Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Musings on marriage: Mars, Venus, dogs and balloon flights!

Charles Darwin was considering marriage to his cousin Emma Wedgewood, and wrote some brilliant thoughts on the subject. Writing out of his scientific personality, Darwin drafted this rather cold sounding logic as an argument for marriage. Ladies, don't expect to swoon over the next few lines with romance heaving in your bosom!

Against the idea of marriage Darwin noted, "the expense and anxiety of children" and the fact that a married man could never "go up in a balloon". An odd one perhaps, but maybe just his way of expressing that marriage will tie him down and limit his risk taking (in his view!)

More positively, in favour of marriage, he spoke of acquiring a "constant companion and friend in old age". The clincher that settled the argument was that a wife would be "better than a dog, anyhow."

Remarkably, (and leaving aside the thought of marrying your cousin!) Mr and Mrs Darwin continued on to have a strong and happy marriage. On his deathbed in 1882, Darwin the logical, obsessive scientist cried out, "My love, my precious love."

Ten children in seventeen years shows that this love was genuine and that it wasn't all theory for our Charles and Emma, even with their extreme differences in personality which personify the 'Mars/Venus' analogy!

Mars and Venus is just a way of highlighting the subtle differences in gender, role, and expectations which we bring crashing with us into a new marriage relationship. Left alone, these differences can lead to tension and conflict, but if celebrated and understood, they can strengthen a marriage and make it shine. The key as ever is how we communicate with eachother. The aim is not to iron out differences or reduce contrasts to some awful shared level of shallow acceptance - the goal is to love one another selflessly and provide the foundation for a fruitful, lasting marriage.

It helps if you find a partner who 'gets' you and speaks your language, even if it isn't their primary way of functioning in the world. For all of us guys who live unthinkingly with our odd personality types, we find a good woman breaks her way into our closed in world and refuses to conform to our funny little ways.

Emma Darwin used emotion and humour with her man who was renowned for trusting clinical science and observation. She wrote to Charles early on in their relationship to say"After our marriage you will be forming theories about me, and if I am cross or out of temper you will only consider: 'What does that prove?' which will be a very philosophical way of considering it."

Emma Darwin was such a polar opposite that her Christian faith enabled her to stand by her man through all the flack and battles that Charles faced for proposing theories which purported to undermine that very same faith!

Ultimately, and in spite of their divergent personalities, the marriage worked because both were committed to serving one another out of deep love. Even if you don't agree with your husband's theories of evolution, when the journalists come knocking at the door you do the only thing a loving and loyal wife can do - pretend that your husband isn't at home!

Now, husband, you may not go up in a balloon so frequently, but that kind of love is even greater than a dog!