No expectations – no disappointments (and no broken marriages)

I came across this quotation in an article by Howard Jacobson in his column in The Independent on Saturday 13th November 2010 – ‘How happiness can inspire great art’.

“Such is the common process of marriage. A youth and maiden meeting by chance, or brought together by artifice, exchange glances, reciprocate civilities, go home, and dream of one another. Having little to divert attention, or diversify thought, they find themselves uneasy when they are apart, and therefore conclude that they shall be happy together. They marry, and discover what nothing but voluntary blindness had before concealed; they wear out life in altercations, and charge nature with cruelty.”

The reason the language may appear a little ‘old fashioned’ is because the message is ‘old fashioned’ it was written in 1759. However it is as true today as it was when it was written. These are the words of Rasselas from Samuel Johnson’s novella ‘The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia (ISBN: 014043108X / 0-14-043108-X)

Two and a half centuries have passed and with them millions of marriages have taken place and yet it would seem the same misconceptions, or hopes, of that institution prevail. Lovers choose to share their lives together perhaps dreaming of a future filled with endless love and happiness but as Rasselas recognises the dreams remain just that – dreams. He perceives inevitable unhappiness and debates the advantages and disadvantages of late marriages which are, however, themselves fraught with problems.

Doesn’t this indicate that the vast majority of those of us choosing to share our lives with someone else is ill prepared to do so? Why do we expect to succeed where so many have failed? (See my earlier post – Do you have a ‘back seat driver’ on board?). How can we expect to relate well to others if we do not fully understand ourself?

Isn’t there a need to begin the preparation for entering into relationships? Given that a majority of parents (two out of three marriages end in divorce) would appear incapable of passing on advice gianed through success. Isn’t there something lacking in the education curriculum? Perhaps amongst the plethora of questionable degree courses that exist today there could be one for ‘Self-awareness’ – given that so little time is available for this within schools beavering away to get the correct boxes ticked in order to succeed in the league tables where to be ‘below average’ is to be seen to fail – a status which is inevitable for fifty per cent of them.

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