Good marriages can’t be thrown away

Imagine that a marriage is falling apart and that the disaffected demands of the other, “How can you throw away what we’ve worked so long and hard for–how after all these years together, and for what?”

Suppose that these questions are not simply expressions of sorrow and imminent grief. Suppose that the questions are asked in good faith. Then we can examine the argument which tells us much about our misconceptions of marriage: of what it is and what it should be.

The mistakes abound. It is assumed that the end of the marriage is external rather than internal to itself. It is further assumed that ‘maintaining’ a marriage requires near constant, effortful, strenous activity, as opposed to being at home with graceful effortlessness. Lastly, it is implied that a good marriage must run on indefinitely. If it does fall apart, then something good and still good is miscategorized as waste and hence is disposed of, dispensed with, or lost.

Let’s consider what we know.

1. Good marriages do not involve a lot of work because good marriages are not of the order of work. Better comparisons can be made between good couples and good climbing partners or between good couples and good dance partners.

2. Good marriages are sung in a Daoist key. Each sings the same tune and that tune flows like water.

3. Good marriages do not aim at some external end. They aim at an immanent end, i.e.., an aim internal to the practice.

4. Good marriages do not ‘measure’ their ‘success’ according to the realization of  some external end. They are not ‘successful’ in these terms. Indeed, good marriages are not ‘successes.’

5. Since good marriages are not ‘successes’ or ‘accomplishments,’ they cannot be dispensed with or thrown away. And marriages that do not last are not ‘wastes.’ When examined closely, even failing marriages reveal a great deal about ourselves.

6. Good marriages inhabit the long present (philosophical eternity), not the n+1 (unphilosophical eternity).

It is wise not to reply to the accusation above but to see it as a sign that the marriage is over and has doubtless been over for a while.

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