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A collection of Einstein’s letters auctioned off in 1996 contains a list of marital expectations for his wife, Maliva Maric. The list includes daily laundry “kept in good order,” “three meals regularly in my room,” a desk maintained neatly “for my use only,” and the demand that she quit talking or leave the room “if I request it.” The marriage ended in divorce, but the list lives on as an illustration not only of Einstein’s darker domestic side, but also of assumptions commonly held about marriage in 1914.
Compared with Einstein’s requirements, modern marital expectations have surely evolved for the better. Or have they? An insightful study by Sarah K. Balstrup theorizes that as people abandon religious institutions, they start expecting romantic relationships to satisfy a host of needs that formerly were satisfied through religion. If you think clean laundry and regular meals require effort, try meeting the demands of relationship-worship circa 2018 by providing transcendence, unconditional love, wholeness, meaning, worth, and communion.
Fixation - Love - Crushing - Burden - Mortals
The Western fixation on romantic love creates a crushing burden for mere mortals. It engenders a powerful myth regarding love, courtship, and marriage: that a fallible human partner can not only share our passions but sate our existential yearnings. Contemporary couples expect much more from marriage than it can realistically deliver, a phenomenon noted by social psychologists. As Eli Finkel of Northwestern University observes, “most of us will be kind of shocked by how many expectations and needs we’ve piled on top of this one relationship.”
The problems arising from the myth of romantic love affect not only the secular culture but also people who, while trying to adhere to their faith, must deal with the competing ideology-mythology surrounding them. We all fall prey to the lore, and so the rise of the romantic-love myth has coincided with an increase...
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