…there are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to mathematicians that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.
— G. K. Chesterton, from The Man Who Was Thursday
As the debate on same-sex marriage intensified, The New Yorker ran a cartoon showing an old couple in their living room, the husband holding a newspaper. “Gays and lesbians getting married,” he muses, and then adds, “haven’t they suffered enough?”
The punch line brings a knowing smile to anyone who has experienced the bonds of marriage. Why do people pair off? And when they do, why not settle for the looser ties of friendship or partnership? Why seek the freighted marriage bond?
As one-half of a couple, each person is matched by one other, so neither can be out-voted. In any group larger than two, allies can be sought to break a tie and settle a disagreement. Put more than two people together, and politics enters the picture.
In contrast, neither party in a couple has a right to the mantle of impartiality. Absent agreement, there’s stalemate. Grandstanding is of no avail–the stands are empty. Theatrics yield to inner certainty, which, as it develops in one party, has a way of drawing the other towards common ground. In a group, politics intrudes, and the goal of politics is consensus. But, as one person in a twosome, we’re forced to articulate our personal truth. In so doing, we define and create our unique adult selves.
A relationship with just one person is therefore a place to grow up. “The point of the sword is hard to find,” and many who might not find it on their own, or as part of a larger group, do so as one half Read the rest of this entry →