On Marriage

The Jewish Bride (detail)

As for marriage, there is nothing wrong with it except the legal institution. The natural event of a man and woman living in constant companionship, with or without children, is an admirable arrangement which works to the degree one does not insist that it must work, and does not treat one’s partner as property. Another being regarded as property is automatically a doll. Whenever I perform a ceremony of marriage for personal friends, I give some such discourse as this:

“What I am about to say may at first sound depressing and even cynical, but I think you will not find it so in practice. There are three things I would have you bear in mind. The first is that as you now behold one another, you are probably seeing each other at your best. All things disintegrate in time, and as the years go by you will tend to get worse rather than better. Do not, therefore, go into marriage with projects for improving each other. Growth may happen, but it cannot be forced. The second has to do with emotional honesty. Never pretend to a love which you do not actually feel, for love is not ours to command. For the same reason, do not require love from your partner as a duty, for love given in this spirit doesn’t ring true, and gives no pleasure to the other. The third is that you do not so cling to one another as to commit mutual strangulation. You are not each other’s chattels, and you must so trust your partner as to allow full freedom to be the being that he and she is. If you observe these things your marriage will have surer ground than can be afforded by any formal contract or promise, however solemn and legally binding.”

A couple that would object to this discourse should not marry.

Alan Watts
In My Own Way (1972)

Painting by Rembrandt van Rijn: Detail from The Jewish Bride (1666)

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