What's Tony Thinking

Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person, Part 2


This is a second installment drawn from Krista Tippett’s terrific interview with Alain de Botton. De Botton (pronounced Dee – Bow – Tane) is a philosopher and prolific writer (pictured here). He has dedicated himself to making philosophical thinking accessible and useful for ordinary people. He is the founder of The School of Life.

Cut Your Lover (and yourself) Some Slack

In the first part of my blog, “Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person,” (originally the title of an essay by de Botton in the New York Times), he described love in these words, “Look, love is a painful, poignant touching attempt by two flawed individuals to try and meet each other’s needs in situations of gross uncertainty and ignorance about who they are and who the other person is, but we’re going to do our best.”

We continue with excerpts from the Tippett/ de Botton interview, with further comments from me.

First Date Advice

“My view of what one should talk about on a first date is not showing off and not putting forward one’s accomplishments, but almost quite the opposite.

“One should say, ‘Well, how are you crazy? I’m crazy like this.’ And there should be a mutual acceptance that two damaged people are trying to get together, because pretty much all of us — there are few totally healthy people — but pretty much all of us reach dating age with some scars, some wounds.

“And sometimes we bring to adult relationships some of the same hope that a young child might’ve had of their parent. And of course, an adult relationship can’t be like that. It’s got to accept that the person across the table or on the other side of the bed is just human, which means full of flaws, fears, etc. and not some sort of superhuman.” 

As a minister I met with a lot of couples for pre-marital counseling. In that phase most people aren’t much open to the idea of flaws, let alone “we are two deeply flawed people trying to make a go of it.” Sometimes I would say, “Tell me about how you fight?” Not a few said, “Oh, we never fight.” Okay, good luck with that!

Probably a certain amount of illusion is inevitable at pre-nuptial stage. So as first date material, “How are you crazy? I’m crazy like this,” may be a long shot. Still, it’s a brilliant idea and makes his point, “two flawed individuals . . .” People are marrying later these days, so perhaps with more experience under their belts and a bit more self-knowledge such cheerful candor may stand a chance.

A Core Truth

Krista Tippett’s question first. “I’d like to talk through some of these core truths that fly in the face of this way we go around behaving and that movies have taught us to behave and that possibly our parents have taught us to behave — these core truths that put us on the foundation of reality.”

De Botton: “Look, one of the most important truths is, you’re crazy. Not you; as it were, all of us; that all of us are deeply damaged people. The great enemy of love, good relationships, good friendships, is self-righteousness. If we start by accepting that of course we’re only just holding it together and, in many ways, really quite challenging people — I think if somebody thinks that they’re easy to live with, they’re by definition going to be pretty hard and don’t have much understanding of themselves.”  

What I love about AdB’s thinking is how full of grace it is. We are flawed people. In some ways, quite damaged. Another space where this kind of candor and self-awareness lives is in 12-Step groups.

Church? Not so much. But I see more of it finding it way into the church, sometimes though folks who are in recovery. We need this honesty in church, and it’s available to us for we are reminded by Scripture that, “we are all sinners in need of grace.” But too often we pretend that this — the most inclusive club of them all — doesn’t include us.

Anyways, hope you’ve enjoyed this mini-series. De Botton has written two novels exploring these things. The Course of Love is the most recent. As quite a young man, he wrote On Love. 

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