Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Why do I love my wife and not other women?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

If I were to rank all women I know (say, women around my age, excluding girls, teenagers and very old ladies) according to their virtues (independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride) my wife would rank high, but not the highest.

If, say, I could rank the 100 women I have had a chance to know enough as to make a judgement over their character, my wife would rank, say, the 19th.

However, this is the woman I love the most.

Why haven't I married the other 18 who are on top of my wife? And more importantly, why don't I love those other 18 more than my wife?

Well, these are the explanations:

  • In some cases, I did not dare to approach them romantically, as they seemed so virtuous, so beautiful, and I felt I had no chance to be loved by them.
  • In some cases I fell in love with them, and approached them romantically, but they have not fallen in love with me. Maybe I was not virtuous enough, or physically attractive enough. I did not arouse the "integrated response of mind and body, of love and sexual desire" that Ayn Rand talks about.
  • In some cases they falled in love with me, but I have not fallen in love with them. They were not physically attractive enough, and so they did not elicit that "integrated response".
  • In some cases they were already in love with other guy.
  • In other cases any of us would have that very specific feature, preference, or style that would make coexistence unattractive. For example, one of them smoked heavily, and I can't imagine kissing a woman with a strong tobacco scent on her lips. Other one loved sports, and I am not very fond of sports. Another one would love dancing, and I am not good at dancing... and so on.
  • Finally, I met some of them after I had married my wife, and I didn't want to destroy the relationship I'd already built, which was a good one, to start building something new that could or could not work.

Is love all about valueing or has it to do with sharing life experiences?

I remember that passage of The Little Prince of Saint Exupery, where the Little Prince finds a garden full of roses, at least as beautiful as the single rose he took care of in his small planet.

He realizes than even when there are thousands of roses on Earth, it was HIS rose, the rose with which he had spent time and efforts, the one he loved the most.

So, in my case, it is the sum of experiences I have shared with my wife (the good ones but also the bad ones, when we have struggled to get ahead) that give meaning to our relationship and our love.

If I was to love a woman because I value their virtues, I would be getting divorced every two years and marrying (or at least LOVING, which worries me the most) a new one, because I am constantly meeting extraordinary women at work. This also makes me think in Dagny in AS, falling in love with virtuous men one after another. Who can say that, five years after marrying John Galt, she would meet David Smith, still more virtuous than Galt, and fall in love with him?

What do you think about this?

Edited by Hotu Matua
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Where would you rank yourself, on that list? Would you be number one? If yes, something's amiss here, if not, some of the same faults which are ingrained in you, are ingrained in your wife, which makes you love her over better people. Love is about valuing, and the person you love the most is the person you value the most. It's just that sometimes people don't hold entirely rational values.

(please don't take this the wrong way, I do not know you, nor am I trying to infer anything about you from your posts, I am treating this question entirely as a hypothetical, with a hypothetical subject I'm referring to as "you" simply because you were using first person)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for your quick answer, Jack.

I suppose I rank also high but not highest in my wife hypothetical list.

Sure she has met and is still meeting men that, rationally, she could point out as more virtuous than me.

Am I right to think that 99.99% of us are in love with someone that, from a rational viewpoint, is not the most virtuous person we have met in life, or the most virtuous person we will ever meet in life?

Your diagnosis is very helpful, Jake: we do love because we value, it is just that our values are not entirely rational. We seem to be not entirely rational people. We should strive for it, and the more rational we get, the more rational will our valueing process be. And unless both husband and wife develop themselves as rational, virtuous people in more or less symetrical fashion, it may happen that at some point, my wife will leave me, or I will leave her. We shouldn't take love for granted. As conciousness evolves, so will love.

But then, what is the role of shared experiences in a rational valueing framework?

This applies not only to romantic love, but any kind of love.

I love more my mother than your mother, even if I realized that your mother exhibits some more independence, integrity, honesty, productiveness, justice, pride than my mother.

I love my friends more than I love your friends, even if I realize that your friends exhibit more virtues.

Maybe all this could be solved by recognizing that a "history held in common, and characterized by happiness" is also a rational value, and a high one, so that it makes rational my choice to remain loving my beloved ones more than your beloved ones.

What do you think?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's not just a checklist, you know. There's more to people than the "cardinal virtues".

Thanks, L-C, but your answer sounds rather mystical to me.

You aren't referring to some "magical" element, to some "chemistry" between people, are you?

I am trying to determine if there is any rational ground for loving person A more than person B, even if person B objectively exhibits more virtues than person A.

Maybe it has to do with, again, rational self-interest.

Maybe person B is more virtuous than person A, but person A is giving me more happiness than person B. Person A is furthering my life, giving me selfish pleasure, while person B is furthering other guy's life, and giving selfish pleasure to other guy.

It is not just how developed virtues in our beloved ones are, but how those virtues impact our personal daily lives, making our lives more enjoyable.

So, if in an "virtue rating scale" which goes from 0 (the most despictable person) to 100 (the most virtuous person) Jake's mother rates 88 and my mother rates 82, the important point will be that my mother's 82 points would have had impact on MY life, helping me to develop as a happy, independent adult. Jake's mother virtue, on the other hand, would have helped Jake, and not me, in achieving a happy, independent adulthood. And that is the reason why I love more my mother.

Edited by Hotu Matua
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think what LC is getting at, at least in part, is that how virtuous somebody is is not the only thing that matters here. From the lexicon entry on love: "Romantic love, in the full sense of the term, is an emotion possible only to the man (or woman) of unbreached self-esteem: it is his response to his own highest values in the person of another—an integrated response of mind and body, of love and sexual desire. Such a man (or woman) is incapable of experiencing a sexual desire divorced from spiritual values. The Voice of Reason 'Of Living Death,'The Voice of Reason, 54." Relevant part was bolded. Loving somebody romantically is one type of valuing other people, valuing them for what values of yours are making up them basically. So since you don't just value virtue broadly, you have a lot of other more specific personal values, virtue alone isn't enough. Like maybe you have a hobby you really enjoy that some other person also shares and they also really share your passion for some specific issue you want to see fixed. That would make somebody more romantically suitable than just being virtuous alone. You can also have some value for another person over some shared experiences in part because you may have a lot of things to talk about with the person from those shared experiences and you may understand each other a bit better because of such things and you may have some things you've achieved together in this time and you may value them also in part because of their contribution to getting done this thing you wanted done.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here are some elements of love besides virtue that are still rational (in response to the OP and title, which are about loving your wife in particular, not just platonic love):

- common experience. I don't mean shared experience - I mean separate but similar experiences that allow you to understand each other on a deep level.

- compatible goals. Maybe the most virtuous woman you met wants to travel the world and feels children would distract her from her work and passions, while you want to live in a particular place, want to have children or have a job that wouldn't allow you to travel. Marriage isn't just love, it's building a life together, so you have to want the same type of life. Of course you wouldn't want to settle for someone you didn't love just because the details would work out, but given the choice between values it's completely rational to choose one that allows you to pursue other values as well (work, children, etc.)

- compatible personalities. Admiration is great but you have to be able to live in real life with the person, day in and day out, long term. Just because a person is virtuous doesn't mean they'll be compatible with you.

To sum up, L-C is right that love isn't just about virtues, and that's not a mystical claim. There really is more to it than that. Love is personal, it's about where a person stands in the context of your particular life and your particular values.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Shared experiences go a long way in strengthening love.

There is podcast by Mr. Peikoff on why Ayn Rand married her husband and not someone else, and it sounded pretty intelligent.


Starting at 4:20

From the index here:


Episode 78

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, tough question. The best answer I can think of is that loving is not a case of just evaluation - it's exchange of values. There's what someone does, then there's what someone does with/for/to me. To elaborate, I suppose you could say that when you personally are the recipient of a value, it tends to accelerate your 'liking' of said value. You could read about a fantastic new foodstuff, with millions of people saying it's delicious and extolling its nutritious value, but until you get to try it you're not really going to LIKE the stuff, just hold it as an abstract value.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You are dropping the context of values here completely and adopting an idealistic or Platonic approach instead of an objective one. Romantic love is not about the other person, it's about you. You fall in love with someone not because you're hopelessly enthralled by their values but because you want to gain the immense pleasure of having someone who shares your values. It's perfectly rational to choose someone as your partner, not because they're the most virtuous person you've ever met but because they are very virtuous but also physically attractive and AVAILABLE. There is no virtue in pining hopelessly after an *unattainable* ideal. Life is meant to be lived, not sighed over.

Now, this doesn't mean you should surrender to any little obstacle that comes your way as "it's not meant to be" and accept whatever comes easiest as a result. What it means is that you have to make a rational evaluation of the total situation and decide which course is best FOR YOU, which it sounds like is precisely what you did. And since you know you did it, you happily embrace the result as the very best that was possible to you and love your wife. Congratulations.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Beautiful responses from bluecherry, bluey, Tyco and Megan.

Thank you very much to you all.

I think I was messing up the whole thing in at least two things:

Confusing virtues with values, and particularly, with personal values. Thanks, bluecherry for pointing that out. Falling in love has to do withpersonal values, not just with general virtues.

Confusing the contemplative admiration of values in the other person with the sharing of values in daily life, and in my own time and circumstances. Thanks, Megan, for pointing that out.

Tuesday/Thrusday: Thanks for the link to the podcast. I will review it as soon as I can.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I found this enlightening text from Ayn Rand:

"One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person's charater, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul -- the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable conciousness. It is one's own sense of life that acts as the selector, and responds to what it recognizes as one's own basic values in the persona of another." (The Romantic Manifesto, pb 32, as quoted by The Ayn Rand Lexicon, page 267)

So this embodiment of the values mean that falling in love is not about abstract, general or theoretical values but about the way those values are expressed in a specific person living in a specific time and place, with specific genes and preferences and experiences.

For example, it is not about how the virtue of "pride" scores in a hypothetical rating system, but how does the pride manifested by THAT person fits my way to express pride. How our particular ways to live with pride harmonize.

This all goes in line with what you all have said to me in this thread.

Edited by Hotu Matua
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Falling in love has to do withpersonal values, not just with general virtues.

To expand on that a bit, virtues are the means in which one gains or keeps an objective value. Just because someone is virtuous does not mean any values are being shared. An engineer may value creating a certain structure, while a novelist may value creating stories. They are both looking to achieve different values, and to do so requires virtuous action. Certainly, admiring virtuous people is important, but virtue won't necessarily produce values you care about.

Edited by Eiuol
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
  • Create New...