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A couple of weeks ago I saw a TED Talk on my twitter timeline (Twitter: @notrude_honest) and I proceeded to watch it. I love TED Talks but I'm not very good at keeping up with things online so I'm heavily reliant on recommendations from friends/colleagues in order to find ones that interest me.

So anyway, I watched this TED Talk by relationship therapist Esther Perel and was instantly reminded of a conversation I'd had regarding marriage.

We were debating the components that went into a successful marriage and the two most important ones were love and partnership (Please read my blog's disclaimer before you argue this point. Thank you.). To a lot of people the two may be synonymous but we agreed that they weren't; what we didn't agree on was my 'Marriage Formula':

  • Great Partnership + No love = Long marriage (good marriage?)

  • Bad Partnership + Love = High probability of divorce (bad marriage?)

  • Great Partnership + Love = Great marriage

Please note: For the purpose of this post 'love' will refer to the fairytale variety, the "passionate/butterflies in your stomach/can't breathe without you/you complete me/catch a grenade for you" kind of love.

Relationship meme

I know that this formula may be widely unpopular but consider what marriage is and why it was created. Before marriage included white dresses, pre-nups and social media hashtags, marriage was simply about survival. You did not choose a mate based on love, you chose a mate based on capabilities; is he skilled enough to go kill an antelope? If I bring the antelope home can she cook it? Are her hips wide enough for safe childbearing? Is he strong enough to build our house and protect our family? Is he/she healthy? These were reasons to choose a mate and the basis of attraction.

As society developed and customs were formed, coupling became a cause for celebration hence the modern day weddings, and when there was a need for identity and classification, various versions of the modern day marriage certificate were created.

There is still no mention of love. Why? Because marrying for love wasn't practical. Love was something that would develop after the union and even if it didn't, the lineage would continue and humans wouldn't become extinct. There are still many cultures that participate in the process of arranged marriage and some of the world's most popular love stories are based on the effect falling in love with someone 'impractical' has on arranged marriages.

Romeo & Juliet
The tragic love story of Romeo & Juliet

So now that we've got that mini history lesson out of the way, let's review my 'Marriage Formula': Great Partnership + No love = Long marriage: Even if there is no love (please refer to definition above) the basic uses of mating can be fulfilled - survival and procreation - and therefore, if there is great partnership, a marriage, like a business relationship, can have longevity. Regardless of what you consider to be a happy marriage, a marriage based on partnership can be good. The thing that tends to break down these types of marriages is the need for passion/search for 'fairytale' love.


Bad Partnership + Love = High probability of divorce: A marriage based on love can be greatly affected by a bad partnership. In some rare cases love can overcome the lack of partnership and the marriage can survive however, in general, the lack of partnership means that love loses all its glitter and real life sets in. Bills need to be paid, children need to be raised and priorities need to be aligned. Most couples that have "We just grew apart" as the reason for their break up can usually attribute that to an abundance of love but a lack of partnership. They find themselves going in opposite directions in life and although they love each other, their union simply isn't working out.

Great Partnership + Love = Great marriage: What would be considered a perfect marriage by many in this day and age would consist of both a great partnership and love. The practicalities of marriage would be fulfilled by their partnership and their love would take care of the rest.

Love & Basketball
Lovers & Friends - Teamwork makes the dream work

We've come a long way from living according to basic survival instincts and marriage now consists of a lot more components than it once did, however, in its basic form, marriage can survive without love. I find it really interesting that people, men and women alike, are frowned upon for marrying for stability when that was the whole point of marriage in the first place. Labelling people gold diggers or bums because they choose to marry someone that will make their life more comfortable/stable seems very harsh to me. As long as both parties know what they're agreeing to I honestly don't see the problem.

Although this wasn't the point of Esther Perel's TED Talk, it was interesting to see that her take on marriage was similar to mine and to hear her explain what the changes in our perception of marriage has done to the way we deal with infidelity (I'll cover that in another post).

At the end of the day, marriage/coupling is now more of a lifestyle choice than a prerequisite for survival and everyone is entitled to do it whichever way they please. Live and let live!

First Published: Dec 13, 2015

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