The Ethics of Love and Finding a Life Long Partner

On average a marriage lasts 11 years. Over a hundred years ago this was also the case. Then the reason for the short life of a marriage was mortality rates. Women were much more likely to die during or after childbirth. Men were much more likely to die at a younger age at work. The fact that people live much longer now, means that a greater proportion of couples than every before have to learn how to live together for much longer. Today the short marriage span is due to separation and divorce.

Lori Gottlieb, author of Settling for Mr Good Enough, believes women who refuse to marry unless they can find someone whom they feel a deep romantic love for, are consigning themselves to an unhappy and lonely future. She now wishes she settled for a good enough husband. The idea that we are all going to find the partner of our dreams is a myth propagated by Hollywood. We are conditioned to believe it will happen, we idealize marriage and then we walk away from relationships which are not quite inspiring enough to match the dream. She argues that marrying Mr Good Enough is a viable option, especially if you are looking for a reliable life companion. A good marriage is not just about the romantic side of things.

Anouchka Grose, in her book No More Silly Love Songs, makes a similar sort of argument. She argues that the idea of everlasting love and never-ending desire is a menace. We need to lower our expectations where loved ones are concerned. Affairs should not be treated as the end of a marriage. She says “sexual fidelity has acquired a sanctimonious moral importance”. At the same time she is in favour of monogamy saying that, given the challenge of it, monogamists “may find themselves at the cutting edge of experimental romance”.

In his book To Raise Happy Kids, Put your marriage First, David Code argues that pushy parents should focus their attentions on each other rather than their children. Families that are centred on children create anxious and exhausted parents and demanding children. Self-fulfillment and the marriage relationship go out the window. The emphasis on children makes them the focus of our emotional needs not the spouse or partner.

Consider these three approaches to relationships and family life. How would you respond to each of these authors? What insights might different philosophical and religious traditions offer to the issues discussed in these three books?

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