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COMMENTARY

Nietzsche on love

05:05 AM February 14, 2018

There is no philosopher as misunderstood as Friedrich Nietzsche. The German thinker was unconventional, and while you might think that his thoughts serve no purpose if you want some peace of mind in your marital life, it is wrong to think that way. He said “it is not the lack of love but the lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” But Nietzsche, who was educated in the classics at a very young age, actually wrote that friendship is the highest form of love.

In fact, sex will only make couples want to go to war against each other, given that this basic instinct is no more than the conscious effort to dominate the other. But it must be noted that during Nietzsche’s time, Skye Nettleton argues, the role of women was primarily domestic. Times have changed. So, there must be a warning against branding Nietzsche a misogynist. In truth, he saw marriage as some kind of a power relation.

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Nietzsche advises that lovers must be ready to prepare themselves the moment the attraction expires. There is no woman out there so beautiful that her face would not be undisturbed after 20 years of marriage. Thus, in order to avoid the disappointment, you have to realize that you must marry a woman not only because she is the most beautiful in your universe, but also because you love having endless conversations with her.

The philosopher who declared that “God is dead” also says that being in love has got nothing to do with marriage. For Nietzsche, marriage is more serious than a walk down the aisle. What you feel inside your heart is not enough. To say that marital life is all about love is hypocrisy. Marriage, according to Nietzsche, is above the “accidents of feeling, passions, and the distractions of the moment.” Beyond those things, marriage exists because it serves the good of society.

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For Nietzsche, parenthood is not about making life fun for your children. You have to raise them as bright individuals, willing and strong enough to face the world. In this regard, he wants parents to have children who will become achievers. Any father who cannot make decisions can only mean tragedy. Every husband and wife should bear in mind that matters such as life and family are a serious concern.

Some couples pretend that they are in love. But of course, pretensions lead nowhere. I have argued on so many occasions that there can only be one captain on a ship. People change. Feelings change. The person you marry may no longer be the same. In this regard, as partners sail through that thing called life, the important point is that both should be happy to be sailing together. A ship can only have one direction, not two.

If a woman loves you, then you can be burdened by the fact that you have to do everything in order to maintain that love. If a woman does not love you, then you will have to carry that pain for the rest of your life. Hence, whether you are loved or not, you have burdens! Hence, the right thing to do is to go on living. You just have to be with her, quarrel with her and all, for we are, after all, “human, all too human.”

What does it mean to love? Nietzsche exclaims: “Let a man suffer!” Let him get sick! The sickness will make him a stronger person. It will allow him to reflect about life. It will make him value the presence of his wife. Men have gone to war. So, it is in our genes that we fight. A man who is afraid of his wife has no right to exist in this world! Nietzsche writes: “What does not kill you only makes you stronger.”

In the power struggle that is love, men often think that they will win. This is what “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” reveals. Love is war, Nettleton says, because a man would want to make his wife conform or agree and shed her otherness and become the person he wants her to be. But Nietzsche is not advocating that men subjugate women. Rather, a man must overcome himself in order to make a woman happy!

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Christopher Ryan Maboloc, PhD, teaches philosophy at Ateneo de Davao University.

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