THE principles of marriage value and of marriage art have necessarily brought to a common focus the problem which confronts the individual acting alone and the problem which confronts two individuals acting together. For both of these situations are present where marriage value and marriage art are at stake.
But in the inner forum at the mind where decisions are made there is only One. And hence the result of a synoptic treatment of the activity of One and Two brings a certain amount of conclusion. Problems of marriage value come, ultimately, to the problem of the personal conduct of one who in the utter privacy of his own heart is meditating whether to engage in a marriage or of what to do with a marriage in which he is engaged.
The foregoing discussion is intended to find application in the thought of an individual who is making: actual decisions. Therefore a theory upon marriage values and art values in marriage has been developed with a view to maximum self-consistency. For that which at present renders choices on matters of marriage difficult is a confusion of ideals, or the lack of any ideal which is adequate and coherent in all its parts.
In matters of love it sometimes happens that a man does not regard himself as a free agent, capable of making choices as a consequence of meditation. He pictures [p.249] himself rather as a chip in the stream, carried whithersoever it may be by forces beyond his control. He says of his love affair that the very force and pressure of his love compels him to seek marriage, leaving no other alternative or he thinks of his marriage that his total fund of prejudice and attitude is so disposed toward it that it is impossible for him to continue it.
Since he is acting as the plaything of blind forces, ideals would be a useless encumbrance to him. They might serve him indeed to measure the height to which he has risen or the depth to which he has fallen, but they could not aid him in controlling his fate because he is not trying to control it. Only the man who is seeking to govern his destiny by means of his intelligence is in a position to make use of this or any other theory of marriage.
Moreover, neither this system of marriage ideals nor any other can present itself to his mind with utter and absolute validity. It is only when a certain presupposition is accepted that a specific system of values unfolds. In this case the presupposition has been made that marriage is essentially a personal relationship. The specific values of marriage, loyalty value and duration value, have been deduced from this assumption. If this presupposition is accepted, then and then only do the principles of marriage as herein outlined come into play to serve the individual who is making the choice.
Therefore, as another fundamental choice, the individual must decide whether he is to consider his marriage problem as if marriage were essentially a personal relationship. If he decides in the negative, choosing to regard his marriage as essentially a socially useful institu[p.250]tion or a heaven-decreed duty, then he can make no practical use of the principles here laid down.
If he accepts the hypothesis that marriage is essentially a personal relationship, he will acknowledge the validity of the system of values that is deduced therefrom. He accepts, for instance, the standard of domestic excellence which accounts as best that family which maintains most durably the highest level of domestic interaction.
The use that is to be made of this system of values or ideals depends upon the nature of the decision in hand: whether it is the question confronting the unmarried or the married.
The unmarried person is concerned with the problem whether he should marry or not. He must acknowledge that so far as he is concerned the critical question is whether he is willing to commit himself to a permanent, personal, paramount loyalty. This is not an arbitrary question, raised whimsically like the question of blondes versus brunettes. It is the necessary question which lies at the threshold of all careful thinking on a marriage problem.
The question of loyalty poses itself in more general forms. For there are loyalties which are not paramount, and paramount loyalties which are not personal, and paramount personal loyalties which do not endure.
A paramount loyalty is desirable as an instrument of the integrity of the self. For conduct in which the sell is most clearly manifested, that is to say purposive conduct, is subject to an hierarchy of purposes or ends. That which is an end with respect to an inferior series of acts is a means with respect to a superior series. The person who [p.251] has a mind so ordered that the hierarchy of his purposes is dominated by a supreme purpose or paramount loyalty is at peace with himself. His energies do not cancel each other out in internal tensions. Therefore there is a value to any one under all circumstances in having an object of paramount loyalty.
This object need not be personal. One can fill his life with an impersonal loyalty to Socialism, to the Church, to Prohibition, to the Fatherland. Or one may accept tentatively some object of paramount loyalty, leaving it to the future to decide whether he will retain it or not. Thus in the general range of choice that lies before a man, the loyalty requirement of marriage is highly specialized.
The man who desires to commit himself to the special kind of attitude that marriage requires may still be in doubt whether his present will can effectively project itself into an indefinite future. Unforeseen circumstances may put an end to the state which he intends to be permanent, or set before him something which transcends in value that which he has purposed to regard as supremely valuable. In committing himself to a loyalty that is at once paramount, personal and permanent, he may fear that the commitment may be subject to change by factors not under his control.
It is here that introspection must run when one is testing his own mind to determine whether it is adequately prepared for marriage. It is not to be expected that this introspection is infallible, nor that it will eliminate risk, but at least it will focus attention upon the facts that are most significant with reference to the probable excellence of the marriage that is to be undertaken.
[p.252] This is not the traditional diagnostic of love. These are not the signs which Shakespeare listed –
. . . the lover,
Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow.
whereby the premarital state is to be identified. It does not have much place in our romantic tradition that one should order his mind upon his love affair by asking himself: “Do I take her up as my permanent hobby?” This is none the less the essential question of courtship; its importance is implicit in the hypothesis that marriage is a personal relationship.
The person who is already married finds a different type of problem confronting him: at most he may be wondering whether to maintain the marriage or terminate it; at least he is concerned to know at what level of domestic interaction to maintain the marriage.
Speaking and acting for himself alone he has only a limited control over the level upon which his family is to function. If his partner is domestically active, it rests with him to determine whether he will give or withhold his cooperation, and hence he has the option of choosing any level from the unilateral to the romantic. But if his partner is domestically inert, and fails to cooperate, then his latitude of choice is limited He has only to decide whether he will maintain single-handed a unilateral level of domestic interaction, or give up the game and run the relationship on a strictly exchange basis, on the economic level. It will rest with him then to adapt his practice of the art of marriage to the level upon which the family is functioning.
[p.253] If he undertakes to maintain paramount loyalty toward his marriage partner, despite the fact that it is not reciprocated, and to act domestically though he receives neither appreciation nor benevolence, he must assimilate the relationship to that of a parent to a child, from whom one exacts neither appreciation nor benevolent activity. This is the consequence of functioning upon the unilateral level.
The limitations of the marriage partner, the inertness, the unresponsiveness, is then a challenge to art. For just as the parent seeks to lead the child to take a more responsive part in their relationship, so the husband or wife seeks to increase the domestic qualities of the marriage partner, in order that the level of domestic interaction may be raised.
Under these conditions the most open activity takes the form of histrionics, preferably, for it is by increasing one’s value to the other that one stimulates greater appreciation and loyalty. Pedagogics must be subtle and contention must never overstrain the loyalty that exists. The object of contention must be not the winning of an argument but the creation of a satisfactory episode. This means that perfect control is necessary. In the creating of shared experiences, one person alone can do much; in controlling their place in the stream of experiences he can do even more, for he can forget the things that are to be consigned to oblivion and remind the other of the things that are to be remembered. And in all this, one must seek an artist’s satisfaction in a task well done.
This is the pattern of art to be followed by those who seek to raise the level of domestic interaction; but one [p.254] may prefer to let the marriage drift on the economic level. In the latter case one makes no effort to raise the level of excellence, but sets out rather to live one’s own life and to be as comfortable as conditions permit. He commits nothing to the marriage and hence is incapable of losing much by it. If in the turn of events it comes about that the marriage becomes too disadvantageous, it is allowed to lapse. No significant development of personality issues from such a marriage; no deep sympathy develops the self, nor do adequate conflicts teach adaptation. Quarrels are avoided not for histrionic or pedagogic reasons, but in sheer indifference to considerations of personality and in order to avoid annoyance. Self-development goes unnourished by sympathy; adaptation, taking place without consummated conflict, is of the surface only. For these reasons the marriage on the economic level bears a superficial resemblance to the marriage on the romantic level, but it lacks depth, and is at the mercy of circumstances. The problem it presents to the individual is simple – to get as much and give as little as possible.
The individual acting alone has then alternatives of these kinds before him. If the question is whether to marry or not, he searches himself for his answer to the problems of loyalty. If he finds that he is willing to commit himself fully, then his is the optimum attitude for marriage. If the question is what to do with a marriage already on his hands, he alone, on his own responsibility, can at least decide whether to carry on the family life on the unilateral or economic level.
If he finds that he is not willing to commit himself to an adequate loyalty then his reasons for marrying lie [p.255] somewhere off the level of the principles of marriage. Perhaps it is a matter of sex experiment, or conformity to convention, or economic advantage; these are reasons to be weighed on a different scale. Nor is it to be expected that a marriage entered upon for such reasons will yield much value as marriage unless a change of attitude takes place.
And if he chooses the economic rather than the unilateral level of domestic interaction (this choice being of course the only one that is absolutely within his power) then he voluntarily surrenders whatever domestic value might be accessible to him. The question whether to continue or terminate the marriage is then removed to another plane, where one reckons up costs and profits on a balance sheet.
But can one ever get away from this thing of reckoning up costs and profits on a balance sheet? Is not the very issue between choosing domestic values or rejecting them a matter to be weighed by the mind in terms of its advantages and disadvantages? And what after all is the advantage to the individual it he reaches for domestic values rather than other values? It is senseless to raise the question of happiness in sheer quantitative form, to ask whether domestic values will ultimately yield a greater sum of satisfaction. For matters of happiness are more intelligibly analyzed in terms of quality than of quantity. And hence the individual puts his query in this form: What is the particular kind of satisfaction that lies before me if I choose to strive for domestic values? Why should I prefer these to others? Why should I make the domestic man an ideal of my life?
This query submits the marriage ideal to a new test. [p.256] It would be absurd, within the scope of this essay, to claim for it any absolute preëminence over other ideals of life. For it is not purposed here to outline a comprehensive ethic. All that a theory of this kind can do is to show what things hang together, and what the full implication may be if one accepts or rejects marriage values as an object of life. Hence the need for coherence and consistency in the principles of marriage.
The theories of marriage values and of art values in marriage have a superficial appearance of inconsistency, for they are differently derived. The concepts of loyalty value and duration value were deduced from the fundamental assumption that marriage is a personal relationship. The scheme of art values was developed by analogy of marriage with other arts. The world of marriage values is a world of purpose and intention. To intend well is to do well in terms of marriage values, but not in terms of art. The domestic man may be a bad artist; his intentions may always fall short of achievement, and for all that he is none the less the domestic man. The two theories delineate different standards of excellence. The symmetrical level of domestic interaction is the highest standard of family life according to the scheme of marriage value, whereas successful marriage art is to be judged not by levels of intention and behavior in the family but by stages in the development at personality.
Art value is thus individualistic; marriage value is not. But marriage values are necessary preconditions to the attainment of the highest art value. The reward which the individual receives for an enduring loyalty to another is a higher development of his own personality. The [p.257] man who stands alone, facing the issues of marriage, reckons then in terms at the contribution marriage will make to his own personality. Anything else is false reckoning.
Perhaps it follows from this that marriage is not the best of the alternatives that lie before one. Undoubtedly many adults, both wedded and single, are seeking in marriage for values extraneous thereto, and many are by their training unfitted to appreciate the actual marriage values. Yet it is only fair, since marriage has been rather relentlessly exposed, to demand that the complete consequences of alternatives to marriage should be equally laid open. What are, then, the full implications as a life object of personal ambition, the pursuit of pleasure, or the purposeless contemplation of things? If these alternative life ideals are scrutinized with the care which has been given to scrutinizing the ideal of marriage, their apparent adequacy to fill a life may rapidly dissolve away.
The purpose of this essay is accomplished, however, without pursuing these questions. The two authors have not been minded to set up as counselors of mankind. They have wished only to trace out comprehensively the implications of certain lines of thought that seemed to come upon them out of nature itself. For if marriage is the kind of thing they think it is, then these are its implicit principles. Further than that, they make no presumptions.
And if the language of domestic theory has been at times repellant because of words that come with unkindly flavor to English speech, this has been a sacrifice in the interests of intellectual adequacy – in order that issue [p.258] might be joined with other theories. Need it be said that the principles of marriage are practiced in family life, regardless of how they are stated? They do not need to be stated in order to be true.