However, in that rhythmical oscillation which leads from a declaration to a quarrel (the surest, the most effectively perilous way of forming by opposite and successive movements a knot which will not be loosened and which attaches us firmly to a person), in the midst of the movement of withdrawal which constitutes one of the two elements of the rhythm, of what uses is it to analyze further the refluences of human pity, which, the opposite of love, though springing perhaps unconsciously from the same cause, in any springing perhaps unconsciously from the same cause, in any case produce the same effects? When we count up afterwards the sum of all that we have done for a woman, we often discover that the actions prompted by the desire to show that we love her, to make her love us, to win her favours, bulk scarcely larger than those due to the human need to repair the wrongs that we do to the loved one, from a mere sense of moral duty, as thought we did not love her.
Marcel Proust, Cities of the Plain, pp. 860-861
First off, note to self: use the word refluence more in polite company.
Secondly, as I've proposed on this blog previously, one of my regrets in my failed first marriage (well, as I've said to my ex-wife, it you were together and looked after each other for close to a quarter century I have trouble calling it it a total failure) is that I didn't fight enough. Instead, I either withdrew (still one of my failings) or I just tried to make things right and get through the day. Re-reading this passage from Proust made me think of blacksmiths (and my ex-student and friend Andrew Smith who has taken up blacksmithery as a hobby) and how they work metal, constantly heating it and beating it and then re-heating it, with the result that the resulting piece is much stronger and longer-lasting. Maybe this is what arguments, or, at least, in Proust's words, the "rhythmical oscillation", do: they strengthen the relationship by forging and reforging it. So, avoiding arguments doesn't prolong the relationship; rather, it just leaves it fragile. Why do I think of these things in my late 50s? This might have proven valuable information when I was married. Stupid Proust. Actually, I'm the stupid one for reading the first couple volumes of Remembrance of Things Past so casually two decades ago.