Marriage vs. loneliness

That seems to be the modern comparison: be married or be lonely.

But a better comparison might be, “Would I be okay if I never got married?”

According to Alain de Botton in his book The Course of Love, the later is a better way to think about it:

“To a shameful extent, the charm of marriage boils down to how unpleasant it is to be alone. This isn’t necessarily our fault as individuals. Society as a whole appears determined to render the single state as nettlesome and depressing as possible: once the freewheeling days of school and university are over, company and warmth become dispiritingly hard to find; social life starts to revolve oppressively around couples; there’s no one left to call or hang out with. It’s hardly surprising, then, if when we find someone halfway decent, we might cling.

In the old days, when people could (in theory) only have sex after they were married, wise observers knew that some might be tempted to marry for the wrong reasons–and so argued that the taboos around premarital sex should be lifted to help the young make calmer, less impulse-driven choices.

But if that particular impediment to good judgment has been removed, another kind of hunger seems to have taken its place. The longing for company may be no less powerful or irresponsible in its effects than the sexual motive once was. Spending fifty-two straight Sundays alone may play havoc with a person’s prudence. Loneliness can provoke an unhelpful rush and repression of doubt and ambivalence about a potential spouse. The success of any relationship should be determined, not just by how happy a couple are to be together, but by how worried each partner would be about not being in a relationship at all.” (p. 41-42).

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