“Do you think it’s true that any good man and any good woman can make a relationship work?” a friend asked me today.
“No,” was my immediate response. I’m a good man, and my relationship with a good woman didn’t work. I guess it depends on what you call ‘good’. But if you go there, the whole proposition gets untestably vague. “Why do you ask?”
“Oh,” she said, “I was in a relationship with a Jehovah’s Witness guy once, and that’s what he said.”
“Really?” I said. “That’s odd. They used to say the very same thing in the Mormon Church. Exact same wording and everything.”
Unless he was actually a Mormon guy, and she got mixed up. But she should know, wouldn’t you think?
Like I say, I don’t believe it. Maybe two good people can tough it out, but will they be happy? I think the extra effort is going to cost them in other ways.
But let’s not go too far the other way, and say there’s a “one” out there for you. I’m with Dan Savage: there is no “one”. But there are lots of .8s and .7s. Then you round up to 1.
And I think it helps if you can start as close to 1 as you can. My wife and I are about a .995 for each other. And that makes it so much easier and nicer.
But it got me thinking: Why would it benefit a religion to have this “any good man and any good woman” belief? I have one possible answer.
Religions operate well in a ‘bubble’ — an environment where only positive information gets in, and disconfirmatory information bounces off. People inside the Bubble continually reaffirm to each other that life inside the Bubble is good, and life outside the Bubble is dangerous and scary. It’s very nice.
For the concept of a ‘bubble’, this video is worth watching again.
There can be lots of bubbles. Utah is a bubble for Mormons, as are parts of Idaho. But when your religion doesn’t have a geographical majority, the most effective bubble is a family. Marrying outside your faith is a killer for religious bubbles. It helps you see someone else’s point of view too well. That’s why religions explicitly forbid it.
Now imagine that you’re a member of a minority religion, and you’re only supposed to marry within your faith. The dating pool is going to suck. (Mormon YSAs: amirite?) So the “any good man and any good woman” idea is a way to convince people to settle for someone of the same religion who’s not right for them. It’s amazingly effective at building bubbles — as well as miserable but occasionally functional relationships.