Remember Ross’s list in Friends? The one that so wildly offended Rachel, spiralling us all into another thirteen seasons of R’n’R agony? Don’t tell me I could have just stopped watching. Retrospect is a wonderful thing.

Anyway, it turns out that Ross was not alone. The love list, it appears, is something of a cultural phenomenon. None other that Charles Darwin made his own list before he met his wife. In it, he agonised over the pros and cons of marrige, including the memorable rumination, ‘better than a dog in anyhow.’


This is the question


Children — (if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, — object to be beloved & played with. —  —better than a dog anyhow. — Home, & someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. — These things good for one’s health. — Forced to visit & receive relations but terrible loss of time.

W My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won’t do. — Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House. — Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.

Marry — Marry — Marry  Q.E.D.

Not Marry

No children, (no second life), no one to care for one in old age.— What is the use of working ‘in’ without sympathy from near & dear friends—who are near & dear friends to the old, except relatives

Freedom to go where one liked — choice of Society & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs — Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle. — to have the expense & anxiety of children — perhaps quarelling — Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings — fatness & idleness — Anxiety & responsibility — less money for books &c — if many children forced to gain one’s bread. — (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)

Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool —

I must admit, I find Darwin’s private act of decision-making reassuring rather than enraging. Why should anyone feel drawn to the idea of a wife in the abstract? His depiction of both the comforts of married life, and the ways in which it could drain his ambition are in fact quite insightful and accurate.

Very much in contrast, take a look at this Marital Ratings Scale, created in the 1930s to allow people to assess the quality of their marriage. In fairness, they could be highly useful if you were deciding whether or not to leave your partner – should they ever fill in one of these forms, you would surely have good cause to petition for divorce, no?

Source: The Atlantic

12 thoughts on “Listing

  1. also when I ask people why they got married, they may say ‘for love’ at first, but then if I push them to explain why they married rather than just lived together, they come up with a load of other reasons. I might try it on you one day! You have been warned…

  2. I think I can generalise about such a prevalent institution as marriage to be honest! I see so many patterns in marriage. There was a time when people didn’t marry necessarily. It was definitely not ‘love’ which brought marriage onto the statute books historically speaking.

    Having said that I am glad your marriage is full of love!

  3. I don’t think you can generalise. I definitely married for love – which can indeed be fickle, but can also go on and on. But I agree that this isn’t always the reason that people marry (I fear that sometimes the sodding stupid dress is the reason), and you definitely need more than love to keep together. Sheer bloody-mindedness helps.

  4. I dont think people do marry for ‘love’. Love is too fleeting a feeling and to intense a passion and too fickle a partner to set your life against it. As Shakespeare showed time and time again, love is not what makes marriages happen or last but many other social and economic factors. I am not saying marriage doesn’t contain love, or be ignited by it at times. But I think Darwin was right to keep it off the list.

  5. I haven’t seen it, always meant to. My fave is the comment about being unwilling to come to bed. That’s really not true for me. I’m always willing to come to bed, it’s just that I’m asleep within seconds.

  6. Darwin strikes me as being pretty ‘Empirical’ about things. And there’s one thing that Dr Crane fails to mention, and Darwin refers to only sideways. Do you see what neither hasn’t said?

  7. I find it quite amusing that it demerits a wife to ‘come late to bed’, but for a husband that feature is nowhere to be seen. Ah, the 30s.

  8. Oh sigh.

    I mean, I understand “rating” one’s partner in certain ways (though lists are such a horrible idea), but having it set according to one standard? SO TERRIBLE. After all, we all have our preferences and peeves, our strengths and weaknesses.

    I will say, however, that filling out my profile on the dating site where I met My True Love did make me process what is important to me and what isn’t. THAT sort of rating does make one assess one’s own priorities. Not a bad idea.

    By the way, I absolutely get a demerit for warming my feet on MTL’s warm legs at night. He might even argue it’s worth 5 demerits, considering how frigid my extremities can get. He gets merits for putting up with it and not pushing me out of bed in response.

    (Also, it’s our anniversary. And he not only remembered, he also already arranged for our children to be watched tonight while we go out and recreate our first date. I rate him in the very top percentile. I adore him. MUSH, I tell you. ABSOLUTE MUSH.)

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