Six Reasons not to marry and why you should (if you can)


John Anderson and his Jo.
An old married couple “John Anderson my Jo” (a poem by Robert Burns)

There are also reasons why you should marry: the principle ones are health and happiness. Nonetheless, Oscar Wilde wrote; “Never marry at all, Dorian. Men marry because they are tired, women, because they are curious: both are disappointed.” Ambrose Bierce defined love as . “A temporary insanity curable by marriage.” Both these definitions, it seems to me, focus on sexual attraction. Rosamunde Pilcher in Wild Mountain Thyme wrote: “Marriage isn’t a love affair. It isn’t even a honeymoon. It’s a job. A long hard job, at which both partners have to work, harder than they’ve worked at anything in their lives before. If it’s a good marriage, it changes, it evolves, but it does on getting better. ” Mark Twain was even wiser: “Love seems the swiftest, but it is the slowest of all growths. No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” Frank Delaney, the Irish novelist wrote: “Marriage is very important. Marrying a girl is the most important thing a man can do. Never mind business or politics or sport or any of that, there’s nothing so vital to the world as a man marrying a woman. That’s where we get our children from, that’s how the human race goes forward. And if it’s too late for children, there’s the companionship of a safe and trusted person.” Delaney understood marriage was for the happiness of a couple and also for the stability of society. C.S.Lewis, who finally found out what true happiness was in his marriage: “For a good wife contains so many persons in herself. What was H. not to me? She was my daughter and my mother, my pupil and my teacher, my subject and my sovereign; and always, holding all these in solution, my trusty comrade, friend, shipmate, fellow-soldier. My mistress; but at the same time all that any man friend (and I have good ones) has ever been to me. Perhaps more.” However, There are at least six reasons NOT TO MARRY. A gentleman thinks of such things for himself , his children, his charges and his friends.

Henry Miller, who was very frank about sex said, “Sex is one of the nine reasons for reincarnation. The other eight are unimportant” Sex is, of course, important for marriage. Sexual intimacy (eros), in my opinion, either strengthens existing “storgic love” (affection) and philia love (friendship) and then blossoms into conjugal love –a love that can last a lifetime- or it destroys itself. To build relationship upon youthful physical attraction alone is to build upon a foundation of sand. Sexual intimacy is the icing on the cake but is not very nutritious or satisfying by itself.  My father always taught me “never date a girl who would not make a good mate” and I think that was good advice. I have known many women and been friends with many women and most importantly I have maintained friendships with many women of all ages PRECISELY because I did not insist or want our relationships to be intimate.

Men –and I am a man- despise what they can get easily and if physical sexual attractiveness is the only thing holding a couple together then it will be doomed because no one stays 19 or 25 forever. 

On the other hand, when young women gradually develop ‘storgic” love affection for many men and honest friendship with many men they will never be, in my opinion for want of male admirers and male friends. 

The key to having a successful personal life is meeting many people of common interests and cultivating those relationships. Within those relationships you will meet other people of the same sex or the opposite sex or older mentors who will introduce you to people of similar character and interests. But if you spend your life with superficial hookups you will end up like “I AM CHARLOTTE SIMMONS” (a little masterpiece by Tom Wolfe). 

This is a difficult lesson to teach young people, particularly young women who fear , it seems, not getting dates and being ignored entirely particularly in a school youth culture atmosphere.

But the way around this of course is not to have a life centered on friendships with classmates only or people who habituate bars or beaches (probably the worst place in the world to meet people). My own children are not angels by any means but are good and moral persons. But they have always had multiple set of communities with which to meet people and keep social networks open on many fronts. And I think that is the key for young people to meet others and perhaps find that special one.

I think Feminism has done young women a very great disservice but putting them at loggerheads with men and their own natures. The fact is , young women’s best years for fertility and attractiveness are between 16 and 27. Nothing can change that. After age 27 the fertility of women drops over incrementally year by year until by age 40 or 42 or so conception is difficult or impossible. Therefore, women who sacrifice their family life for professional careers are often opting for a life of loneliness and childlessness. There must be great many women 40 and above who now regret they never had children though I doubt, if I may be so bold, there are many American woman above 40 who lack sexual experience.

But most of their experience is of the dud-in-the mud hook up kind and so really is mostly wasted time.  Neither the person nor society will have anything to show for it fifty years in the future.

One should cultivate many communities and particularly healthy communities such as family friends, and people in your Church community or other clubs like ballroom dancing, language clubs, book clubs etc. Social relationships built upon debauchery (excessive consumption of food and drink) are among the worst kind and prematurely ruin your looks, your character and your health.

One day you wake up and your are 30 or 35 and have lost or are losing your good looks and your figure; that is no time to settle down and look for a decent mate and of course men of worth who want to start a family are not likely to marry someone past 35. 

That is just a fact of nature; men can marry and marry successfully even late in life –though I do not recommend it myself and women ought to marry younger though I don’t recommend marriage between teenagers because usually these relationships are built mostly on physical attraction alone and both parties lack maturity to make good choices.

There are at least six reasons NOT TO MARRY (a gentleman thinks of such things for himself , his charges and his friends).

#1 Don’t marry someone you don’t really know. If you are pressured to rush to the altar as my Uncle Norman was you have to ask yourself. “What is the reason for the rush?” If he or she truly cares they will give you time to be sure.

#2 Don’t ever marry someone you don’t like or have anything in common with BESIDES sex and physical attraction. Everyone I have ever known married someone with whom he or she felt a strong sexual attraction. I could be wrong but this is the easiest part of a relationship. Speaking as a man, most women 16 to 60 are sexually attractive at some point in their lives. Once again, speaking from personal experience, most women hit their peak attractiveness from age 25 to about 42. Most women, just like most men, unless they work very hard at it, start to lose the battle of the bulge in their 40’s. Once again, perhaps it is just me, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. If I compare the looks of my friend’s wives who are excessively thin they seem more pinched, more wrinkled and less attractive with each passing year. Other women, with a more matronly look, remain very pleasant to be with and to look at.

Some women are astonishingly beautiful for a short period of time and others have a high lifetime batting average and remain attractive for a longer period of time. There is such a thing as growing old gracefully. The bottom line is if you can’t respect the behavior, habits and values of your potential mate, rethink the situation. What will it be like with this person once the haze of romantic love fades? Could you love your wife (once again, speaking as a man) if she lost her size 6 figure? Let’s face it multiple pregnancies and the years usually wreak havoc with a woman’s figure. And time does not remain still for any of us in any case. It is a mistake to marry for beauty alone, a very big mistake.

If the people around you who know you well and love you –your parents, siblings, close relatives, teachers, and wise friends- are counseling you against marriage to a certain person, you must pause. Although they don’t know your potential spouse as well as you do, they are not as emotionally mixed up as you are by the strong sexual attraction or romantic feeling you have for that other person. This is particularly true if the couple is sexually active (which I counsel against but I am a realist). Nothing fools you that you have to have your spouse like an active sex life before marriage. I wonder what purpose a honeymoon serves for people like that? And why even wear white? But if people around you are expressing doubts you should at least give yourself some time to think about what you are doing. Imagine, for example, if your spouse had no money, lost all of his or her teeth and gained 100 pounds. My father always said to me that I should look at the mother of the potential bride because it was a reasonable indication of what the daughter would look like in 25 or 30 years with 25, 30 or 50 additional pounds. I would add another proviso too. I don’t think it is important to marry for money and position. I think marrying for personal happiness and family reasons are the most important. But that having been said there is something one should always consider. It is one thing to marry someone who has next to no money but it is another to marry someone with extravagant tastes and $50,000 in debt!!!! Most marriages fall apart for two basic reasons: lack of sexual compatibility and financial distress.

#4 building upon that last point. Never marry anyone in whom there are signs of unstable behavior. If you beloved needs to be drunk or high to have a good time, I think it is a serious cause to worry. If he or she can never hold down any kind of job at all in the last few years find out why. Can’t he or she get along with the boss or with coworkers.. Is the discipline of work too much for him or her? Once again, I have never been a great success in life but I have always worked. I worked my way up from being an ex-soldier, a laborer in construction and unloading rail cars to sales, to being a bank employee, then finally a Community College instructor and high school teacher. No one has ever asked me for my resume or offered me a job but I have always been respected as someone who was a hard worker, honest and loyal and have so always been gainfully employed in my life.

#5 And lastly to reiterate a point mentioned before if your primary drive for getting married is an overpowering urge to have –or continue to have –sex with this person, STOP. Sex is important for a good marriage but sex is NOT love.

It is absurd to overvalue physical love. Speaking as a man, men are beasts and I think it is true to say, that in the dark, as has been said, women are all the same if that’s all you want from a woman. But once again that is not love. Real love is sharing laughter, sharing experience, sharing children, sharing affection, trust. Physical love (eros) can provide the spark and the glue for the beginning of a relationship but it cannot provide the substance. Being in love and having love in a marriage is something other and something more than being sexually aroused. Not all desire is love though it may always be lust. The desire for a woman period might just be lust but the desire for a specific woman is another. Some people say this is love too but I do not ; love that is merely transitory and sexual is not love merely as Anthony Burgess called it in A Clockwork Orange, “the old in and out”.

I have seen many successful marriages between mature males (25 or so )with young women as young as 18 or 19. I believe that male and female should be about the same age though there is nothing wrong with a woman being slightly older (my wife was 27 when we married and I was 26). 

#6 Never get married because you feel you have to or everyone else is getting married. It is chivalrous to treat your date with respect. It is foolishness to marry someone because OOPS she says she is pregnant. I have known friends who married their pregnant girlfriends but did not know if they were the father. That is no way to start a marriage. Once again fidelity and trust are the basis of any good relationship. 

Marriage is a tough business.  Tougher than I thought it would be.  But I still recommend it -if the conditions are right.   And if both parties work at keeping the marriage together with some give and take.  But love and friendship always have to be present.

 The reason our marriage has lasted is because:

1) we developed a close friendship that was maintained chiefly by correspondence I always sought close relationships with women and I do not deny I always desired to marry. We have always liked and trusted one another.
2) We did not seriously date until we had known each other for about seven years. I was just starting out and could not talk about having a serious relationship until I had a job and some money but I was happy to have her loving friendship and esteem.
3) I respected my fiancée and was in no hurry into things she was not ready for
4) Our wedding night and our honeymoon were really special and a kind of heaven
5) We have always been faithful to one another and we communicate.
6) We believe that marriage is a sacrament and that we are un matriomonio which is a singular thing in Spanish 
7) We have been best friends for almost 46 years and husband and wife for almost 37–we were married on the 9th of June 1982 (St.Columba’s day).
8) Naturally we have had ups and downs but it has been of tremendous help that I have a close storgic love and philia relationship with my wife’s sister, my mother in law, my wife’s uncles and brothers so our relationship is not built up OUR relationship alone. Having the support of my family and her family has been vital for us and has helped maintain trust and closeness. And now we have support from the bottom up; we have three adult children and we are a mutual aid and friendship society!
There is no question my middle daughter has always been a peacemaker. She too wanted our household to stick together.
9) We also have many married friends most of whom are Catholic or Evangelical Christians
10) We take morality seriously. I would not say I am a prude exactly but I believe in the virtue of modesty and self-control what the Greeks call sophrosyne.
11) This is not to say I have not had temptations in life but I avoid most temptations by putting my cards on the table. I will be friends with the opposite sex –and I have many friends –former students and teachers aged 21-80 look at some of my Facebook friends and you will see a great variety of ages. But I never pretend I am single and have no desire and no interest whatsoever in obtaining a sexual conquest for a single night. That is an expense of spirit in a waste of shame for no purpose. But on the other hand I would gladly be the friend of any woman –aged 21-80- for a lifetime as long as they know I only want their friendship and spiritual and intellectual companionship not anything else. But this has not been easy because particularly when I was younger, many young women , on the prowl themselves like so many female “Don Juans”- deeply resented the rejection and took it as an insult. On the other hand , women who are 50,60,70,80 DO appreciate the friendship and kindness of a (somewhat younger man). They know it is their minds and their souls which are dear not their physical charms.

Nonetheless, alienation of affections is one of the primary reasons marriages fail. They say the French (the elite anyway) have their solution –it seems horrible to me and contrary to fidelity and honesty- a man keeps his lover and his wife separately. That is to say one has (presumably young, thin and attractive) temporary lover and a permanent mother-manager. Virtual bigamy or polygamy you might call it. It seems like a bore to me. If you wife is your partner and best friend don’t you want to spend as much time as possible with your best friend? But there is no question, however, the issue of extramarital sex is present in many marriages. 

Once again, speaking as a man, one must avoid excessive temptations and exercise self-control. Most of my women friends are safely married or far away. I never pretend to be unmarried and do not socialize with younger unmarried women. It seems to me Lotharios must neglect their families, their work or their intellectual life because if one is dedicated to those things one simply has no time to roll up ephemeral sexual contests. Once –just once- while I was studying at UVA I went to a spaghetti dinner at the Catholic parish in the university. What a mistake! The participants were overwhelmingly single young women in their early to mid 20’s. I was in my late 40’s at the time. I was very polite but I did not stick around and I never took the bus to that church again. If I am alone I make sure I go to early Mass. Sometimes when I am alone on a business trip or home alone I may have a conversation at restaurant or bar with a younger woman –a college student for example- but only in an avuncular fashion. I can’t understand teachers who want to date their students. Of course, I love my students and want to best for them but because I love them I want to do them no harm. I am there to teach them not to seduce them or abuse them. I really am much happier to be a mentor, a friend, an invited guest at their wedding and then perhaps their child’s teacher or their child’s godfather. Such is the joy of a civilization of love.

In choosing this unique person for our mate, this combination of history and charm, this merging of flesh and soul, we are looking for a lifetime of love that will sustain us. If we are wise we will come to understand that genuine love is not a free gift but an earned achievement. Perhaps we catch love when it comes our way like a fever or virus; I do not know. 

But I do know this true love is based on fidelity and it is up to us to learn how to grow in love. A marriage, am posadh -the old Gaelic word- or matriomonio in Spanish, presupposes, traditionally, love and duration though I recall an old saying that “marriage is like a bee; there’s honey in it but there is also a sting in it.”  There is also an old Gaelic saying of which I am very fond: ‘Tis not good to marry without a ring; no ring no ding.”   Ni math posadh gan fainne! 

My father knew Shakespeare’s Sonnet 116 by heart and I often heard his collection of Roland Colman recordings of the Sonnets. Ronald Colman was not just a movie actor to us; we remembered him as a highly decorated combat soldier and volunteer of the London Scottish in WWI (so were Basel Rathbone and Claude Raines).As a small boy it was made clear to me that Shakespeare was almost as authoritative as the Bible or Burns and there is no question it was an important part of my education as man or gentleman.

So my father often quoted Sonnet 116.  My mother used to recite to me (by heart) Burn’s poem “John Anderson, My Jo.”   My father also made it clear to me how much he loved my mother and similarly my mother made it clear to all how she loved my father.  They were married for 59 1/2 years separated only by war and death.  

And let me say that my Auld Pop  (my grandfather) was widowed also but never talked about any other woman except his wife. Mary Munro was so talked about and so quoted by my father and mother and grandfather that I almost came to think as if I had known her myself though she died almost twenty years before I was born. Therefore such values are caught or shown by example, not taught.

That is fidelity –to love someone who gave you so much love during your life that you never forget that person. Certainly love of that kind is a selfless love because the dead cannot do anything for you themselves except perhaps connect to you in communion and comfort you through their souls and memory. One of our favorite modern movies is Sense and Sensibility which uses this poem to show Marianne Dashwood’s conceptions of love. 

Ah, yes, love’s not Time’s fool: 

Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments. Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

O no! it is an ever-fixed mark

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.

Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle’s compass come:

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

If this be error and upon me proved,

I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Ronald Colman of the London Scottish
Ronald Colman as I imagined him reading Shakespeare’s Sonnets.

I have been called a hopeless romantic but to that charge I say romantic chivalrous men have more fun and sing the best love songs because they know what chivalry and love is all about. And a chivalrous man is brave and will stick around.

People today have lots of sex –or at least they boast about it- but often they find relationships flat and devoid of romantic love. That is because Eros-love (sex) promises more than it can deliver, especially in regards to companionship, trust and permanence. Why? Because we perceive romantic love as something spontaneous, something that does not demand work patience and a strong moral base.

The wisdom, literature and songs of our forefolk tell us something that is quite the opposite. The very essence of romantic love, true love is commitment, trust and fidelity. This is where, in my opinion, chivalry provides a vital ingredient. Love relationships provide the laboratory where the virtues of chivalry are tested to their fullest, and the manliness of a “leal mon” is proved. With time and fidelity true love grows and true love not only stimulates the best in us but it is a recipe for happiness and love that can last a lifetime –and beyond. “

Aye! ‘S truth I am telling ye!, ” as Auld Pop would have said it.  When I was a small boy I first heard the word “divorce.” I didn’t know what it was. I had never heard of it. I understood it to be something bad and my friend was sad. Perhaps it was poking Jesus with a spear or something like that! So I came home and asked Auld Pop was this divorce was. He paused and then said, ” That’s something they do in Amerrrica.” But, Aulp Pop, I protested, “we WERE living in America now.” To that he replied, “That doesn’t mean we have to pick up all their bad habits.” A lot of people’s behavior is based on bad habits and foolish decisions. I believe if one is very careful in getting married and if both BELIEVE in marriage (what we can sacramental marriage) then one has a better chance to stay married. Getting married is one of the most important decisions anyone can make. All I am saying is this: take you time and try to exercise some judgment and reason.