“Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person”
During a year of turmoil: Brexit, U.S. elections, Flint, Michigan water, Columbia’s peace deal, Brazil and South Korea both impeaching their presidents, and more, the essay by philosopher and writer Alain de Botton was the most widely read – by far – of any other New York Times article in 2016. People seem most concerned about their own relationships.
In “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” de Botton declares, “We don’t know ourselves and we have unrealistic ideas of what love is. For many, love means no conflict. The modern idea of love is not based on reality. ”
Alain de Botton explains, “Partly, it’s because we have a bewildering array of problems that emerge when we try to get close to others. We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well. . . . Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.”
He says we should be realistic: “We need to swap the Romantic view [of marriage] for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them.”
In his pessimistic/realistic view, de Botton says, “The person who is best suited to us is not the person who shares our every taste (he or she doesn’t exist), but the person who can negotiate differences in taste intelligently — the person who is good at disagreement. Rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity that is the true marker of the ‘not overly wrong’ person. Compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”. . .
At the end of his essay, de Botton notes, “Romanticism has been unhelpful to us; it is a harsh philosophy. It has made a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling. We end up lonely and convinced that our union, with its imperfections, is not ‘normal.’ We should learn to accommodate ourselves to ‘wrongness,’ striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kindly perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners.”
For the complete essay, go to – https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/29/opinion/sunday/why-you-will-marry-the-wrong-person.html
I learned of this Alain de Botton’s essay through On Being with Krista Tippett, a favorite podcast. When Krista interviewed de Botton in The True Hard Work of Love and Relationships, he expanded on his ideas in a less pessimistic tone than his article. He emphasizes that love is work: “True love is rocky and bumpy,” but the more generous we can be, the more loving our relationships are likely to be.
“What if the first question we asked on a date was, ‘How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this.'” Alain de Botton says that we would be much saner and happier if we reexamined our very view of love. How might our relationships be different — and better — if we understood that the real work of love is not in the falling, but in what comes after.”
If you are counting on a “soul mate” to come along or grumble that your relationship isn’t like those in the movies, listen to Alain de Botton’s interview with Krista Tippett.
Although the world news swirls around you, what is really important says de Botton is to know yourself and be kind and realistic in building love in your relationships.