Friday, November 21, 2008

On Marriage

On Marriage


During courtship neither person is yet sure of the other, but each tries to win the other. Both are alive, attractive, interesting, even beautiful—inasmuch as aliveness always makes a face beautiful. Neither yet has the other; hence each one’s energy is directed to being, i.e., to giving and stimulating the other. With the act of marriage the situation frequently changes fundamentally. The marriage contract gives each partner the exclusive possession of the other’s body, feeling and care. Nobody has to be won over anymore, because love has become something one has, a property. The two ceases to make the effort to be loveable and to produce love, hence they become boring, and hence their beauty disappears. They are disappointed and puzzled. Are they not the same persons anymore? Did they make a mistake in the first place? Each usually seeks the cause of the change in the other and feels defrauded. What they do not see is that they no longer are the same people they were when they were in love with each other; that the error that one can have love had lead to cease loving. Now, instead of loving each other, they settle for owning together what they have: money, social standing, a home, children. Thus, in some cases, the marriage initiated on the basis of love becomes transformed into a friendly ownership, a corporation in which two egotisms are pooled into one: that of the “family.”


---Erich Fromm, To Have or to Be?

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