A Scientific Approach to Marriage

Charles Darwin is remembered today mostly for the Theory of Evolution. Yeah, I can’t argue with that one. It kind of changed the world.

What is less commonly known about him is that he was married for forty four years to Emma Wedgewood, with whom he had ten children. He was, as he might describe himself, evolutionarily successful.

By all accounts the Darwins had a happy marriage, too. There was none of the emotional abuse, scandal and divorce that, say, Charles Dickens created in his marriage. But Dickens and his marriage are a subject for another day. This is Darwin Day.

As with other matters in his life and work, Darwin seems to have taken something of a clinical approach to the question of marriage. And since it wasn’t something he could run an experiment on before taking the leap, he did the next best thing: he wrote out a list of pros and cons about marriage in his diary in April and July of 1838.

On the upside he listed things like ‘female chit-chat’ and ‘constant companion (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one.’ Oh, and my personal favorite: ‘Better than a dog, anyhow.’

On the downside he listed the misery of living in London all the time, a duty to work for money, and no collecting books. I have to say, my heart went out to him on the no books thing. After all, I’m a lifelong biblioholic. We feel kinship.

In the end, it appears the the comforts of family and chit-chat won out over books and travel. Of course, Darwin did buy more books, travel, and write. See, in a really good marriage, spouses recognize the needs of their life companions, both personally and professionally and do their best to find ways to support one another through the decisions that need to be made. Emma Wedgewood Darwin knew her husband needed books, just like I know Mr. Twistie needs music… and Mr. Twistie knows I need books.

It can be tempting to make the decision to marry all about big, sweeping emotion. And I’m certainly not saying it can’t work out. It can. I’ve witnessed it in my own family.

But there’s still something to be said for taking a breath, taking a moment, and considering what it all means when the constant passion begins to mellow into something else. It never hurts to consider what will change about your life after you make the leap, and determining whether it’s truly what you want.

So a list may not sound terribly romantic, but I can certainly think of worse ways to decide whether marriage – in general, or in particular – is for you.

Oh, and for the record? My list when it came to Mr. Twistie pretty much read ‘duh! Perfect for me! Set date, create wedding!’

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