A Letter to My Children on Marriage

A Letter to My Children on Marriage
By William W. Doyle, Ph.D.

Dear Children,

You are growing up in a society which treats marriage contemptuously. You will find that most people are cynical about marriage. Margaret Mead said everyone should marry three times:  once to leave home, once to have children, and once for companionship. Mae West cracked that marriage was a great institution but she wasn’t ready for an institution yet. H.D. Mencken opined that a man could be a fool and not know it – unless he was married. Cher complained that some women get all excited about nothing – and then marry him. Micky Rooney advised that you should always marry in the morning; that way, if it doesn’t work out, you haven’t wasted the whole day. People will refer to marriage as Holy Acrimony. A 34 year-old actress, about to marry for the fourth time, professed, “I’m going to keep doing it until I get it right.” At the present time, one out of every two couples who get married will get divorced. Many people don’t even like the gender of the mate they marry: Men fear that women are out to constrain, confine, control them, and rob them of their masculinity. Women view men as unexpressive, brutish, overgrown babies (“I feel like I have an extra child to take care”). Divorce has been easy enough to obtain for enough years now, that there are many children growing up skeptical and wary, that since their parents’ marriage failed, perhaps marriage is a fragile, unworkable concept. It is difficult to find people who have marriages they enjoy. If you subscribe to these “normal” perceptions of marriage you will probably have “normal” marriages….and maybe divorces of your own. As your father, I hope I can impart a different legacy of abnormal ideas about marriage.

Pay heed to the advice, “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” The quality of the relationship you have with yourself will determine the quality of your relationship with your spouse. You must develop these capacities – to soothe yourself in the face of life’s paradoxes and in the face of your own or your partner’s anxieties, to nurture yourself because you know you deserve to be treated well; to validate yourself rather than expecting others to make you feel worthy. Do not turn your self or your esteem over to anyone else to define. Then it wouldn’t be self-esteem. We all select mates who affirm what we already believe about ourselves so it behooves you to learn to “Love thy-self.”

When you can soothe, nurture, validate, and love yourself, you will be standing on your own two feet emotionally. When you have the balance like this you can lean into your partner and know that you will never give up your stability; and you will be confident that no partner could lean so excessively on you as to push you off balance. Do not think of yourself as a half in search of a “better half” or yin in quest of yang. Never enter marriage looking for a mate to prop you up or make you complete. Marriage is not a Siamese twin relationship. You are not joined at the brain so you will not think alike. You are not joined at the heart, so you will not feel the same way. Nor are you joined at the hip: thus you will not behave similarly. When it comes to marriage, two halves do not make a whole. Two wholes comprise a marriage.

Please do not let anyone who needs you marry you. Need arises out of weakness and emptiness. These traits will not be tolerated well, or for long. Feeling desired is glorious, but we can not know we are desired when we know a partner needs us. Nor can you feel desirous toward a mate you need. Indeed, you would be likely to feel resentful because of the helplessness and dependency you feel in relation to a needed mate.

Develop a hearty disrespect for clichés like “Love conquers all”, and “With love, all things are possible.” Loving is easy. It is a mysterious and passive emotion. Nobody can teach you how to do it, how to kill it off, or how to regain it if you cease to feel it. But you can, and you had better, teach yourself the skills of marriage like maintaining (liking, soothing, nurturing, validating) yourself in physical and emotional proximity to your partner; changing the person you can change (yourself, and only yourself) instead of laboring to change your mate; getting along with in-laws; solving problems; developing a good sexual-affectionate relationship.

Know that the common wisdom, that sex is a natural function, is a shallow and unhelpful truth. Only the drive to reproduce is a natural function. If you expect the kind of eroticism that packs a wallop, the kind that few people attain, then accept that good sex is an acquired taste and a developed habit. Read about it, think about it, discuss it, and experiment with it throughout your lives. Do not wait until you experience no anxiety to introduce novelty into lovemaking. Non-anxious sex will grow boring.

If you have children you will obviously become a family. Do not stop being a couple. Your marriage will be the foundation for the family and, as such, will determine the strength or weakness of your family. Your children will learn their three most important roles – gender role, spousal role, parent role – from observing your interactions as married people. Nurture the marriage within the family and preserve boundaries around your couple.

From people you know and all the media that barrage you, you will be told that marriage is a problem to be solved, some kind of ordeal to be endured; that it is fragile; that is brings out the worst in people; that it is, at best, tolerable. Even the standard wedding ceremony refers to marriage “for better or for worse.” This overlooks the incredible potential of marriage. How about marriage “for the best?”  Though I feel like a voice in the wilderness, I want you to know that marriage is a fine people-growing machine – fun, vital, surprising, exhilarating. It appreciates in value and return as it ages.

And if you craft it well you will know a powerful ache in your heart at the thought of death – yours or your spouse’s. This is the kind of exquisite and enriching pain I wish for you, for it will mean you will have succeeded elegantly at marriage.



Found on tpsvp.com

Finding your vocation

Finding your vocation

“Where the needs of the world and your talents cross, there lies your vocation.”


And yet, Krznaric argues, a significant culprit in our vocational dissatisfaction is the fact that the Industrial Revolution ushered in a cult of specialization, leading us to believe that the best way to be successful is to become an expert in a narrow field. Like Buckminster Fuller, who famously admonished against specialization, Krznaric cautions that this cult robs us of an essential part of being human: the fluidity of character and our multiple selves:

Specialization may be all well very well if you happen to have skills particularly suited to these jobs, or if you are passionate about a niche area of work, and of course there is also the benefit of feeling pride in being considered an expert. But there is equally the danger of becoming dissatisfied by the repetition inherent in many specialist professions. … Moreover, our culture of specialization conflicts with something most of us intuitively recognize, but which career advisers are only beginning to understand: we each have multiple selves. … We have complex, multi-faceted experiences, interests, values and talents, which might mean that we could also find fulfillment as a web designer, or a community police officer, or running an organic cafe.

This is a potentially liberating idea with radical implications. It raises the possibility that we might discover career fulfillment by escaping the confines of specialization and cultivating ourselves as wide achievers … allowing the various petals of our identity to fully unfold.

Krznaric advocates for finding purpose as an active aspiration rather than a passive gift:

“Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies,” wrote Albert Camus. Finding work with a soul has become one of the great aspirations of our age. … We have to realize that a vocation is not something we find, it’s something we grow— and grow into.

It is common to think of a vocation as a career that you somehow feel you were “meant to do.” I prefer a different definition, one closer to the historical origins of the concept: a vocation is a career that not only gives you fulfillment — meaning, flow, freedom — but that also has a definitive goal or a clear purpose to strive for attached to it, which drives your life and motivates you to get up in the morning.

From Brain Pickings


Trust thyself

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages… In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty.
The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried”

Ralph Waldo Emerson


The Journey Of The Magi, T S Eliot


‘A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter.’
And the camels galled, sorefooted, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
and running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty and charging high prices:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,
Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kiking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arriving at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you might say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,
And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we led all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly
We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.