Love and divorce

/ 05:22 AM August 04, 2017

Love is often viewed as the striving or the longing of the human self to find a companion. This means that the “I” in each one of us feels incomplete and thus seeks a lasting union with the other. The other “fills” that gap in one’s life and makes whole what was once fragmented. This can be traced to the earliest myths in which the gods punished humans by breaking the self apart. Any human then will have to find a partner to regain that self-identity.

When two people are in love, there is not one or two entities; there are actually three. Love does not dissolve the self. You are still the same person and you will yearn to be accepted as that person. The other, too, will demand to be recognized as such. Hence, it is the insistence that the “I” be reduced to what the other desires it to be that results in conflict, because the self will always want to be on its own.


But then, love actually creates a third entity—the “we.” This is the being that two lovers have to nurture and protect. There is not just an “I” or a “you.” Both will find that in their union, a couple will not be judged as this or that individual, but as that third “being.” The collapse of any marriage is not only the failure of one or two but also the failure of the promise of love.

There is no need to lose one’s freedom when one is in love. You can still pursue what you want and aspire for those things that make you happy. However, it should not be forgotten that there is now a “we” to consider. The pursuit of happiness is an individual thing, but the pursuit of love
is all about an “us” that needs two human beings to make personal sacrifices if that being must live.


There are reductionist conceptions about love, one of which is the idea of compatibility. The idea starts with that illusory or dream-like scenario in which love appears as something magical insofar as two people think of themselves as well-matched for each other. Both will feel so good about each other’s presence and believe that they have transcended any notion of self-gratification by being dissolved in what they feel.

And yet, as soon as the real world sets in, both will discover certain undesirable attributes. The human being is not a file card, but we often think of the other that way. We look at the good things about the person and trust that this individual will always maintain those fine attributes. In this respect, the real disappointment about love comes in when the expectations two people have for each other are not met.

As a couple, you will encounter many complications in real life. For one, you might no longer find your partner that attractive. So you will look for reasons for not coming home early. This is a harsh reality that a woman has to deal with, unnecessarily. But love has changed into that feeling of estrangement. Without that deep longing to be with each other, the life two people share now appears to be meaningless.

Discussions pertaining to the dissolution of marriage are consequentialist. Many divorce advocates take turns in explaining that couples should be provided with the chance to redeem themselves by picking up the pieces of oneself and putting these back together. But the union of two people is never equal to the sum of two. There is always something greater, something that is so spiritual, about love that divorce does not seem to capture.

An abusive husband, of course, has no right to be in a woman’s life. There is just no point being with someone who no longer cares about you. But how sure are we that divorce will rectify a past mistake? The pain will always be there. Divorce is a legal remedy that gives relief or even comfort to two former lovers who now feel nothing for each other. Life, they often say, is all about second chances. But the same may not be true when it comes to marriage.

Christopher Ryan Maboloc, PhD, teaches philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University. He is the author of the three-volume book “The Harshest Things You’ll Ever Learn about Love.”

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