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Nietzsche and Marriage

I’m really not sure why anyone would be interested in the comments on marriage of someone who never married, successfully or not. That covers both Nietzsche and myself. Even my ex has 11 months more experience of marriage than Nietzsche and I do together. Discounting the comments of divorcees makes even more sense (clearly they don’t know what they are doing).

Lou Andreas Salomé with poet Paul Rée and Friedrich Nietzsche

Lou Andreas Salomé, most famous for not having married Friedrich Nietzsche with poet Paul Rée & Nietzsche

Still, not having married, one has more time to think about the ramifications and principles of the affair. Once you are in the water, there is naught to do but swim. Unmarried Friedrich Nietzsche had a quiet obsession with friendship in marriage, putting more value on conversation than love making:

When entering into a marriage one ought to ask oneself: do you believe you are going to enjoy talking with this woman up into your old age? Everything else in marriage is transitory, but most of the time you are together will be devoted to conversation.


It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.

Andre Maurois, the French novelist agrees: “A happy marriage is a long conversation which always seems too short.” Popular culture offers some interesting suggestions:

Remember that a successful marriage depends on two things: (1) finding the right person and (2) being the right person.

Part two is definitely true. Of the two people in a marriage, you are one of them and the one over whom you have the most control. Returning to Nietzsche.

Sensuality often makes love grow too quickly, so that the root remains weak and is easy to pull out.

Definitely. How often can one fall into infatuation? And what is one left holding at the end. Some dirty sheets and bright memories. Bright memories have their value but basing marriage on six months or two years of bliss seems silly.

How many married men there are who have experienced the morning when it has dawned on them that their young wife is tedious and believes the opposite.

All women believe themselves great conversationalists. You want to find an appropriate match. I once dated the woman who found the cure to West Nile virus. Passionate and intelligent as she was, I didn’t have much to add to her labwork and she less to my passion for dance and poetry. She saw the world in terms of molecules and I see movement and words.

Sometimes it requires only a stronger pair of spectacles to cure the lover, and he who had the imagination to picture a face, a figure twenty years older would perhaps pass through life very undisturbed.

I prefer the folk saying of look at her mother to see what is to come. Generally choosing a bride above twenty-five will save you a lot of grief. Where a woman’s figure and mind are going is a lot clearer then than at twenty one or less. A friend of mine constantly repeats Nietzsche’s adage to himself, as justification for avoiding getting involved with women.

We ought not to be permitted to come to a decision affecting our whole life while we are in the condition of being in love, nor to determine once and for all the character of the company we keep on the basis of a violent whim: the oaths of lovers ought to be publicly declared invalid and marriage denied them:- the reason being that one ought to take marriage enormously more seriously!

Actually this more or less is the case for women. They are issued a get out of jail free card by society. If a man leaves a woman, all the friends say, “What a scoundrel. Good riddance.” If a woman leaves a man, society says “No doubt he deserved it. Good riddance.” A justification for any conduct at all: “I just stopped loving him.”

If you are a man,  go ahead and try “I just stopped loving her” and see how much compassion you get from the great wide world.

Allow us a term and a little marriage, to see if we are fit for the great marriage! It is a big thing always to be with another!

Fortunately modern life has given us the deal for which Zarathustra asked. And it’s a good thing.

Everything about woman is a riddle, and everything about woman has one solution: it is called pregnancy. Man is for woman a means: the purpose is always the child.

I’m not quite sure this is entirely true. But even the most sensible careerist women usually want a child or two. And will give up five years of career and professional activity to achieve that end (even if not all at once, motherhood does entail serious long term commitments over time).

Marriage is often harmful and promotes the spiritual retrogression of the man.

Marry a more spiritual woman, I say. On the other hand, for years I did have a girlfriend whose presence increased my predilection for red wine. I could better endure her conversation with a couple of glasses down the hatch. I’ll try not to get on that road again.

On the other hand, I’ve been blessed to share life with women whose thoughts made me sharper every day and who opened the mysteries of life with every conversation. There is some higher or other power in this universe which only lovers (and more often men and women) can touch together: the whole greater than the parts.

The magic and the most powerful effect of women is, to speak the language of the philosophers, action at a distance.

Some truth to this. It’s the woman you don’t have or the woman who has left who does most as a muse. Still it’s a pretty crappy way to live. Find a woman who inspires you every day. Who makes you warm and glow. Happily married men are probably the most productive individuals of all humankind: married to women who both comfort them and push them further and demand more of them. Worst of all is a woman who will constantly make allowances for your failures or encourage you in your weakness. Failures should be forgiven but with a stern admonition to get up and try harder next time.

Slovakia for all its good points is full of women who weaken their men with too much comfort. Like children, men can be spoiled.

Friends do not unquestioningly uphold, reinforce and echo our attitudes but provide new perspectives and interrogate our presuppositions.

Exactly my point above. Nietzsche thinks marriage and friendship care closely related and here he’s probably right. One of my good friends is pretty fed up with our progress at work (steady but less than it could be). He’s pushing me to try harder. And I’m doing so. Another friend has been letting her department slip for no good reason. I’m pushing her to help me make it one of the best in the world. None of us are any less friends but exactly as we are good friends we are pushing each other to work harder.

The best friend will probably acquire the best wife, because a good marriage is founded on the talent for friendship.

This quotation follows on, the point above. I used to be a very good friend, before I acquired a company or rather a company acquired me. A warning to anyone else out there: a service company is a ruthless mistress as she requires constant comfort and can never have enough. Switch to products as early as you can. Products can be managed and left with the nanny. Services, not really. Even the great admen like the Saatchi brothers were in constant contact with clients, as was David Olgivy. Products can kill you too though if you don’t know when to stop: Steve Jobs probably worked himself to death.

Do we have time in this wired age for real friendship? From what I see of the most successful, the answer is no. One is either in attendance somewhere, studying a new skill, making something or writing about the last project.

So how to find time for a real marriage when there is no space for friendship. Marry someone with whom you work or who shares your profession or at least your passion. I’ve been seriously involved with a number of women with whom I’ve worked, whether in theatre, advertising, dance or design. These are the most satisfying relationships as you are working on the same questions. When you have some down time, you understand one another and do not distract one another from the issues central to life.

I suppose it partly depends on how important a role work plays in one’s life. I cannot imagine a life without work. My grandfather went every day to the office through the age of 82. In the last years, his start time was ten and not seven anymore. But this attitude always made sense to me. Big Dave was passionate about his work so why would he stop? I’ve never understood looking forward to retirement. The only way it would make sense to me is if you wanted to be a surfer but had to trade equities in Toronto. Trying to retire early enough to hit the waves makes sense then.

In my case, what I would like to do most is make dance films and did so professionally for a number of years but gradually learning that if I carried on with that project, I’d be unlikely to ever be able to support a family in even reasonable comfort. If I were ever to have such success in my creative work as a designer and software architect that I would never have to think about money again, I could be persuaded to turn in my desk for a camera, a pen and some lights. Even now I continue to work at dance in the free time I do have. So it wouldn’t be retirement but a career redirection.

If never, I’ll keep going down the parallel paths celebrating every marvellous movement filled moment I can enjoy while striving to make web software easier to use, my clients wealthier/happier and my staff’s lives relatively carefree and fun. All of that is a dance of its own.

According to Lou Salomé, Nietzsche unsuccessfully proposed to her in 1882 when Salome was 22 and Nietzsche was 37. At the time, Salomé was sleeping with author and compulsive gambler Paul Rée. My addition to Nietzsche’s quotes on women and marriage.

Never propose to a woman with whom you have not slept. Her only answer will be no.

Women are even more depraved than we men and value their pleasure more highly than we do. A woman is unlikely to wish to give up her liberty to a man she hasn’t tested. There is this crazy chemical part to love that no amount of conversation can cure.

Adventerous Times: Lou Andreas-Salomé, Paul Ree and Friedrich Nietzsche in Jules Bonnet studio, Lucerne 1882. Source: monsieurcocosse. For more detail about how Nietzsche’s relationship with Lou Andreas-Salomé evolved.

Still if you find a woman in the least bit beautiful and you like her soul, her features will gradually morph into those of an angel. You will carry her in your head and heart. On the other hand, the most beautiful supermodel whose petty and superficial character you learn will gradually turn into the most dreadful mythological harpy.

The truest test of medium term compatibility: the taste of her sweat.

Bonus advice: choose a woman who is crazy about you. Your life will be so much easier and filled with so much more carefree beauty. Women say they decide about a men within ten seconds. Fighting her preconceptions for a lifetime are chains hard to bear (rare exceptions apply). If you are a man of any substance, some women will find you heroic. Choose a worthy one who does.

The day at twenty six years of age where I made a list of the women in whom I was interested and then of those who were interested in me changed my whole life. With list in hand, I then objectively compared the value of the women on the two lists on criteria of beauty, intelligence, education, character and charm. The women interested in me carried the day. By a long margin. The only column in which they lost – narrowly – was charm. At least I knew my weakness and had tools to fight it.

Main reference for Nietzsche: Skye Nettleton, Ten Tips for a Great Marriage According to Friedrich Nietzsche. Indo-Pacific Journal of Phenomenology, Volume 9, Edition 2. October 2009. Ms. Nettleton is not a philosopher but an MBA and an ex-equities trader.
A previous revision of this post included a portrait of a young woman whom I incorrectly described Lou Andreas Salomé. In fact it was the actress Eleonara Duse. Ms. Duse does look somewhat similar in black and white. Here is the image for reference.



  1. Kurt Reckling Kurt Reckling

    Verdammt kerl! That was amazing, I was just investigating about depression, uglines, suicide, lack of sex and another things that drive men and women to suicide and nihilism, and I found this. I think if most people are able to be aware about such things, they woulnd’t give up so easely in life, especially in this part: ”Still if you find a woman in the least bit beautiful and you like her soul, her features will gradually morph into those of an angel. You will carry her in your head and heart. On the other hand, the most beautiful supermodel whose petty and superficial character you learn will gradually turn into the most dreadful harpy of mythology.” Most of use tend to idealize the people whe are searching, and then, you got sensless suffering. It was a nice point mate, greetings from the old Germany.


  2. Kurt Reckling Kurt Reckling

    Verdammt kerl! That was amazing, I was just investigating about depression, uglines, suicide, lack of sex and another things that drive men and women to suicide and nihilism, and I found this. I think if most people are able to be aware about such things, they woulnd’t give up so easely in life, especially in that part of the text about giving angel features to normal womena, and realizing that maybe a beautiful one could be a nightmare. Most of use tend to idealize the people whe are searching, and then, you got sensless suffering. It was a nice point mate, greetings from the old Prussia (Germany).


  3. Chris Chris

    A lot of your article is way off-base.

    It’s hard to take you seriously when Nietzsche is talking about shallow women (the “tedious” young wives) and you’re comparing them to an accomplished scientist. As a STEM sort of guy, it’s hard not to feel personally insulted by you.

    There’s nothing nice for me to say about that. So I’ll let your imagination fill in the nasty details.

    Then you started talking about double-standards when Nietzsche was saying that young lovers can’t be trusted to make important decisions about their lives because they’re irrationally besotted with puppy love. He made the comic suggestion that society ought not to honor such a contract for their own good.

    Those things don’t remotely come near to touching one another.

    Nietzsche makes a misogynistic statement about how women only see men as a way of getting babies. As much as I like Nietzsche, he was still a man of the times and has a few questionable ideas here-and-there.

  4. Nietzsche has more than a few questionable ideas. I’m still amazed at his academic vogue among nominally enlightened professors. The attraction of the aphorism in comparison to the impenetrable probably has a lot to do with it.

    Or perhaps some of it has to do with the sound of his name, so close to nihilism yet so much more hopeful.

    Don’t take the remark about scientists badly: she was probably as bored with my subjectivity as I was mystified by her objectivity.

  5. Mariana Mariana

    Alec wouldn’t you actually be bored with her objectivness and she mystified with your subjectivness? Like in a vice versa way?

    I mean she’s the more square thinker because she’s the scientist and you are the more imaginative and artistic one, so therefore your subjective and she’s objective.

  6. Pring Pring

    Lou Andreas Salomé is best known for her relationship with the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, whom she also did not marry :D. They had a lifetime friendship with an exchange of remarkable letters. Lou Salomé also was aquainted wit Freud and many other famous comtemporaries. She was married to a mister Andreas who later had children with their housekeeper. I assume Andreas had much more better and interesting things to do (she wrote many books) than sex. She was a feminist and an intellectual. Sorry for my poor english, I am dutch.

  7. Gitura Gitura

    Life is contradictory. While artists and thinkers believe marriage hinders their creativity because they’re free spirits, and hence Nietzsche view that marriage is often harmful and promotes the retrogression of man, another school of thought is that men in happy marriages are the most productive because the conducive environment helps them bring their A game. But one thing is for sure, friendship/conversation in marriage is better than sex. It’s more noble. And Pring, your English is quite good.

  8. eric eric

    that is not Lou Salome, it is Eleonora Duse.

  9. Maths Maths

    Indeed this picture is NOT Lou Andreas Salomé . Did you ever read a book of Lou Andreas Salome? She was a phenomene herself with all the rights to be famous for herself. And how dare you compare yourself with Nietzsche? You make a very stupid impression here.

  10. Maths, I just reread the article after years not looking at it. The only comparison I made to Nietzsche was that we were both men and men who like thinking women. With regret, I must inform you the one making a very stupid impression here is staring at you every time you confront a mirror. I’ll look into the Lou Salomé portrait.

  11. “man of the times”

    And you aren’t? What does that even mean? Nietzsche was a brilliant genius, which I, as a Christian, readily admit. Stylistically one of the greats among Germans, together with Luther, Goethe and Schopenhauer.

    The Catholic Colombian reactionary Nicolás Gómez Dávila wrote (my translation from the German translation): “Nietzsche would be the only aristocratic resident of a deserted world. Only his option could face God’s resurrection without shame.”

    And yes, STEM guys are often shallow; Feynman was extremely shallow.

    Kurt: ugliness is nothing you choose, it chooses you. In times where women have way more options, guys who aren’t even average — not even in my pants I am: ridiculous four inches (r/smalldickproblems) — have lost and should simply endure existence. I am also a hunchback (besides being mentally ill as well), which is the definition of ugliness. Why would I pass this onto some poor soul?

    And I did not hang myself ~10 years ago (survived, obviously) because I am ugly — not only, at least — but because I took my atheism to its logical conclusion. A world bereft of meaning — why would I endure this? Had I not become a Christian around two years ago, I would have tried to kill myself again.

    As an atheist in my late teens/twenties, women weren’t even on my mind (I knew I was ugly back then too, of course: worthless genetic trash) — I thought that if I had to continue living, I had to be a genius. My heroes at that time were geniuses like Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Weininger but especially Schopenhauer.

    However, not only did I lack their high education — I was too depressed starting to learn Latin and Greek — but I knew that I am only average. I had no academic success either, but dropped out of 9th grade, aged 15; then, due to laws and parental pressure, I finished two crash courses to complete 9th and 10th grade — but I was unable to handle going to a real school afterwards for three years, so at age 18, I dropped out after three days.

    It is nonsense that beauty is subjective; it can’t be. While people may have types they like, beauty depends on objective criteria.

    For example, I lost more than 50 kilos in less than one year — I always was the fatso in class — at age 18, but was still ugly and small-wienered, as well as mentally ill: a crazy person, basically. Extremely introverted and depressed.

    I had and still have this need to end my life. I gained all the weight back after having been forcibly institutionalized and taking medication after my hanging attempt.

    I lost some of it again after my conversion experience. I now drag through life and endure it, like the German Catholic poet and writer Reinhold Schneider, who survived a suicide at age 18, and endured his life until he collapsed on the streets at age 55, in Freiburg.

    Why do I write this? Because I am tired of the know-it-alls who want to tell me that there are reasons for staying alive besides God’s existence; that life itself somehow can be justified even in God’s absence; that ugliness doesn’t exist, that being a mentally ill, fat hunchback with excess skin and a small four inch wiener who lives at the bottom of society — I am trash on all accounts — without any great talents is perfectly fine.

    Implement at least eugenics, so that fat, ugly, hunchbacked, small-wienered and mentally ill people get sterilized, which would have spared me my awful existence.

    Jeremiah 20:14-18, Job 3:3, Ecclesiastes 4:3, Philippians 1:21-23.

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