Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Love alone won't keep us together

"It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages."
- Friedrich Nietzsche

Such insight from a man whose life was a bit scrambled itself.

Let's take the quote apart. No one knows what love is. The word traditionally has the greatest number of entries in dictionaries. Everyone has some idea what love means. All are right, all are wrong, nobody knows for certain.

Two things I do know about love. If you really love someone, their welfare is usually given higher priority than your own. And (perhaps the least understood fact of life) love is shown (even measured) by touch more than by words or deeds.

Friendship is not a mystery. Psychologists and others in the social sciences know what friendship is, how to achieve it, where to look for it, how to make it last and how people who are good friends feel about each other. They may not be able to do it themselves, but they know the theory that works.

All of this information is available in academic papers produced by many highly educated people around the world. The trouble is, this information is rarely taught to children, especially to young children who are in the "formative years" of relationship comprehension.

What Nietzsche is saying, in effect, is that if spouses can't be friends, then love alone won't make the marriage last. This despite what the songs have taught us.

We don't teach friendship, as a concept, at any level of education, or preschool when it is most needed.

Yet we wonder why people have trouble forming lasting friendships these days and why so many marriages fail.

Do the arithmetic. We teach children and young adults how to prepare for jobs, but we don't teach them how to build a life.

We should consider carefully who is responsible for this situation, who benefits most from young adults who are prepared for jobs but have little idea how to make fulfilling lives for themselves. When they get into a job, they make their job their life because they have not been taught any different.

Let's do it.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to change education systems so they teach what people need instead of what industries need.
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