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Marriage closes doors. It forces one to destroy other relationships that could have become something great. Sometimes it forces people to "make a choice" which means to destroy a relationship that already is great.

Relationships should develop piecemeal. Marriage (and the courtship preceding it) causes a revolutionary change in one's life. "I do" is final. It's not open to correction should it be mistaken.

Everyone knows this. It's not a secret. They know marriage can be hard or painful. They know it can involve sacrifice. They know it's a big commitment that can "happen so fast" and that sometimes one has to make a big decision, with serious consequences, which he doesn't feel quite ready for.

But they do it anyway. They say that's how life is. They are pessimistic that life can be better. They say the pain can't be avoided. And they say it's worth it. They are pessimistic that alternative ways of life can have equivalent or superior upsides.

That's not how life is.

You can have two hobbies. You can do them both. But you can't have two intimate relationships. No one asks you to choose one hobby and stick with it, and to give up the other.

You can have one kind of fun one day, and another the next. No one asks you to choose one and devote yourself to it permanently. Variety is the spice of life.

You can have lots of friends. And that's important. Knowing different types of people help's one see different perspectives on life. Culture clash is educational.

Intimate relationships are important, they say. Intimate relationships teach you a lot, they say. They change you. Who you marry is very important because each person is different, and your life will be different based on who you choose. There's different things to learn available with each spouse. There is goodness to be derived from many different possible intimate relationships. But most of it will never be yours. They say it is there, and they say it cannot be yours. You can only have a little piece of it.

Relationships are joyful, they say. They make people happy. They also make people sad. Too bad. That's just how life is. You can't do anything about it. Don't even try. Just accept it. Problems are not soluble.

Who is so blind as will not see?

Elliot Temple on September 19, 2008

Comments (8)

Comparing marriage to hobbies is a bit applies/oranges. Yes you can have two simultaneous hobbies, but it would be pretty infeasible to have two simultaneous careers - doctor AND lawyer, say. Either career (and several others, such as academic research or investment banking) requires a large upfront investment in terms of time and training and literally takes up most of your time once you get into it. To get into such a career, you have to make an initial choice, which closes doors, and forces you to destroy your potential for other careers that could be great. The careers can be hard or painful, involve sacrifice. The choice has serious consequences and is usually made by 22/23-year-olds at a time when they're not ready for it, but there's no other practical way. And there's no (or very little) turning back; once you've gotten onto, say, the med school -> intern -> resident -> doctor track (in many cases going into debt to do so), there's very little realistic prospect that you'll ever have the opportunity to, say, forget about the whole thing and audition for and get roles on Broadway.

And that's the way life is. Right?

Of course there are cases of doctors or lawyers or bankers who quit the career and go back to schooling/training to do something else. In their late 30s, say, when they've already been in their career for 10+ years or so, long enough to know they don't want it to be for life and mature enough to have the courage to do so.

But the same is true of marriage: people get divorced.

Marriage, in concept and in practice, is far more like a career than a hobby. For better or worse....

Sonic Charmer

Anonymous at 5:56 AM on September 20, 2008 | #1530
> it would be pretty infeasible to have two simultaneous careers

Like programmer and philosopher?

What you say about careers has some truth. But it isn't true of marriages. You are saying the logic of the situation (training time and other things) makes multiple careers too hard. OK. But with relationships you can't see other people not because you have no spare time -- some married people are bored -- it's just because your partner will be angry if you do. There's no logic to it; it's an arbitrary restriction.

- Elliot

Anonymous at 8:12 AM on September 20, 2008 | #1532
Ok, in some cases two simultaneous careers are feasible. Still, one who is a programmer and philosopher has inevitably made choices that closed off other potential avenues (at least for near-term). This is a case in point not an exception.

I don't agree that jealousy, which I assume is an evolved emotion, is arbitrary. Surely it evolved for reasons. Perhaps those reasons are moot now (this is probably what you think) but a legacy evolutionary trait is different from an 'arbitrary' one.

Maybe it's just me but I do indeed find marriage takes up a lot of time (particularly with kids, change 'a lot' to 'virtually all'). I suppose to make the analogy really work though I have to identify something analogous to mere time that is scarce and can't be (realistically) spread infinitely within the context of a marriage. Okay, here is one (which you'll probably still dispute, but which I stand by): affection. As the Flight of the Conchords say, they can't go around loving everyone. They're only two men.

Sonic Charmer

Anonymous at 3:17 PM on September 20, 2008 | #1533
About careers, even if you are right and they kinda suck, that wouldn't make marriage any better. In the case of careers, no one severely discourages you from having two, there isn't strong pressure stopping you, it's only the innate difficulty in your way.

Moving on to marriage, the fact is that many people find time for another person and have an affair. Their marriage did leave them with enough spare time for it. And it'd take less time if sneaking about wasn't required. They also, by doing this, show some desire to have other relationships.

With affairs, it isn't the logic of the situation that stops it. It's not people's hectic schedules. Maybe that stops it for some people, but there are plenty more people with available time and interest. In those cases their main obstacle is simply people's disapproval.

- Elliot

Anonymous at 4:53 PM on September 20, 2008 | #1534
I didn't say that careers kinda suck (it depends), just that they (like marriage) close off doors. I guess it wasn't clear that my point is that the equation [closes off doors = kinda sucks] does not hold. It depends.

Re: affairs, well I will say that I find the whole notion of conducting an affair makes me tired just thinking about it :) However, like I said, even if time isn't strictly a limitation, affection is. It varies of course, but generally someone conducting an affair will tend to have less energy/affection/sexual attention to pay to their spouse. And that's bad (to the spouse) and understandable that they wouldn't like it. One solution would be that the spouse then cheats too in order to receive the affection (emotional and sexual) they need and deserve, which is fine but undermines the whole point of being married, indeed this situation usually leads to divorce and perhaps it should. But marriage is (or is supposed to be) a choice not start down that path in the first place, for the sake of creating a family.

And my point is that not everything that's a choice which closes off doors automatically sucks.

Sonic Charmer

Anonymous at 6:24 AM on September 21, 2008 | #1535
If you're interested in creating a family, the thing that's required is stuff like attention for your kids, money, wanting to help them learn, etc. Sexual desire for your spouse seems a bit off-topic to say the least.

-Lulie Tanett

Anonymous at 5:12 PM on September 29, 2008 | #1546

Opening other doors

The discussion of "closing off doors" when you get married only focuses on the negative aspect of it ... what about the doors that it opens?

In my case, I'm happier than I've ever been now that I'm married ... I'm in a deeply intimate relationship that I never could have been if I tried to have numerous sexual or intimate relationships with numerous women (and/or men). I've discovered new levels of happiness I never thought possible before.

So it's possible that marriage ends some relationships ... although that hasn't really happened with me -- it's more like one relationship has just taken more of a priority, while other deep friendships continue to this day ... the benefits have been great for me.

Marriage doesn't have to be painful. It can be, but it's not necessarily going to be more painful than any other way of life. To say that it will seems to me an unnecessarily bitter take on marriage.

The thing is, if marriage makes me happy, what's wrong with it? If it's not your style of life, don't get married. We're both free to choose the path that works for us, and for me, marriage is not painful but amazing. I wouldn't trade it for anything else.


Anonymous at 9:09 PM on January 18, 2009 | #1724
> I'm in a deeply intimate relationship that I never could have been if I tried to have numerous sexual or intimate relationships with numerous women

I don't advocating having numerous sexual or intimate relationships. I advocate having zero because they are harmful.

I'm glad you're happy, and I wouldn't want you to stop doing that just because I say to. I would only hope that with thought you might understand more, and then realize ways you are being harmed in ways you hadn't noticed, and then improve your life (by your own standards) by changing it.

You're right that all ways of life can cause pain or problems. There is no simple or automatic path to utopia. But I don't think this is an adequate defense of marriage. Marriage is a tradition that has evolved to cause severe problems which are well known for being especially hard to solve, and especially painful, for a large majority of married people.

Here is one thing to consider: what is the relationship between the parts of marriage you like, and the restrictions? Why couldn't one get the parts you value, without the restrictions? What does the one have to do with the other?

- Elliot

Anonymous at 9:19 PM on January 18, 2009 | #1725

What do you think?

(This is a free speech zone!)