expecting that all this will miraculously go well together. Of course it can’t. We’re not going to be able to get it all right. There will be many areas of misunderstanding and failure. And a certain amount of sober melancholy is a real asset when heading forth into the land of love.” Alain de Botton
“Most important of all,
continue to show deep love for each other,
for love covers a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8
Moving From the Head to the Heart
- What is your response to this very dark portrayal of married life?
- Did you enter marriage with “unwarranted optimism?” If so, how exactly?
- Can you accept that darkness, melancholy and despair might be part of your married experience? …a valuable part?
Abba, in the darkness may I find your light.
For More: Essays in Love by Alain de Botton