Joseph Campbell on Marriage

Who was Joseph Campbell? What is a myth? What does "Follow Your Bliss" mean? If you are new to the work of Joseph Campbell, this forum is a good place to start.

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Post by Cranky Scientist » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Joseph Campell on Real Life Marriage


Scarlett, Carnelian, and I have been enjoying a discussion on Jung's concept of the Anima/Animus archetypes -- the male and female within. During that discussion, we've touched upon the importance of these archetypes in relation to marriage.

Campbell's ideas on marriage appeal to me greatly. I would like to discuss those ideas as they relate to real life marriage -- to the imperfect person beside you and the imperfect person beside your partner (that would be you.)

In the Anima/Animus thread, I mentioned that most people who know me only through my writing don't realize that I am a woman unless I say so. Most people also can't imagine me in a loving family with children and one man for 32 years.

I share many personal stories, but I keep most of my family life private. My marriage is my number one priorty in life. Friends sometimes criticize that because it seems unliberated. By most standards, I live a liberated and free life. But the marriage comes first. I learned that years ago from my parents.

Joseph Campbell reinforced what I learned from my parents. I've never regretted putting the marriage first. My parents could never quite verbalize why it was important or how to go about it. But Joseph Cambpell could and did.

Scarlett and I would like to invite other associates to join us in discussing Joseph Campbell's ideas about real life marriage as a mythologically signifcant event that engages the Anima/Animus archetypes in every day people.

I will quote heavily from Campbell for the benefit of those associates who have not yet had the opportunity to read on this subject. The following interview comments describe some of the important realizations that took place in my marriage some years ago.

I'm wondering how other associates feel about this and if you would be willing to share your own realizations, experiences, ideas, and feelings regarding Campbell's ideas.

My notion of marrige is that if marriage isn't a first priority in your life you're not married. It's an extremely important decision, that of marriage, because it does amount to and require a yielding and the yielding has to be total to now being a member of a dyad and acting in relation to that twoness.

As I've said to people who are worried about it, when you make what you call a sacrifice to the other person, that's not what you're sacrificing to. You're sacrificing to the relationship.

The relationship is the sacrificial field, where both of you are relating to the relationship then you are, as it were, two together. Realy like that yin-yang thing. (If you hang onto being the yin, or hang on to being the yang in this thing, as a separate unit, you don't have a marriage.)

Then everything in your life from then on relates to that relationship. And when judgments of actions and decisions at various times have to be taken in that sense, then you're married...

~Joseph Campbell, The Hero's Journey, pp 84-5~



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Post by Scarlett » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Tree Hugger, thank you for the nice introduction! I have been married for three years, and I have a three year old son. My marriage has always been my first priority. Even before my husband and I entered into a marriage, my relationship with him was one of my main concerns in life. However, even though our relationship was of the upmost importance to me at all times, my views of 'relationships/marriages' has changed over time.

The change in my views about relationships came about from reading Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung's theories of animus/anima. But most importantly, my views have evolved because of personal experience. I'm not doing laundry for one anymore!

I'm not going to theorize about marriage. I will leave that to the more experienced couples:) However, I would like to share some of the marriage experiences that are leading me down the road to self discovery. And I say self discovery because I believe my marriage has helped me understand myself has an individual and as a part of a whole.

In the above quote by Campbell, in Tree Hugger's post, he spoke of sacrificing to the marriage. In my own personal experience this 'sacrifice' has been a submission not to stereotypical roles a husband or wife is suppose to take, but a commitment to create an environment that is nourishing for a couple.

I would like to bring up the subject of laundry again. You might think, why is she bringing up the topic of laundry in our educated forums? Well, I will tell you :smile: During my first year of marriage, I still had not grasped the idea of my marriage as being a circle that included both my husband and I. I did laundry for me and me only! I was stubborn. My husband left his clothes everywhere. I was not about to submit into the stereotypical role of doing all of the laundry. Oh no, not this girl. Well this lead to silly arguments. Learning to live together is one of the first things a couple has to do which most of you know already. Well, I started doing his laundry and he noticed. Helping him out was in fact useful to me. Not because I was 'submitting' to avoid useless squabbles, but because I saw the two of us as one. You can't have a good day if you have a clean shirt and dirty pants. His day affects my day and vice a versa. In turn, he takes on a role that is helpful to me.

I realize this is a simple example. However, sometimes it's the simple things in life that lead to understanding. I knew a lady who claimed she divorced her husband because of the way he sorted silverware in their dish-washer! Obviously, it goes deeper than that, but we can't ignore the small things. I think it's important to ask ourselves, why certain things bother us -- if we really look -- we are probably going to learn something about ourselves.

Personally, I feel my husband and I are at the stage where we are letting go of the roles of 'ying' and 'yang.'We have a great deal of understanding, respect, and love for each other. However, I feel I need to 'get in touch' with my 'pure anima' as Campbell calls it, before I can release it for the benefit of my relationship. That is why the animus/anima thread has been interesting to me. Some of you may have passed this stage and I would be interested in hearing your stories!

Scarlett

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Post by Ruiz » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hi Tree Hugger and Scarlett!

Great topic!

The most liberating idea on marriage, that I got from Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, is that marriage is truly a big mystery in the sense that all the models we have of what a marriage "is" or "should be" are culturally determined. What are the anima and animus if not ideals brought about by early conditioning of what we think or expect our mates to be. It's important that we remove these ideals from our mates in order to see the reality that nobody really knows what the role of the male and female are! Marriage is thus the mystical union of a pair. (in other words a union shrouded in mystery)

We can try to guess what the role of the female and male are.


I think Joseph Campbell's model of the role of the male and female is pretty close. Joseph Campbell thought humans share many of the patterns found in chimps. Males provide a field which protects and fosters life and females give and nurture life.

In the chimp world I don't see any evidence to help you Scarlett regarding washing a husbands clothes but removing lice from your husband might feel somewhat more natural.

Tree Hugger, I think that the reason the male and the female sacrifice themselves to the relationship is because this is the only way that new life can prosper. It thus is an ordeal to be in a marriage relationship. Sacrificing ones needs for the needs of a family, especially the children, is not an easy thing to do.
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Post by Liminal » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Marriage is, for me at least, a very sticky topic. As I usually say: I used to be married, but I got better. I won't pretend to be even remotely unbiased on this one as my own experiences with romance have been problematic at best. But it is a subject that I have given a great deal of thought to, though I seem to have developed more questions than answers.

My primary question is to the validity of the whole idea as we generally think about it. There are several points that raise this question in my mind.

A) We tend to think of marriage as an ancient institution of love, but the love thing is for the most part a very recent development. The majority of marriages in the majority of cultures throughout human history were matters of practicality and usually arranged by the families of the individuals involved. Love had nothing at all to do with it.

B) There is a great deal of research that strongly indicates that we are both biologically and psychologically predisposed to adultery. The numbers vary, but in general it's considered that about half of Americans cheat on their spouses. There are also lots of little factoids that really stand out, such as that a woman is more likely to conceive when she is cheating and that fully 10% of American children have a different father than they think they do (not trying to pick on the women there, there's always a cheating man on the other end of those transactions).

C) The majority of all the cultures that have ever existed are not monogamous. We've got this strange idea that there is a primal drive to form a one-on-one relationship, but that's just not the way that it has usually worked out. Single-male polygamy is the dominant form, but there are all manner of different patterns to be found that are quite different than our idea.

D) The staggering rate of marital failure in America. The majority of all marriages end in divorce and most of them last only a few years. Obviously this does not indicate something inherently wrong with marriage, but it certainly indicates that the ideas we have about it aren't connecting with the reality of it.

E) This one is much less empirical, but the idea of sacrificing yourself to anything seems to me to be inherently harmful. People change. If you can find someone whose changes are compatible with your own changes, then I would say that you could have a healthy relationship while that state remains. But the moment you sacrifice part of who you are for something else, you have made both less authentic. You are trying to be someone that you are not and you're trying to make what you are sacrificing to something it is not.

Again, I am obviously focusing on the negative. I freely admit that I'm pretty jaded in this area. But I do think that the points above do contain some validity and are worth thinking about.

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Compromise is the process by which all parties leave a conflict unsatisfied.
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Post by Clemsy » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

I don't have a lot of time to respond at present, but I just wanted to jump in to say, RUIZ! WELCOME BACK! Good to see your name on the boards.

Tree Hugger, this is a very valuable topic. I will read my fellow associates responses with great interest.

Liminal, the points you raise are very valid. We can't view marriage without relating it to the culture of the local scene. I will try to address some of those points at a later time. But first let me say that, for me, Campbell's words ring very true. I see marriage as Art. In art there is always sacrifice of some kind. Here the sacrifice is to something larger than yourself, something that demands the ego take a back seat and find that fine balance between 'me', 'you' and 'us'. This can be grueling work. On the one hand is selfishness, the other the loss of self in the other... both destructive to the relationship.

There is no doubt that choosing the correct partner for the task is key, and there needs to be an out when it doesn't work. However, how often is the out taken because the ego refused to compromise with who should have been the correct partner?

Unfortunately, our culture tends to promote feeding the ego more than the value of sacrifice.

More later.

Clemsy
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Post by Cranky Scientist » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am



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Post by Mark O. » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Hello Tree Hugger,

Your comments and Joseph Campbell quotations remind me of the experience I had reading Scott M. Peck's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... books">The Road Less Traveled</a>. I read it when I was seventeen - and aspects of it are still with me. I didn't grasp or accept much of the material on grace or providence, but his approach to love as an action was very impactful.

I don't know if I would have the same experience at 32 if I were to read it again. But at that time I was taken by his call for discipline in the act of loving. If I am remembering his notions correctly, Peck's ideas of commitment would form a sound bridge between the two phases of marriage that Campbell has identified. My vague recollections are evidence that I should stop writing now and go re-read the book.

Anybody else read it?

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Post by Liminal » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

On 2003-05-05 11:37, mythinker wrote:
Your comments and Joseph Campbell quotations remind me of the experience I had reading Scott M. Peck's <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/de ... books">The Road Less Traveled</a>... Anybody else read it?
I have! This book was very significant in my spiritual development. Or, more specifically, the last half of it was. I was only interested in matters metaphysical at the time, so I skipped the first half that deals with more practical things (I suppose I should finish that up some day...).

Peck's ideas about religion and how lucidly he drew illustrations from his mental health patients was probably the first stone laid in the bridge that I eventually crossed from atheism/logic worship to the deep spirituality I inhabit today. He can be an amazing writer and there are some fantastic ideas in there.

Unfortunately, I became quite disenchanted with him when I tried to read "People of the Lie", which is a work on the nature of evil. He begins the work by saying that he had moved from his more syncretic belief system to a firm commitment to Christianity and it seems that much of his thinking changed as well. He proceeds to illustrate evil as a literal, concrete thing which must be combated which seems to me to be in stark contrast to the prior book.

Anyhoo, this has nothing to do with marriage. I just talk too much. :smile:

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Post by David_Kudler » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

The great thing about forums like this, Liminal: if you really are talking to much (and you aren't) we can always click on the scroll bar--no harm done.

I don't have the time to add my own thoughts to this very interesting, very important conversation, so I thought I'd add some of Joe's words instead, from Thou Art That:
Marriage, as I said, is not a love affair; it is an ordeal. If you think of it as that
you will be able to go through with it. The ordeal consists specifically in sacrificing
ego to the relationship. And ego is always coming up, you know, saying, "Oh, poor me.
Nobody?s doing my typing for me," and that sort of thing. By the way, I know one great
scholar who went through three wives until he got the one that would not only do the
typing, but could do it in Greek and Latin as well.
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Post by Scarlett » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Everybody, very interesting replies.

Liminal, you mentioned that you seem to be concentrating on the negative aspects of this topic. However, I am glad that you posted. We are all here to learn something from our experiences. I think a balance of educated views is necessary to keep the conversation healthy.


Ruiz, you posted something that was very interesting to me. You said:
The most liberating idea on marriage, that I got from Joseph Campbell and Carl Jung, is that marriage is truly a big mystery in the sense that all the models we have of what a marriage "is" or "should be" are culturally determined.


The idea that marriage is truly a mystery -- a sacred mystery -- is sometimes lost in our 'culturally determined' view of what a union should be. I would like to talk about what a marriage has meant to me personally as an American, who grew up as a Christian. I hear the term 'soul-mate' used very loosely. Growing up, I believed that a person had a 'soul-mate' out there waiting to find him/her ... and once found, things are pretty much happy ever-after. I envisoned a good match as being a 'love-affair' just as Campbell said and not as an ordeal.

When I met my husband, I was lucky enough to feel the whole sha-bang! I experienced intense emotions wrapped up in a whirl wind of perceptions. Well, of course that passes, and I started to really know my husband. My views changed. Then I started seeing my partner as someone who was the opposite of me -- a necessary 'opposite' that I needed to fill a gap in my life. Then, I realized this 'gap', was something I could fill myself without my husband. (discovering my SELF through my animus). However, I'm still trying to figure out just who my animus is -- so my understanding through experience stops right here -- although I can relate to what Campbell and Tree Hugger have experienced in their marriages.
Yet even with this personal revelation, I still value and love my husband incredibly . We are growing together.

However, as Liminal pointed out, we cannot ignore the fact that divorce rates are high in certain parts of the world. This idea of 'soul-mate' or marriage that the public perceives is often misunderstood.

David posted a very interesting quote from Campbell above...I remember reading those very same lines for the first time and thinking...how many times have I said "Oh poor me" before in my marriage! (example: silly things like my laundry story in an earlier post)

I think many people reach this point in a relationship and they feel confused. Then we see affairs and other negative things emerge. As Clemsy posted earlier...our egos can sometimes be a greater priority than our relationships.

People forget the 'mystery' of marriage and how sacred (and in my opinion, how exciting and fullfilling) a union can be.

Scarlett

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Post by Cranky Scientist » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am



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Post by Susie » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Tree Hugger and Scarlett, Congratulations on having such wonderful realtionships. Liminal, my post will probably be negative sounding too.

When 2 people attract to each other, I believe it can be 2 types of attraction. First, there are those that are like minded and they draw each other because of this. I realize that the duality of male/female is present but they are on the same page so to speak. These are probably going to be the best relationships.
Then there are the situations when opposites attract. That is the kind of relationship I have. I am a deeply spiritual, emotinal, artistic type. My husband is not!!!! This forum would bore him to tears. How in the world did I end up with this man? Why do I stay?
Well, there were other things on my mind besides spirituality when I met him so that is all my fault. I have 2 children with him that are still in school. So I stay to provide a good secure home for them with their father. He is a good father and provider. I recognize our differences and do not judge him for his difference from me. He is the way he is supposed to be just as I am as well. However, I often doubt that I will be with him when my children are grown. I don't know. We have found interests in commmon and perhaps that will be enough for us.

I have considered the idea that some marriages are not made to last forever but only for a certain stage in our lives.


...with the heart and mind united in a single, perfect sphere
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Post by Cranky Scientist » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am



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Post by Scarlett » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am

Susie, thanks for sharing your personal stories. These forums are much more interesting and in my opinion (more meaningful) when we can share our life experiences.

My husband and I are very opposite in terms of our personalities. Even our idea of spirituality is different. For example, If I'm reading some new idea or theory about mythology, and I try to share it with him, watch out, the debates arise! This can be very frustrating especially if I feel a connection to the words and ideas I'm trying to share. However, his skeptical attitude keeps me on a reality check. I think that by sharing new thoughts and ideas with him, he will often rethink his perception of our conversation.

At first, the conversations would get pretty heated. However, I think we are finally reaching the point that we can debate something and realize the purpose of the argument is not to convince each other of being right, but to learn something from each other. I at least realize that everybody has a unique spiritual journey. I never try to force my views on others. My husband has come to accept this as well. Although, we actually enjoy challenging each other on topics of any subject. I think this keeps a healthy balance on our perception of whatever we are discussing.

I've always believed that good communication with your partner is key to a healthy relationship. However, I've learned that this can come with a price. To be totally honest with someone you love can be dangerous. I've had many conversations with my husband that could have been very damaging. Thankfully, our relationship is the first priority in both of our books! So coming to a solution was always a must.

So I can certainly relate and feel a lot better when Campbell describes marriage as an 'ordeal.' Without the 'ordeal' it would be boring. Less painful, yes; Less fun, certainly! I'm glad for the ordeal :smile:

I've only been married for three years, who knows what will happen. I feel I have made a good match. I love my husband...the man underneath all of my 'projections.' However, I'm certain of only one thing: whatever the outcome, all of my experiences in the relationship (good and bad) have been worth the ride.

Scarlett
For all men live by truth and stand in need of expression. In love, in art, in avarice, in politics, in labor, in games, we study to utter our painful secret. The man is only half himself, the other half is his expression. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
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Post by Cranky Scientist » Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:22 am



NEXT TIME

Next time what I'd do is look at
the earth before saying anything. I'd stop
just before going into a house
and be an emperor for a minute
and listen better to the wind
or to the air being still.

When anyone talked to me, whether
blame or praise or just passing time,
I'd watch the face, how the mouth
has to work, and see any strain, any
sign of what lifted the voice.

And for all, I'd know more -- the earth
bracing itself and soaring, the air
finding every leaf and feather over
forest and water, and for every person
the body glowing inside the clothes
like a light.


~William Stafford~


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