I've been having an email discussion with a pal about Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited themes of love and charm. For anyone who has fallen out of love, this passage may strike you as being horribly familiar, spoken by Anthony Blanche : "I was aghast to realize that something within me, long sickening, had quietly died, and felt as a husband might feel, who, in the fourth year of his marriage, suddenly knew that he had no longer any desire, or tenderness, or esteem, for a once-beloved wife; no pleasure in her company, no wish to please, no curiosity about anything she might ever do or say or think; no hope of setting things right, no self-reproach for the disaster. I knew it all, the whole drab compass of marital disillusion; we had been through it together, the army and I, from the first importunate courtship until now, when nothing remained to us except the chill bonds of law and duty and custom. I had played every scene in the domestic tragedy, had found the early tiffs become more frequent, the tears less affecting, the reconciliations less sweet, till they engendered a mood of aloofness and cool criticism, and the growing conviction that it was not myself but the loved one who was at fault. I caught the false notes in her voice and learned to listen for them apprehensively; I recognized the blank, resentful stare of incomprehension in her eyes, and the selfish, hard set of the corners of her mouth. I learned her, as one must learn a woman one has kept house with, day in, day out, for three and a half years; I learn her slatternly ways, the routine and mechanism of her charm, her jealousy and self-seeking, and her nervous trick with the fingers when she was lying. She was stripped of all enchantment now and I knew her for an uncongenial stranger to whom I had bound myself indissolubly in a moment of folly."
We now know, of course that the brain is flooded with phenylethylamine which is responsible for the initial madness of the early stages of falling in love. You seem lighter, colours are enhanced, you are encased in a kind of bubble against which problems bounce off and you are filled with a, to everyone else, nauseating optimism. This is the worst time in which to marry the object of your affections, for the very reasons cited by Waugh, who must have known a thing or two about the subject.
For love to last, the first stage has to segue properly into the second stage of love, where a different chemical takes effect, and binds the lovers in a less dramatic, but more liveable relationship.
The issue nowadays is the length of time we live, and thus potentially stayed married. Is it really conceivable to expect a couple who marry in their mid-20s to stay with each other until their 80s? Wouldn't you expect to be driven mad by the same person day in day out over 60years? Is it really so shocking for people to divorce mid-term and start again with a new face/body to share their lives?
The institution of marriage is looking pretty creaky in its traditional form whilst all around it people are reinventing themselves and their lifestyles. Traditionalists may argue that it is essential for the stability of society for marriage to the same person to work, but society is changing and such an important issue should not be dependent on an evermore outmoded and out of synch Establishment.
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