Deciding Not to Decide What Marriage Is


Does this sound familiar?

“Why am I being punished? Why did someone throw him in my path when I can’t have him?"

As Kevin Staley-Joyce writes in First Things' On The Square, here is the quote in context:

Something of an exposition of the attitude that love makes a marriage took shape in a New York Times “Weddings/Celebrations” column the week before Christmas. Carol Anne Riddell and John Partilla, both married, Upper West Side professionals, met each other through their children’s kindergarten and, struggling with increasing mutual attraction, exercised their emotional rights as trumps indeed, and so crassly as to make clandestine affairs look prudent.

As Riddell and Partilla explained, their choice was fixed: They could either give in to their feelings for each other, or suppress them and live dishonestly. Further moral confusion seemed evident, with Riddell feigning a crisis of conscience: “Why am I being punished? Why did someone throw him in my path when I can’t have him?” The two soon abandoned their spouses and children and married each other, hoping, apparently, for the best.

To be sure, the couple’s alleged decision between adultery and dishonesty was a false one, and their reasoning solipsistic. But what if their story is not just an anomaly? What if our culture’s emphasis on personal satisfaction in marriage helped tip their mental scales in favor of adultery and against the needs of their children for stability and parents with imitable marital commitment? [Continue reading]