I appreciate that marriage does not have to be an empty receptacle for property exchange and reproduction. I also appreciate that Gloria Naylor and Toni Morrison believed in love. I have seen marriages in their literature that I recognize: troubled marriages, shallow marriages, commitments based more on double incomes than courtship, relationships aging into dry and empty nests. Marriage is not salvation, or a goal.
If the role of marriage in the presidency and the public attention it receives has changed, it is more a matter of degree and of detail than any sort of revolution. Marriage has always been an inextricable feature of the presidency.
In the most elevated terms, Milton urges an understanding of marriage altogether spiritual and intellectual, a union nearly without bodies, for in the divorce tracts he repeatedly figures marriage as the joining of rational souls, as the mind’s solace and satisfaction, its source of “comfort and peace,” an apt and cheerful conversation that hedges a man against the solitary life.
On the one hand, Hindus have placed tremendous importance on arranging the marriages of their children and relatives. On the other hand, there is an important (and impossible to ignore) history of pre-marital sex, love marriages, and even polyamorous relationships among the goddesses and gods in texts held sacred by the same Hindus. Which one is endorsed (and who endorses it)?
The new divide will not be between the conservative and the sex-crazed, but between those of us who are alarmed by our own capacity for jealousy and those who either deal calmly with theirs, bury it, feel none, or lie.
Balzac, who married only late in life, is unclear whether a husband or a wife would need to be an almost-genius to create a good husband. Maybe by genius he meant the attendant spirit of a couple working together to make something, which after all is a chief value in marriage.
The compromises that have tenuously held together the marriage of convenience that is the American body politic are eroding under unprecedented societal forces: shifting demographics, climate change, a global pandemic, mass unemployment, and massive economic inequality. These forces shock a nation like infidelity, job loss, or family pressures might shock a marriage.
Late Marriage is one of the few films concerning marriage bold enough to suggest that our modern insistence on personal fulfillment in romance is the double-edged sword that brings two people together but can also poison them with expectations that tear romance apart. And it is one of the more honest films about marriage in its open, forthright acknowledgment that the institution—and in this film, marriage is most certainly an institution—involves far more than the forces and desires of two people.
Some might be inclined to think that F. H. Buckley, a Trump supporter and conservative, must be a bit tongue-in-cheek with this. But he is not. He makes a plausible case that the country can separate, despite the Civil War which seemed to cement the states for good, and that it really ought to.