Traditionally, the society formed by marriage is called "conjugal society" (from the latin word conjunx, "spouse," or one who is "yoked together"--an interesting derivation); but the only place you hear that nowadays is in Theological treatises; so I choose to call this very peculiar society "marriage."
The first peculiarity about the society is that it is both freely joined and not freely joined. That is, the choice to join with another person in marriage is a free choice; but one is driven to that choice (and to some extent to join with this particular person) by one of our very strongest drives; and for a person in love, it certainly seems not that the pleasure of being with this person is very desirable, but that not to be with her is a disaster worse than death.(1)
Hence, it is almost as if one is under a threat if one does not join in sexual union with the other person; and so it is difficult to say that the choice to marry is as free as the choice to buy a car or to go to college.
Further, this drive is toward marriage, not toward just having sex, as can be seen from the fact that marriages are still what most people do in our age when, as Alfred Doolittle sings in My Fair Lady, "you can 'ave it all and not get 'ooked."
And why is that? Because people, even though they have not thought it through, seem to recognize that consistent sex is impossible without marriage. And so we can make the following definition:
Marriage is the society which provides the conditions for being able to use the sexual faculty consistently with itself.
But is this "gut feeling" on the part of people really justified, so that this definition really gives the essence of marriage? Consider the implications in what was said about the sexual faculty in Chapter 4 of Section 2 of the fifth part 5.2.4. It is morally wrong to use contraceptives or to have sex with the intention of never having a child, because this contradicts the fact that the act of sex is, among other things, a reproductive kind of activity. Hence, a person having sex must accept the possibility that a child might result from the act.
But a child needs physical, emotional, intellectual, and financial support for at least 12 to 15 years if he is to have a chance of living a decent human life--and in our culture, the number is probably closer to 20. Hence, having sex involves accepting the possibility of at least a 12-year commitment to take care of the consequences of the act. And what is this but marriage? This is not to say that marriage is just for children, by any means; but it is apt to involve children, and children need taking care of.
So let us discuss the child-aspect of marriage first. We can say this:
Conclusion 1: A child has an inalienable right to support by his biological parents.
The reason, as I said, is that a child cannot survive without some support, and is dehumanized without the four kinds of support I listed above. But since the child has the right to be supported, and this involves positive actions on the part of some people, then it must be specified against whom the child has this right. And who would the child have a claim against if not against the people whose choice made him begin to exist?
It may be argued that sometimes people don't choose to have a child; sometimes even people are raped (and therefore are performing the act against their will), and become pregnant because of this. Why should such a person be forced to bring up a child she doesn't want and never did want? She didn't choose to have him. Let alone bring him up as the wife of the rapist!
True, it is not always the case that two people who have sex actively choose that there be a child from the act; in many cases, even apart from rape, the passion involved in sex is so strong that the two people couldn't prevent the act in practice, as I said in discussing morality and the choice in Chapter 5 of Section 1 of the fifth part 5.1.5. Hence, they are not morally responsible for the child's existence. But, as I said under Conclusion 16 of that same section, they are physically responsible for the child's existence, because in fact their act produced the child, and so the child is linked by way of causality to them and no one else. And even though you are not morally responsible for what you are physically responsible for you have a moral obligation to see to it that as little harm as possible comes from acts you have performed. But this means that both of the people physically responsible for there being a child have the moral duty to bring up the child and provide all the four kinds of support the child needs. This physical responsibility, moreover, translates into legal responsibility for the two who caused the children to exist. If for some reason they did not foresee that a child would result, they can still be held to the consequences of their act, because "the normal person" would have foreseen this, and would accept the consequences or wouldn't have engaged in the act in the first place. That is, the claim, "he was an accident" has no legal standing (or standing in social pressure, for that matter) to absolve the parents from caring for the child just as if he were "intended."
In this connection, I should mention that the phrase, "Every child should be a wanted child" is a serious distortion in the way it is now interpreted. In the first place, it is obvious that it is true when it means that every time two people have sex, they must be willing to bring up any child that results. But it cannot mean that there is any way out for people who have a child and didn't specifically intend to have him.
At present, what we mean by "Every child should be a wanted child" is that you only decide to have children when you think that you will be "more fulfilled" with them; which makes having a child analogous to going to the store to buy a stereo. The trouble with this attitude is that a child is going to mean a lot of inconvenience, work, trouble, and even anguish for the parents, and is only fulfilling if the parents are not interested in being better off for having the child. The parents, as we will see, exist in the family for the child's sake, not the other way round; there is not an economic relation of "We will take care of you if you will compensate us with pleasure and satisfaction."
And, of course, it is by no means surprising to find that those who "wanted" a child in this economic sense tend to want to return the defective merchandise after "working with him" for a while to see if he can be adjusted to their specifications and finding that he can't. But there's nowhere to return him; and so the child winds up a battered child. Thus, the attitude inculcated by "Every child should be a wanted child" could be predicted to increase, not decrease, battered children. And is it any accident that since that attitude has become prevalent, the number of battered children (who were, by and large, originally "wanted") has skyrocketed? If you read what I said about statistics in Chapter 3 of Section 4 of the fourth part 4.4.3, you will find that this statistical correlation is a significant one.
Conclusion 2: It is not that parents should "want" children, but that they must be willing to accept them and care for them if they occur from the sex act. Otherwise, it is inconsistent to perform the act.
There is nothing wrong with having sex because you want to have a child from it, of course, as long as this involves the willingness I just spoke of, and the realization of a commitment.
In any case, this means the following:
Conclusion 3: The sex act is ipso facto the act of marriage; it contradicts itself if it is done without the willingness to make a long-term commitment to its consequences.
Now of course, using the Double Effect, if the damage to the child can reasonably be expected to be worse if the child is brought up by his biological parents, then steps may be taken to see that he is brought up in such a way that the damage is minimized. For instance, it would seem that except in extraordinary cases indeed, it would be worse for the child to be brought up by a woman married to her rapist. The same goes for single-parent families. They are better than no parents; but the child in fact needs the emotional and educational support that the different thought-patterns of both parents provide, and also needs to be under the command of both parents, so that he can realize that there are different and equally valid ways of looking at the world and its challenges and dangers. A single adult raising a child can only be permitted in order to avoid a worse calamity for the child; if the parents find it difficult to stay together and cooperate, this is too bad; they still have to take the consequences for their actions. And in general, society can force them to do this.
And since the child has a right to be supported, then if the natural parents can't do it, civil society can take over and demand that others do so by calling on its ability to make others engage in uncompensated service to fulfill the function of civil society (which, as we will see, is to prevent the violation of any citizen's right). But this is only as a practical measure when it is not in practice possible for the child to be supported by both of his natural parents.(2)
But what about parents who divorce? This does not change the claim the child has against both of them. But what of a child who is conceived by artificial insemination by a donor? Sorry, donor, but the child has a claim against you for his support, since he wouldn't have existed without your act of providing sperm. You are his natural parent, whatever the law says about who the parent is. Surrogate mothers also are the mothers of the children, even if they "agreed" to give them up for adoption. They cannot morally make such an agreement, because the right to be supported by his mother belongs to the child, not the mother. Of course, if a surrogate mother accepts a transplanted embryo and merely acts as an incubator, this does not make her a mother, really; but you can see how this sort of thing makes it a mess to find out who in fact the child has a claim against for support. Is mommy the one whose ovum I developed out of, the one who carried me to birth, or the one who brought me up afterward? We are fooling around with other people's rights, here, for our own "joy" at having children and our own convenience.
What I am saying is that the current sexual revolution has completely ignored the child and his rights. And this is not surprising, because most of the regulation of sexuality by society has historically been concerned with protecting the rights of children, not (as the feminists claim) men.
In any case, that is one of the reasons why it is inconsistent to have sex outside of marriage. Another is the fact that sexuality is by its nature "addictive," in that a person naturally tends to become attached to this other person with whom he has sex. Sex (particularly on the part of men, but with women too) also has its promiscuous side, but as Marcel Proust says several times in the course of The Remembrance of Things Past, each time one falls in love, the other person is "the only person" to the exclusion of everyone else; and there is also a "foreverness" connected with this attachment. The fact that this tends to fade and can be eclipsed after a while by the same thing's happening with someone else does not negate the fact that the drive has this exclusivity and, as it were, eternity connected with it.
But since this is so, then we can draw the following conclusion:
Conclusion 4: No one who has sex with another person can predict that it will not happen that he or the other will become emotionally dependent on the other because of it--and permanently so.
That is, even if you can have sex the way "social drinkers" drink, and can "handle it" without its becoming anything more than a one-time thing, you still can't predict that the person you have it with isn't going to get "hooked" on you and need you the way an alcoholic needs to drink.
And the result is that it is dishonest to say, like the song of some years back, "Baby, baby, don't get hooked on me, 'cause I'll just use you and I'll set you free." That's like giving cocaine to someone and saying, "Don't get hooked on this, now." The person who does this sort of thing, which is by its nature calculated to attach the other person to himself permanently is responsible for the attachment that he has produced in the other person if it should happen.
As can be seen from the fact that children need years and years of support, this attachment of the couple toward each other is perfectly consistent with the reality of the act as reproductive; and it is not at all surprising to find that it is far stronger in general in women than in men, because women carry the baby and nurse him, and tend to be that much less able to support even themselves while they are doing this; hence their biological stake in a stable marriage is much greater than a man's; and this translates itself into a stronger need for stability in their sexual relations. Cultural conditioning has very little to do with this.
A third reason why the act of sex is the commitment to a stable marriage is that the sex drive does not disappear after the childbearing years. People get older, and find that they still need sex, if not as much, sometimes as urgently as they did when they were younger. Unfortunately, as people grow older, they also grow less attractive sexually; and therefore, once they become old and wrinkled, the hope of being able to have sex with the kind of person that attracts them diminishes to being nonexistent.
The only practical way that they can not be sexually deprived as they become old is to be in a stable relationship with a person who loves them for the person that they are, not for the physical attractiveness that they have, and who is not merely willing to have sex with them, but wants to have sex with them because of the love that exists between them.(3)
Conclusion 5: It is only in the context of marriage that there is reason to expect that the sex drives of older people can be satisfied.
So it is by no means the case that it is solely because of possible children that the act of sex implies the society called marriage. One of the terrible consequences of the current sexual revolution is now beginning to be felt: there are more and more aging women who are lonely and sexually deprived. As Kay Ebeling (a middle-aged woman) says in an article in Newsweek the week I wrote this (November 19, 1990), "Feminism freed men, not women. Now men are spared the nuisance of a wife and family to support. After childbirth, if his wife's waist doesn't return to 20 inches, the husband can go out and get a more petite woman. It's far more difficult for the wife, now tied down with a baby, to find a new man."
Instead of increasing the social pressure to force men to take the responsibility for their sexuality that women have forced on them by their biology, women, in their attempt to ape men in sexual irresponsibility, first "removed" the reproductive aspect from sex and then attempted to deny the addictive aspect of it. As Ebeling says, "The main message of feminism was: woman, you don't need a man; remember, those of you around 40, the phrase: 'A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle?' That joke circulated through 'consciousness raising' groups across the country in the '70's. It was a philosophy that made divorce and cohabitation casual and routine. Feminism made women disposable. So today a lot of females are around 40 and single with a couple of kids to raise on their own."
What Ebeling does not mention is that feminism not only did this to women, but the attempt to be irresponsible sexually meant enormous pressure on women to kill their own children when contraception did not "work." Feminism has gone to enormous lengths to deny the obvious, that the fetus is a human being; and the dissembling and hypocrisy of the position is a cancer that is eating away at all areas of our country, because it inculcates the view that facts can be what you declare them to be, not what they are. This whole book is an attempt at therapy for this disease, as I indicated in the very beginning of the first part.
Conclusion 6: The only way women can be the sexual equals of men is if men are forced by society to take the responsibility for their sexual activity, and sanctions are enforced against sex outside of marriage.
Once marriage goes, then women are bound to be made to behave as if they were inferior to men, not only sexually but socially.
For all these reasons, it can be said that the sexual faculties cannot be exercised consistently with all aspects of their reality and the reality of the persons involved outside the context of marriage; and therefore the definition of marriage given above was the correct one.
But if this is what marriage really is, then it follows that
Conclusion 7: homosexuals cannot marry.
The current furor (I am writing now in 2004) over "gay marriage" completely misses the point of marriage. I am not saying that homosexuals are necessarily incapable emotionally of sustaining a stable single-sexual-partner relationship (though as far as homosexual men are concerned, "stability" seems to consist in the fact that the other man is the main but not the exclusive sexual partner). But the relationship is not a marriage, precisely because, as we saw in Chapter 4 of Section 2 of the fifth part 5.3.4, homosexual sex is not consistent with at least one of the aspects of sexuality: the reproductive aspect.
So the conclusion above does not mean that homosexuals are morally forbidden to marry; it means that it is in fact impossible for any relationship they have to be a marriage. I might point out that two homosexuals who love each other may morally live together with affection but without sex, and have that kind of a stable relationship, just as two heterosexuals can, as they say, "live together as brother and sister"; but this relation, while it may have many positive things about it, is still not a marriage.
I think I should add that giving "the rights of marriage" to sexual commitments between homosexuals is wrong on several counts. First of all, it implies the false "recognition" that the two relationships are equally valid and to be commended by society. But secondly, society does not "confer rights" upon marriage when it confers certain benefits, such as tax breaks, spousal privileges, and so on. What these are are privileges, not rights: they are benefits that produce an incentive for people to marry rather than simply "shack up" and by doing so put any children that might result in danger of harm. Hence, if heterosexuals are granted these privileges, homosexuals are deprived of nothing when they don't receive them. Homosexuals are not performing the service to society of maintaining the population in such a way that the next generation will be good citizens, and so they do not have any "right" to the rewards society chooses to give for such a service.
And, of course, the notion that homosexuals can adopt children (or that lesbians can have children by artificial insemination) is damaging to the children. It is simply not true that if Heather has two mommies and no daddy, she is not severely handicapped, even if many Heathers overcome the handicap and lead more or less normal lives in spite of it. The point is that the fact that some children are not harmed by what is calculated to do them damage should not be grounds for putting any child in harm's way.
The following is also true:
Conclusion 8: People who, because of injury or some other reason, cannot perform the sex act, cannot marry.
Again, this is not to say that a man and a woman who love each other deeply but who can't have sex (i.e. one or the other is physically incapable of it) can't live together just like a married couple except for sex; but this is not in fact a marriage. It may even be recognized legally as a marriage (for purposes of taxation and social benefits), because civil society has no business knowing whether a couple ever has sex or not; but this still doesn't make it a marriage, however "married" the couple may feel.(4)
Conclusion 9: People who are capable of performing the sexual act may marry without ever having sex, if the Double Effect warrants this.
It may be, for instance, that a man with AIDS wishes to marry a woman he is deeply in love with. He is capable of having sex with her, but having sex with her might very well give her the disease, killing her. Can they marry, intending never to have sex? Yes, it would seem, just as a couple who have had sex may have to choose to refrain for the rest of their lives if one contracts AIDS (by a blood transfusion, for instance).
In these cases the marriage is a marriage, because it is capable in itself of being itself; but since their sexual activity has disastrous effects, then by the Double Effect they can keep the lack of this aspect of their marriage out of their choice when they choose to marry and subsequently. If the disease is cured, for instance, they can engage in sex; and so they have not denied that marriage involves sex, but simply permitted its lack because not to do so would be worse. What I said in Conclusion 7g2 of Section 2 of the fifth part still stands: you can't choose to have sex with a partner with the intention that no child ever result from the whole series of acts; but this does not mean that you can't ever marry without having the intention of having sex at some time, even though marriage is the society whose common goal is consistent sexual activity.(5)
If, then, this is what marriage is, then we can say the following:
Conclusion 10: Marriage is only dissolved by the death of one of the members of the society. The couple cannot in fact divorce.
That is, the relationship they enter when they enter this society is such that it must be stable not only while the children are growing up and need both parents, but through the old age of the couple, or it leaves them with no practical way to fulfill their sexual needs in old age.(6)
This does not mean that the couple cannot, using the Double Effect, separate from each other. If a woman is being beaten by a man (or a man being beaten by a woman; it happens more often than one would think), then it is obviously worse that she be forced to live with him (worse for the children too, who have to witness such things) than for the two to live apart from each other. But they are still married. Neither can "marry" someone else.
If this were not the case, then the fact that remarriage with someone else was possible "if things got bad enough" would be a strong incentive for things to get bad enough if one of the partners happened to fall in love with someone else. And the very love of the other partner for the one who now yearned after another would tend to make him not try to "stand in the way of her happiness" and agree to the divorce, however devastating it might be to him.
Further, if divorce were allowed in extreme cases, the cases defined as "extreme" would in rather short order become such that there was nothing objectively extreme about them. The reason is that, no matter where you draw the line, there will be people just on the other side of the line, who see no practical difference between their situation and that of those who can get divorced--because there would be no practical difference. So to take care of them, the line would have to be drawn closer to normalcy. For instance, if divorce is permitted for wife-beating, a given wife could easily argue that locking her up at home with no money or telephone was if anything worse; or verbal abuse can be as bad as physical beating. "Bad," as I have said so often, is subjective.
And this is another one of those predictions from the nature of things that turns out to be amply verified in practice. From the horror at divorce when I was a child and a young adult, we have passed to the stage where half of the marriages end in divorce, and "no fault" divorce is the norm.
And this is just a calamity of epic proportions for the poor children, who grow up with two or three daddies, or even revolving-door daddies and mommies both. Again, we are closing our eyes to the facts and pretending that "kids can do all right if their parents are divorced, and better than if two people who hated each other stayed married"; and people argue passionately against those who say divorce is never permitted as if they meant that separation was never permitted. What is not permitted by divorce is remarriage, and the arguments in favor of divorce do not give any real reason why not permitting another marriage hurts the children so terribly.(7) The fact that availability of divorce frees men, not women, is just another argument against it. When divorce is permitted, women are demeaned.
Further, there is the fact that if divorce is permitted, what is to happen to each partner in old age will tend to be lost sight of, with the result that people who find living together intolerable will divorce with little thought to what is going to happen to each of them twenty or thirty years from now. And since middle-aged men are still attractive to young women (but middle-aged women are not attractive to young men), it is extremely easy for men to think of their wives as insufferable harridans when the secretary is so kind and nice. And if the women find themselves bereft at age 40, as I quoted above, what will it be at age 60 and 70, knowing that they have been just tossed aside after they have grown stale? Women and the elderly are as harmed by divorce as the children are.
A further thing that is not noticed is that it is putting a great strain on the virtue of men (whose sex drive tends to be more promiscuous than that of women) not to have any social help to tide them over the difficult times when they start to fall in love with a younger woman who is attracted to them, which makes them look at their middle-aged wives with new eyes. If divorce is available to them, why should they stay with this shrew who even becomes worse knowing that their affection is beginning to wander? Everyone else does it. Many is the man who deeply loves his wife and is sincerely trying to "make things work," but becomes involved with the other woman partly because the society is almost pushing him to do so with its emphasis on irresponsible sex--and finds that the only thing he has to rely on to stay faithful is the promise he once made and the more or less abstract fact that it is morally wrong to abandon his wife.
So we can take it that the old traditional view (still given lip service in the marriage vows) that the only thing that dissolves marriage is death is the correct view.(8)
But if this is true, then marriage, being a commitment for life under all circumstances, cannot be entered into lightly. One may hope for fulfillment from it; but since one is married even when it is anything but fulfilling, one cannot marry for the sake of fulfillment. This is important enough to put into a conclusion:
Conclusion 11: It is immoral to marry for the sake of one's own fulfillment.
That is, there is the other person and the possible children who must be taken into account; and the marriage cannot be dissolved (because of the children and the old-age problem) even if both parties think that they would be better off unmarried. Hence, each person who enters a marriage must be aware that the other person might get much more out of it than he will, and also that he might wind up being even considerably worse off than he is now, single. It is no fun being married to an alcoholic, for instance; but many people don't become alcoholics until after they are married. But, as I could see with my father and my mother, what was my father to do? Turn my mother out and let her "fend for herself" while he lived a more or less normal life? How could she fend for herself? She couldn't even get dressed many days. One of the reasons we have so many homeless "street people" is that they have husbands or wives or families, but these people "can't deal with them" and kick them out so that they themselves can have a chance to live. One can sympathize with both sides on this; but the point I am making is that it can be very, very difficult to live with the person you now idealize so much; and if you can't divorce yourself from her, then you have to accept that you are willing to stay married to her even at the expense of your own fulfillment.
Conclusion 12: Marriage as a society presupposes actual love of the partners for each other as a condition for entering it.
"Love" here is not to be taken as "infatuation" or even, necessarily, "sexual attraction." Love means willingness to (a) accept the other for what she really is, and help her attain her own goals, and (b) willingness to subordinate one's own goal-seeking to the goal-seeking of the other and to the children's development, if any.
Thus, things like arranged marriages do not necessarily violate this presupposition of marriage. As I heard an Indian girl say one time when an interviewer was asking her how she felt about the fact that her father was choosing her husband rather than letting her follow her own heart, "I have no problem with this. My father loves me, and he is not going to choose for me someone who will not make me happy. Just as my father loves my mother, who was chosen for him, I will love my husband."
In fact, our American idea of romantic marriages if anything tends against the love that is required in marriage, because it tends to be mindless and purely emotional. Instead of putting ourselves in the way of falling in love with the kind of person who we could predict a priori would be a friend for life, we tend to associate haphazardly with the opposite sex, and wait until the bomb explodes; and then we throw reason to the winds and rush in to a permanent commitment at the very time when our emotions do not let us see who this person really is and whether it makes any sense for the two of us to be tied together until death. This is made all the easier, of course, by the thought that "if it doesn't work out, we can always try again."
So the attitude of people toward sex nowadays is exactly the opposite of the attitude necessary for it to be what it is. "Responsible sex" now has nothing to do with the reality of sexuality, but of avoiding the consequences of the act without avoiding the act. It means, "use a condom," not "don't have sex outside of marriage."
Small wonder that this irresponsible "responsible" sex should backfire, and that teen agers should be getting pregnant in petrifying numbers, and that AIDS should be spreading as an epidemic. If people are asked to close their eyes to certain inconvenient aspects of the reality of sex, why would anyone expect them to keep their eyes open to other inconvenient aspects? So all the attempts at "sex education" which are different from what you find in this book can be predicted to cause increases in sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy out of wedlock; and everything done to curb these bad effects will only exacerbate them until we have brought such a disaster on ourselves that we recognize once again what was obvious all along: that sex belongs only in marriage, that marriage is indissoluble, and that marriage presupposes love and the willingness to sacrifice oneself for the other and for the children. We will come once again to this conclusion, just as all the sexually promiscuous ages have; God grant that it will be soon, so that we can minimize the damage that is already far greater than we realize.
Having said that marriage presupposes love, I do not want to leave the impression that we should go to the other sentimental extreme and say that marriage is a "total giving" of oneself to the other partner. To give oneself totally to the other partner, or to subordinate oneself completely to the other's interests or fulfillment, would mean willingness to do damage to oneself for the sake of the fulfillment of the other; and this is immoral. A person's reality as a person does not disappear in the spouse; and no one must ever be willing to do what is morally wrong or to harm himself for anyone, spouse included.
Conclusion 13: The love that is presupposed in marriage includes respect for one's own reality, so that one will not be willing to do himself any damage for the sake of the beloved.
Sometimes it can be that to avert worse damage to the beloved, one may (or must, even), using the Double Effect, do what will as a side-effect bring damage upon oneself. But this is permitted in any human relationship, not just in marriage. I would think that in Double Effect situations, however, the love in the marriage would tend to make one choose the avoidance of the harm of the beloved in preference to avoidance of one's own harm when the two harms are about equal; but in cases where one's own harm is significantly greater than the harm of the beloved, then one would be morally obliged to choose the avoidance of one's own harm, keeping the damage to the beloved out of the choice. For instance, if there was only enough money for one operation, and one partner needed removal of tonsils to keep from getting tonsillitis year after year (which could be cured every time with antibiotics), and the other needed a cataract operation in order to be able to see, the spouse with the cataracts would be obliged to choose his own operation, even though his wife remained chronically ill.
Marital love, then, is not to be that romantic "love" that is irrational. Nor is marital love something that produces a "union" of the two as if some third thing like a body emerged out of these two cells, to which they became subordinate. Spouses sometimes talk as if "the marriage" were something that was to be preserved and fostered even at the expense of both parties to it.
No, the marriage is a relationship, not an object in itself; its reality consists in what each member does for the other member, not what each member does for the "relationship."
The "union" in marriage consists in this: When I make my goal the fulfillment of my wife's self-chosen goals, then her goals as chosen by her become one of my goals in life. Hence, her reality as distinct from mine is now within my chosen reality, because I cannot now attain my happiness unless she is the kind of being she wants to be. She is always a distinct, different, "separate" being from me; but her reality is within my concept of my "true reality," because I choose to make as my goal her fulfillment. In that sense, she is within my life and the two lives we live are entwined into one life.
I think this last paragraph bears rereading; it contains something extremely profound. The "otherness" of the other person is what is willed by oneself, and in this vary act, the other as other is contained within the self. But the other does not "get absorbed" into oneself (as if she were subordinate to one's own development), but remains other and "outside" the self, even while being one goal of the self's own development: I cannot be myself unless she is the self she wants to be. The satisfaction of seeing her fulfilled on her own terms is my own fulfillment. This is the mystery of love.
I stress again that this "absorption" of her into my set of goals for myself leaves her utterly free and independent of me. It isn't she who depends on me, but I who depend on her, because I must discover from her what her goals are for herself before I can will them as my goals for her also. If I try to make her conform to my notion of what her goals for herself "ought" to be, then I don't love her, but want to subordinate her personhood to myself. This is the very opposite of love. Hence, the "union" of the two in love consists precisely in each letting the other one be his independent self, and each adapting his own reality to the reality (including the self-determined goals) of the beloved. Loving is not tying in; loving is letting go.
Of course, this "letting go" cannot be absolute, any more than the "giving" to the other can be absolute. A spouse cannot abet his spouse when she wants to do something damaging to herself; it is not love to help another person harm herself, even if she wants to do so. Of course, love is not necessarily going to force a person not to do harm to herself if she knows what she is doing and chooses to do it anyway. As I mentioned in discussing the alcoholic in Chapter 5 of Section 1 of the fifth part 5.1.5, "tough love" which forces things on a person against her will is permitted only to remove the emotions' blinding to facts, so that the person can see information unavailable because of emotions. But if the beloved knows the facts and is freely choosing to ignore them, then (absent damage to some third party), love will not thwart what she is doing to herself. Not even God's perfect love does this; and human love is not to attempt to be greater than God's.
Hence, it is never love if it involves choosing damage either to oneself for the sake of the beloved, or damage to the beloved because she wants it.
Nor is marriage, because it presupposes love, "total openness to the other" in the sense that absolutely everything that one does and is is completely revealed to the other person. As I said when discussing the right to privacy in the preceding section, this total disclosure is not humanly possible; there are bound to be facts about one's life that one has forgotten, or even which, if revealed, will give a completely false impression about oneself. Thomas Hardy, in Tess of the d'Urbervilles shows what a disaster revealing too much about oneself can be, given the personality of the other person. Angel revealed to Tess that he had once had sex with another woman, whereupon Tess, with great relief, unburdened herself of the fact that she had once been raped. Angel then became embittered against her, and could not bring himself to act lovingly toward her again. This sort of thing happens.
Hence, it can be that "total openness" works directly against the possibility of the two partners being able to live together in intimacy and work for each other's happiness. If one spouse wants to "know everything" about the other in the sense that he will try to pry into the other's life, then this very desire, insofar as it makes the other person uncomfortable, is an indication that the inquisitive spouse is not concerned with the other's reality, but with his own knowledge of the merchandise he has acquired.
Conclusion 14: The "open communication" in a marriage must mean that nothing the other reveals will make a negative difference to him, so that the other partner can reveal anything she wants about herself to him and still be loved and accepted. But any attempt to demand or expect revelation works against openness of communication.
That is, "openness of communication" is to be receptiveness only. As soon as one spouse gives the impression that the other is not "communicating enough," then he is saying, "If you really loved and trusted me, you wouldn't keep secrets from me," instead of saying, "Since I love you, it doesn't bother me in the least if you have your secrets." Even if the secret is just something embarrassing, that the spouse isn't really trying to "hide," but just finds difficult to say (and many men are tongue-tied when it comes to their own emotional lives), then the least pressure to reveal it automatically is going to make the spouse wonder why his beloved wants to know; and protestations of, "I just want to know all about you" are going to be interpreted as "I want to have all the facts so that I can make a proper evaluation of you."
Every person, particularly one who loves another, is painfully aware that he is imperfect--and in fact, is unworthy of the one he loves. He hopes that the other person loves him and accepts him, but he is afraid that if she ever found out what he is really like, she would reject him. It takes years to overcome this fear; and the least little thing will reinforce it, not diminish it. When, therefore, the beloved gives the impression that she actively wants to know these facts that the lover fears might make her love him less, he is all the more reluctant to reveal them, because he is afraid that his acceptance by her is contingent upon his measuring up to her standards, which he fears he cannot do.
However, insofar as the other person accepts the tentative approaches toward revelation of what is not perfect about himself--without giving the impression "Is that the worst, or is there more?"--then he is emboldened to say more; and if that is accepted, then after a time he knows he can unburden himself to her completely without its making any difference in her attitude toward him. And at that time, the revelation may or may not be complete (because he might not have a need to tell her some particular thing about himself), but it becomes free and joyous, and communication in the true sense between the spouses is established. Neither needs to hold back anything or to have the other not hold back anything; so that anything that needs to be said can be said. But when "openness" is supposed to be "total," then first of all, communication shuts down, and secondly, each party feels guilty and/or resentful toward the other.
To correct another misconception about the love in marriage, we can say that it does not involve helping the other be a better person. This is a fallacy that religious people are apt to fall into, thinking that they are supposed to get married to "help the other person get into a high place in heaven." They often do this, because it takes a saint to hold onto his sanity in the face of someone's constantly pushing him toward greater and greater "perfection," clearly demonstrating that no matter what he does, he's never good enough to suit her.
The reason this is a fallacy is that it is assumed that "perfection" is something objectively knowable, toward which another person can be pushed by a loving helpmate "who knows him better than he knows himself." First of all, this "knowledge" of the beloved is a natural delusion that comes because of the sex drive. That drive, in order to attach us to one individual, blocks out of our consciousness the things that we would find undesirable, and enhances those that we find admirable; and so the beloved appears as a paragon of virtue and humanity. But then after marriage, when the drive is satisfied, the scales fall from our eyes, and we find that the person we married isn't what we thought she was. But the image we originally formed of our partner is still there, and so we think we know what she is "really like, if only she'd work at it a bit." And so to "help" her, we try to point out these little rough edges that she could smooth out, and show her the way toward that marvelous person now hidden inside. (The reason I've been mixing up the pronouns in these two paragraphs is that this happens on both sides.)
But of course, this image is, as I said, a delusion, and has nothing to do with what the person really is--because what a person really is is what her goals are, as I said in Chapter 4 of Section 4 of the third part 3.4.4; and these goals are self-set and are not something objective. When you try to push someone toward a "perfection" you want her to achieve, what you are doing is trying to force her to adopt your goals for her life, or to make her over into your idea of what she "ought" to be. But this makes her a slave, and is a direct contradiction of her selfhood.
Therefore, we can say this:
Conclusion 15: Love in marriage involves absolute acceptance of the other person for what she really is, not in an attempt to "improve" her.
Another way of saying this is that love does not involve evaluation, because evaluation always measures something against a (personally set) standard, and thus one would be expecting the other to live up to one's own idea of what she "ought" to be, and not accepting her as she is.
This attempt to "improve" the other is insidious precisely because the beloved loves you; if she loves truly, she will accept your attempt to improve her and try to conform to it, giving up her selfhood to your selfish demands upon her. As I said, trying to make another person into a saint often works if the other person loves you; but to make the attempt is perhaps the greatest marital sin there is, because in the name of love it works directly against the love which is the presupposition of marriage. It is spiritual rape.
Here is what love in marriage essentially is; and it is important enough to put into a conclusion, not a definition:
Conclusion 16: Love in marriage is willingness to be used by the other person.
The feminists thought they found out something that hundreds of generations of women had been brainwashed into overlooking: that in marriage, the women were exploited by their husbands. That is perfectly true. What the feminists did not notice was that for hundreds of generations, men have been exploited by their wives.
What? Why the men were free to go out to work, the women had to give a dowry to buy a husband, the men owned the whole income of the family! That's true, and from a "raised consciousness" point of view, it is exploitation and the men have always had it made. But if you look at it from the man's point of view, you find (a) that the men had to go out and work at the job that paid best, because they had to support the family in the style the women dictated--because the women spent the money the men made. As late as my teen years, getting a job was not looked on as finding "fulfilling work," but as something you had to do to support a family. Women are now finding that working under someone else is far from "fulfilling"; and men have always noticed that managing a household means that you're your own boss, and your time can be allocated the way you want it to be. But this is not just recent; it's always been this way. Even Plato talks in Republic about the men's "problems and worries in bring up their children and finding enough money to keep the family going, going into debt and bankruptcy, and all the little tricks they have to resort to to scrape together what they just hand over to their wives and servants to spend." Who has the power, the one who earns the money or the one who spends it?
(b) The dowry was connected with this; since all of the man's income was the family's income, not his own (and since at the beginning he didn't have much), the dowry was considered to be the woman's sole financial contribution to the marriage.
(c) Legally, the man was the administrator of the family money; but he was accountable for the way he spent it, and could be brought to trial for non-support if he spent the money he earned on himself and not the family.
Furthermore, men have always talked among themselves as if being married was being "tied down," and "trapped," not as if having a wife was having an unpaid drudge and prostitute. Men have always recognized that it was cheaper in the long run to hire a cook and a housekeeper and to visit the brothel down the street; getting married and having a demanding woman take over these services was not regarded as a step up, but a step down, if for no other reason than that children came from the latter arrangement, and children are even more expensive, if possible, than wives.
Now all of this is not to say that women are the ones that have been "oppressing" men for millennia; only that if you "raise your consciousness," men can make out quite as good a case of being oppressed by their wives as women can that they are oppressed by their husbands. And the reason is precisely that in marriage there is "being used by the other" on both sides. If you are interested in your own freedom and your own personal fulfillment, then marriage is bound to be oppressive. The main thing you give up in marriage is precisely freedom; you must leave the other person free, and adapt yourself to her reality, tying yourself down to her, and gladly being used by her.
Of course, if the other person knows what marriage is about, then she is also gladly adapting herself to your reality and tying herself down to you; and so in the best of marriages, each person does fulfill himself, because he knows that this is what gives the greatest happiness to the other person; so in a perfect marriage, both are free, unhindered in personal development by the other, and helping the other not be "better" but to develop as she wants to develop. But few marriages work out this way; one person is almost bound to be a taker rather than a giver; and so it works out usually that one of the pair does by far most of the giving and the other most of the taking. So in some marriages, the wife is exploiting the husband, and in some, the husband is exploiting the wife. But with marital love, this doesn't matter. That's the whole point of marital love.
If this is true, it isn't surprising that the destruction of the family has coincided with the feminist movement. Women, in trying to get free of "oppression," have destroyed the foundation upon which marriage is built; and if the foundation goes, the superstructure cannot be far behind. But women are beginning to wake up to the fact that they need marriage much more than men do, once men can have sex without it.
Marriage, then, like sex, has any number of fallacious ways of thinking about it. One recent one (partly brought on by feminism) is the notion that, since marriage is a contract, you had better spell out the terms clearly before you enter it; and so we now have "nuptial agreements" where each party pledges to do this or that in return for compliance with the terms by the other party.
This puts the marital relationship squarely in the realm of economics, when the relationship is not even one of cooperation, but even beyond that of mutual love. When people cooperate, they have a common goal which is to the advantage of each; when a person enters a marriage, he must be willing, as I said, to sacrifice his own advantage to the reality of his beloved and their children. That is, on entering marriage, each person has to realize that in fact he may wind up less well off than he is now, and will be unable to get out of the marriage even if this is the case.
Conclusion 17: Marriage is a covenant, not a contract; it is a pledge by each person of a permanent commitment to the other person come what may until death.
Precisely because it is such a terrifying commitment, it is usually, and rightly, made with great solemnity before witnesses, who can guarantee that it was in fact made. The wedding ceremony is far more than just something festive; it is society's way of saying, "You cannot get out of this and say you never made the pledge; hundreds of people heard you do it."(9)
For those who say, "We don't need a piece of paper to prove that we are married," my answer is that they are fools who don't realize what they are getting into. Any married couple (which means any people who have sex together) need all the help they can get to stay together when the inevitable time comes when they "realize that they are just incompatible, and that it won't work." No two people are ever "compatible" for years and years and years and years and years. Furthermore, the people around them have a right to know whether they are married or not; because if they are, then society has an obligation not to throw roadblocks in their way; and if they aren't then the people who deal with them have a different relation toward each (you don't ask someone's wife out for a date, for instance). What I usually reply to people who "don't need a piece of paper" is "Then why are you afraid to get one?".
Now then, within a marriage there isn't a dividing up of duties, rights, and responsibilities, precisely because the relationship is one of love, not of economics or even cooperation for a common goal.
The first conclusion to be drawn in this regard is this:
Conclusion 18: There is no authority in marriage; neither person has the right to give orders and threaten the other with punishment.
In traditional Scholastic ethics, it is said that the man by nature has the authority in "conjugal society," because he is stronger than the woman and also more aggressive. But this is nonsense. Authority is the right to issue commands, and one is not "more fitted by nature" to issue commands because he is more of a bully. If someone were more suited to issue commands it would be because he was wiser. Once that is said, it is obvious.
And I simply deny that men are by nature wiser than women. The human spirit is in itself the same in every human being; it differs by the degree of the individual human unifying energy, which, as far as wisdom and intelligence is concerned, involves the capacity of the brain to hold more or less information above the threshold of perception, as I said in Chapter 3 of Section 3 of the third part 3.3.3. Once the information is conscious, the spirit can see the relationships. But there is no evidence for inferior brain-capacity in women; there are brilliant and stupid women just as there are brilliant and stupid men.
Hence, there is no difference between men and women in the respect that would be relevant to establishing that one should be giving the orders and the other taking them; so there is no basis for a "natural authority."
Furthermore, since the two partners love each other, which means that they are willing to defer to each other, there is no need for authority. There are only two of them, and they can reach a consensus. The Scholastics object, "But what about situations in which the two disagree and each thinks his reasons are best? Someone has to break the stalemate." True, but this by no means implies that the man is the one to do it. When a couple are at an impasse like this, they must seek outside advice and follow it; it isn't that the wife must give in to the husband. Further, it is clearly invidious to take a situation like this and infer from it that the husband has the right to impose sanctions on his wife.(10)
As to roles in the marriage, it is better to talk about the necessities involved in a marriage: there have to be (a) resources sufficient to support the couple, and (b) a style of living of the couple. Traditionally, the man has been held responsible by society for supplying sufficient resources to support the family, and the woman responsible for defining the family's life style (since marriage naturally develops into the family).
There is no special reason why the responsibility should be divided in this way; but it is true that society has a right to know who is to be held accountable for failings in these two areas; because if the family doesn't have sufficient income, the children can suffer, and if they have sufficient income but are neglected, then they are being harmed by their parents. In either case, society's concern to see to it that no one is deprived of his human rights means that it must force the married couple to do what is necessary for each other and the children.
Hence, it doesn't seem to me that a loose arrangement whereby who is accountable for what is not defined is workable as a general rule over a long time. And, in fact, in our attempt to establish such looseness, there has been a tremendous increase in neglected children. As I said earlier, the ones to suffer from the current sexual revolution are children and the elderly; and there is no realistic prospect of anything except a worsening of what is going on at present.
Hence, though the woman doesn't have to do the dishes and cook the meals, she is responsible for how the family eats and is clothed and so on; and while the man doesn't have to go out and earn the money, he is responsible for the income of the family, so that he is the one who is answerable if there are too few resources to live on, and can be forced to work if he just wants to sit in front of the TV and drink beer.
There is nothing wrong with the man's being a househusband and taking over the task of the life style of the family, while the woman goes out and becomes its breadwinner; but, given that society has a stake in what happens within the family, if this arrangement results in neglect or poverty, then the househusband is to blame for the poverty, and the wife for the lice-ridden kids.
That is, society is perfectly within its rights in regarding the husband's income as the family income and the wife's income as hers to be contributed to the family if she wants to; and the society is also within its rights to blame the woman if the style of living of the family is sloppy and squalid. This will sometimes be unjust; but it would be far more unjust if no one were able to be held accountable. So rather than woman's place being in the home, it is that woman's responsibility is for the manner of living of the home, while man's responsibility is for the level of living of the home.Next
1. It is very difficult to figure out which pronoun to use in discussing "the other partner." In one of my textbooks, I used the generic (masculine) pronoun, but that made me appear to be the woman. Here, I have decided that, since I am a man, it is more natural to use "her" in reference to "the partner." Obviously, what I say, unless I specifically refer to the man or the woman, will apply to each partner.
2. In other words, Hillary Clinton's book whose title was "It takes a village to raise a child" is off the mark. What the "village" has to do is enable the parents to raise the child; and in most cases, this means staying out of the way.
3. Speaking now as an old man, I can say from experience that this (which I wrote when I was younger, and was drawing conclusions from premises) is true.
4. Recently there was a case in the United States of an injured man and a woman who were shocked because their Catholic pastor refused to marry them, on the grounds that what they would have was not a marriage. The newspapers took up their cause and castigated the "insensitivity" of the priest, who, like a good Catholic, was only recognizing the facts for what they were. As I remember the two were finally permitted to go through a religious ceremony they could call a "marriage" and which was the all-but-marital commitment I spoke of above; but in fact they weren't married, and the woman had to give up one of her major rights as a wife in order to enter the relationship--which she was quite willing to do, and which was very noble of her.
5. I might point out that those who disagree with this point, if they are Catholics, at least, would have to say that Mary and Joseph were not married; because Catholic tradition says that Mary was a virgin her whole life long. Obviously, Joseph respected the fact that she was really the wife of the Holy Spirit and never violated that relationship, while at the same time he married her because it would be horrible for the Son of God to be, to all appearances, a bastard.
In fact, if you read Luke carefully, Joseph and Mary had evidently already reached a decision to marry without any children before Gabriel made his announcement to Mary; because when he did, she said, "How will this be, since I am not to have relations with a husband?" I translated this sentence this way, even though the Greek verb is a present tense, since the verb can bear this significance, and in the context it makes no sense for Mary to be puzzled, since she was about to marry Joseph. A woman about to marry who is told that she is going to have a child would naturally think that she would conceive the child by her husband as soon as they married. Hence, Mary's puzzlement and statement means "I don't have sex" in an absolute sense, not "I haven't had sex yet"; and seems to indicate that under some divine inspiration, she had made a vow to remain a virgin, and Joseph had evidently chosen to be her husband in the sense above in order to protect her from people who would force her to marry and then force sex upon her. That interpretation (which to me is the only one that makes sense out of the text, especially given the parallel doubt of Zechariah which preceded this episode) is the Scriptural basis for saying that the adelphoi of Jesus were cousins, not brothers, and that Mary remained a virgin her whole life long.
6. Note that "sexual needs" here is a bit of a misnomer. A "need" (necessity) is, as we saw in Chapter 3 of Section 7 of the fourth part 4.7.37, something without which a person is damaged or dehumanized. But there is no physical harm to a person if he cannot engage in sex, and the lack of being able to do so, therefore, deals with his not being better off (in, for example, physical and emotional satisfaction) than he is now. Hence, while it would be dehumanizing to force a person never to engage in sex (and consequently this can be done only if, by the Double Effect, one is preventing greater harm), there is nothing inherently evil in a person's no longer being able to engage in sex. Still, there is the urge, which is from nature, and it is still, as I said, sometimes strong in old age; and so there is in some sense a deprivation if one cannot fulfill it (at least an emotional one). So the argument, while not strictly logical, does have force. That is, it seems reasonable to say that there must be a way in which it is by and large possible to be able to fulfill one's sexual desires even into old age; otherwise, why does nature not shut off the desire after a certain age is reached, as it shuts off the possibility of having children at menopause?
7. Those who are concerned about Scripture's permitting divorce between the times of Moses and Jesus should listen to what Jesus says about it that it was permitted (as Matthew reports) "because of your insensitive obstinacy." That is, presumably during that time, YHWH himself was taking on the task of seeing to it that the harmful effects would be circumvented.
Incidentally, the "except for promiscuity" phrase that Matthew puts in to Luke's earlier, doubtless more literally correct, version of what Jesus said, could have been intended to close a loophole rather than open one. What Jesus said is that any man who divorces a woman makes an adulteress of her. The casuistical mind of the Hebrews at that time would naturally ask, "But suppose she's already an adulteress. Does that mean you can divorce her?" So the sense of Matthew's interpolated phrase (since his Report was, among other things, to get across the meaning of what Jesus was saying) was, "If a man divorces a woman who is not already an adulteress, he makes an adulteress of her." And this is clarified by the subsequent phrase, "And any man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery." That is, a divorced woman having sex is committing adultery. Certainly Luke and Mark don't give the impression that Jesus taught that divorce was ever permitted.
8. Note that those who take the traditional marriage vows are making a really strong promise: "For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, till death do us part." In other words, they have foreseen the conditions that would tend to make them separate (such as alcoholism) and have explicitly rejected them as grounds for doing so. And since it is immoral to break promises once made, unless there is at least the tacit understanding that the conditions are such that it is now damaging to keep the promise, then the promise must be kept. The point of this promise is that it explicitly excludes "conditions such that it is now damaging to keep the promise." Thus, if one suffers greatly because things change after marriage, that's too bad; morally speaking, just because of the promise, one is still married.
And, of course, if one marries "understanding" the promise as meaning less than this, one engages in a fraudulent marriage, because the other partner may very well understand it literally, and so should the witness, the clergyman who performs the ceremony, if he knows what he is doing. And a fraudulent marriage is not a marriage in the first place.
This fact that "marriages" may be entered into fraudulently is the grounds for the Catholic Church's annulment procedure. The Church does not actually annul the marriage, but simply declares that what was thought to be a marriage was not in fact actually a marriage. There is a great deal of abuse in annulments as I write this, making them, for practical purposes "Catholic divorces"; but as the saying is, "abuses must not destroy the use." Annulments must still be available.
9. It is not surprising, given the contingencies that can make the marriage all but impossible to maintain that religion should always have been involved with this, and that the pledge be a solemn vow before God as well as before all the other witnesses, together with a ritual of prayers for God to give his help to each of the couple, who need more than human assistance to keep to the pledge. In this connection, I suppose that it was no accident (though Jesus made it seem so) that Jesus' first miracle was performed at a wedding celebration.
10. As to what Paul says in Colossians and "Ephesians" about the relation of husbands and wives, it is not generally read very carefully, because "of course" Paul was a male chauvinist. Colossians is simplest: "Women are to listen to their husbands; this is what is proper in the Master. Men are to love their wives and not be harsh with them." If we take "love" in the sense defined above (which is, after all, the love that Jesus in "emptying himself" for us exhibited), then it means that each is to yield to the other. "Ephesians" (which was probably a letter to Laodicea, not Ephesus) spells it out a little more: "Give way to each other out of respect for the Prince's authority. Wives are to submit to their own husbands as if they were the Master; because the husband is the head of his wife more or less in the sense in which the Prince is the head of the community; he is the one who keeps the body safe. But in the sense in which the community listens to the Master, wives are to listen to their husbands in everything. Husbands, you are to love your wives in the same way as the Prince loved the community and surrendered himself for it, to make it holy by washing it with the bath of the water that has the sacred words said over it...This is the way husbands ought to love their wives--as if they were their own bodies. When a man loves his wife, he is loving himself."
In any case, the idea is that the wife is to defer to her husband the way the community defers to Jesus. But the "orders" of Jesus precisely leave the community free to do whatever they want, except for what is self-contradictory. And husbands are to love their wives as Jesus loved the community; and Jesus followed the commands of those in authority in his community, and gave himself up to death for his community; and became our servant and our friend, though he was our master. So Paul is not, in the final analysis, saying anything different from what I have said above.
And, as a final note, when Peter speaks of the woman as the "weaker vessel," this is what he actually says: "And husbands in this spirit [that of the submissiveness of women to their men] are to live in partnership with your wives, realistically, treating them carefully like delicate china, and like co-heirs of the gift of life."
That is, the Greek of the "weaker vessel" doesn't mean a "defective pot" but refers to pottery that is easily broken, or delicate. It is not a pejorative image at all; and the context clearly indicates equality between the two.