Alan Watts on Love and Marriage



Idea of Marriage vs. Experience of Love

Addressing the origins of the institution of marriage, Alan narrates the story of ancient Greece with regards to a woman known as Parthenos. In Greek mythology, this woman would have the right to choose her own husband as opposed to the fact that in earlier times nobody ever chose their marriage partner. It was actually a contract between families to create some kind of alliance based on the advantages of establishing said union. So, most of the times these were not based on two people falling in Love. As a result, especially in royalties, kings and queens would have external affairs. On the basis of this, over a period of time, marriage has become a civil and religious contract, very difficult to get out of, so as to maintain a general stability in society.

Marriage was an alliance of families contracted for raising children and forming a unit smaller than a village.

On the other hand, Alan gives the reference of the ‘Cult of Courtly Love‘, which came along during the Middle Ages to encourage nobility and chivalry in the expression of Love without the involvement of physical sex. A more realistic explanation would be the adulterous affairs of the ladies of noble families who were bored of being left alone while their husbands ventured out to conquer territories or hunting for sport. This is a theory that Alan has reached that the laws against fornication must be very strict so that it doesn’t suffer from becoming a bore as it would be less fun if it was not more difficult to attain.


Now Alan brings up the result of the gradual fusion of such different events in history, which brings us to the current state of affairs, which is the idea of the ‘Romantic Marriage’. Being a part of the current generation of adults, Snehal and I fall into this very category. We met on a job, became good friends, one thing led to another, fell in Love and then after dating for around 2 years, decided to tie the knot. We followed the judicial procedure of registering under the institution of Court Marriage as well as underwent all the Traditional Indian Marriage customs with the blessing of our elders. This is what would be called a Love-cum-Arranged Marriage. Alan points out that in most cases couples go through this whole process in their eagerness to get in bed with each other rather than being really in Love. This, of course, leads to disaster. What happens is once the initial emotional highs are over; the so-called lovers start to realize that everything they thought they loved about their partner, started and ended in bed. On the other hand, there are also couples who are really truly happy in their marriage.

We followed the judicial procedure of registering under the institution of Court Marriage as well as underwent all the Traditional Indian Marriage customs with the blessing of our elders.


Snehal and I walk a thin line between these two sets of people. We are very much in Love with each other, but there are also times that we are at each other’s throats. Being fiercely independent individuals we both have an opinion about everything which doesn’t always align with each other. This is a very tough spot to be in. As Alan explains, once couples find themselves in this relationship, they work very hard to keep the marriage together. One finds oneself in a situation where one is struggling to make it work for the sake of children and society. This builds up hostility within in each partner and ends up making them realize that they are being untrue to their own emotions. They end up pretending that they are in Love by the use of loving language and false gestures of intimacy. You can see how this will build up like a bubble and eventually meet its bitter end.

We also sometimes find ourselves in a similar situation of can’t live with him/her, can’t kill him/her.

See, what happens is people get into the arrangement of marriage believing that their partner will always Love them. Alan points out that the more important question to ask is whether their partner will always be truthful with them. There are ways by which Love between two persons can be kindled but unless they are truthful about their emotions and feelings towards each other, those repressed feelings reveal themselves in a very ugly manner eventually. One of the ways Alan explores to connect with one’s partner in a holistic way is through sexual yoga based on the Ancient Indian form of exercise, involving meditative breathing and workout.


This only works if the two persons involved are invariably in Love with each other. He also suggests a more radical approach of changing the concept of marriage from being a binding relationship to more of a responsibility sharing relationship. The point being made is that the expectations set up between partners are so high that more often than not they are bound to fail. If the expectations were based on the grounds of truthfulness, then one would expect one’s partner to be truthful about their feelings towards you rather than the false display of Love. This way the relationship doesn’t put chains on the persons involved rather it sets them free to be willingly in each other’s life. If this kind of situation is also complimented by sexual attraction towards each other then it’s all the better for it. This way the sensibility of shared responsibility can co-exist with the not so sensible and not so reasonable state of being in Love. Alan has a very engaging way of conveying these thoughts. Do give it a listen and enjoy:

Alan Watts – Love and Marriage