Untying the Knot

Re-reading Lori Gottlieb’s March 2008 Atlantic article about settling — after being reminded of it by reading Caitlin Flanagan’s recent article in the Atlantic about being reminded of female adolescence and re-reading Lisa Belkin’s October 2003 New York Times Magazine cover story about highly educated women choosing to leave their careers for the joys of motherhood — has reminded me of yet another article: “Untying the Knot” by Melanie Thernstrom, published August 23, 2003 in the New York Times Magazine.

This article tells the sad story of the courtship, marriage, and divorce of Max and Kate to discuss marriage, divorce and love in modern times.

The truth is that most Americans do not marry for power, money and status. Nor do they marry out of social and economic necessity, as in an earlier era. They marry for love. Yet an enduring truth of our time is that marriage dissolves as often as it holds. So how is it that ordinary love ordinarily fails? If love is, as Wallace Stevens suggests, a dwelling ”in which being there together is enough,” how does silence fall on a thousand evenings and the possibility of intimacy flicker and die? How do lovers become lonely?

It’s a very sad article, but worth reading. A friend sent it to me when it was first published and I’ve kept it and re-read it about once a year since then.


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