I think people want to get married to end their emotional uncertainty. In a way, they want to end powerful feelings, or certainly the negative ones. (Alain de Botton).
The quote above perfectly exemplifies Alain de Botton's style and structure of writing, especially on the subject of love and relationships. On love, he states that our modern age has given birth to the idea that we can center all our hopes for romance, eroticism, and familial security on one person. Additionally, we shy away from our negative feelings instead of using the feelings as a springboard for discussion and personal discovery within our relationships. Alain de Botton's honest analysis of marriage is refreshing and intriguing.
While the Troubadours of 12th century France and the Libertines of 18th Century France both viewed sensual dalliances as separate from familial entanglements, de Botton states that our modern culture has largely sought to combine elements of eroticism with the mundane, with often disastrous consequences.
He cites the novels of Jane Austen as the point of emergence of the modern conception of romance.
Like Elizabeth Bennett in Pride and Prejudice or Fanny Price in Mansfield Park, we too long to reconcile our wish for a secure family with a sincerity of feeling for our spouses.
Yet, Elizabeth Bennett's later predecessors, Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, both failed to realize their dreams of making over their spouses into 'husbands, troubadours and libertines.' Hence lies the conundrum of the modern romance. How do we combine all three successfully in one person?
Source: A Point of View: What's in a marriage? by Alain de Botton.
Alain de Botton displays a style of writing that is compassionate, honest, and open. He notes that it is possible to infuse romance and eroticism into a familial construct, but warns that the odds are stacked against us unless we change what is familiar for what is efficacious. He recommends a new paradigm for the wedding of the future.
The problem is that the wedding day is – in its current form – an appallingly badly designed ritual. It needs a thorough overhaul, guided by a mature, modern understanding of the underlying purpose of the occasion, which is simply to help a marriage go better.
Here's an interesting and sometimes tongue-in-cheek approach: Utopia Series: The Wedding of the Future.
1)The need for new vows.
The wedding day is so infused with optimism that it leaves no room for lapses in human judgment after the ceremony and within the new marriage. A new way of doing things would be to invent vows which account for the diversity of human emotion within a relationship. In other words, feelings of sadness and anger within a marriage should not automatically lead to one concluding that the relationship is headed for divorce.
Although big weddings are still popular, smaller weddings are becoming more important to many couples. Whether the wedding of the future trends towards big or small events, one thing still stands: the inclusion of guests who support and welcome the union of each couple. A fresh perspective would welcome the idea of weddings as encompassing a larger societal stability rather than the preservation of the couple's happiness alone.
3)Useful presents, especially those delineating the struggles of real couples who have endured the challenges of life together.
4)Reception speeches which not only extol the good qualities of the bride and groom but also their less than stellar ones.
5)A certificate of marriage worthiness to represent the couple's year long training in the 'psychology of relationships' prior to the wedding day.
6)Fitting symbols to enable a newly married couple to cope with life's vicissitudes.
In the Utopia, the couple would accept small sealed boxes from each other. The box would represent the idea that there will be parts of the other person one will not understand – or perhaps even know – and yet one will have to accept.
7)Wedding photos which answer pertinent questions as time commences in the marriage:
(i) Why did we get together?
(ii) What virtues did we see in one another when we got married?
(iii) What impact does each person’s family have on the relationship?
(iv) How normal are marital problems in society at large?
Source: Utopia Series: The Wedding of the Future
Hope this helps!