Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chesterton on the Difficulty of Marriage

After reading a recent fluff piece* about some woman's ideas on the ideal mate, I was reminded of one of my favorite scenes in G.K. Chesterton's novel "Manalive". The character Michael Moon has just proposed marriage to Rosamund Hunt out of the blue, and Miss Hunt is afraid such an "imprudent" marriage might fail:

"[...]But the cold fact remains: imprudent marriages do lead to long unhappiness and disappointment--you've got used to your drinks and things--I shan't be pretty much longer--"
"Imprudent marriages!" roared Michael.  "And pray where in earth or heaven are there any prudent marriages?  Might as well talk about prudent suicides. You and I have dawdled round each other long enough, and are we any safer than Smith and Mary Gray, who met last night? You never know a husband till you marry him. Unhappy! of course you'll be unhappy.  Who the devil are you that you shouldn't be unhappy, like the mother that bore you? Disappointed! of course we'll be disappointed.  I, for one, don't expect till I die to be so good a man as I am at this minute--a tower with all the trumpets shouting."
"You see all this," said Rosamund, with a grand sincerity in her solid face, "and do you really want to marry me?"
"My darling, what else is there to do?" reasoned the Irishman.  "What other occupation is there for an active man on this earth, except to marry you?  What's the alternative to marriage, barring sleep? It's not liberty, Rosamund.  Unless you marry God, as our nuns do in Ireland, you must marry Man--that is Me.  The only third thing is to marry yourself--yourself, yourself, yourself--the only companion that is never satisfied--and never satisfactory."

The secret behind the ideal mate is that there is no ideal mate. If you are not able to follow God's basic command to love your neighbor, then you are already married to yourself and will of course find marriage to another person quite difficult no matter how "perfect" your spouse might be. Damn, I could go on and on ranting about this (I actually did; I just changed my mind and rewrote this post), but I will let you enjoy the quote instead. You might even want to read the book. It's awesome!

* What? I was bored at the time.