"Crane states that if two people in a marriage grow apart, with their passions running elsewhere or their interests diverging, there’s little to no reason to maintain a formal relationship that is no longer reflective of an emotional and behavioral reality."
In many cultures, the concepts of marriage and divorce are considered to be sacred acts in one’s life path. These acts are believed to allow someone to move forward in their spiritual journey, enabling you to achieve a societally-perceived level of happiness, previously unattainable to an unmarried individual.
For Taoists, this is not their belief.
Taoism (also referred to as Daoism) is an ancient tradition of philosophy and religious belief that is deeply rooted in Chinese customs and worldview, according to BBC. Western culture and society have been exposed to aspects of Taoism in the concept of Yin and Yang and how the world is comprised of complementary forces.
This belief includes many deities but focuses more on achieving harmony with nature and improving one’s self and one’s spirit.
Unlike much of western society, Taoists do not view marriage or divorce as religious matters, according to the “Cultural Sociology of Divorce: An Encyclopedia,” edited by Robert E. Emery. They see marriage and divorce as civil matters determined by law.
While Taoism does not necessarily prohibit the act of divorce, the concept of a divorce can often find itself at odds with Taoist principles of harmony and balance, according to Emery’s encyclopedia. Part of the divorce process for a Taoist would require an active stance toward changing the family composition, which has its own share of issues.
The intention of a divorce is often in question for a Taoist, according to Emery’s encyclopedia. They often see some of the reasons that people in society choose to divorce as selfish and find themselves on the outside looking in, in terms of public opinion. They believe that divorce should be pursued for altruistic reasons that promote integrity and self-sacrifice.
Because of their skepticism, they are of the belief that when a couple is experiencing marital strife, they should pursue options that promote familial wellness, according to Emery’s encyclopedia.
Taoism vs. Confucianism
Much of Emery’s research surrounding the institutions of marriage and divorce depicts a Taoism that sounds more like Confucianism. Confucianism embraces establishment, based on social values and transcendent ideals of traditional Chinese society, according to the Center for Global Education’s Asia Society.
Confucianism also focuses on setting a good example for others to follow. In terms of marriage itself, a Confucianist would want to keep the institutional construct of a marriage together, regardless of what is actually happening within the relationship itself, according to the Independence Hall Association’s Ancient Civilizations research.
Emery’s research directly conflicts the research found in Williams College professor Sam Crane’s book “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Dao: Ancient Chinese Thought in Modern American Life”. In his book, Crane claims that because Taoists believe that human activities like marriage are fluid, they can change along with the shifting feelings and experiences of the people involved.
Crane states that if two people in a marriage grow apart, with their passions running elsewhere or their interests diverging, there’s little to no reason to maintain a formal relationship that is no longer reflective of an emotional and behavioral reality. He said that Taoists believe that these changes are not a matter of fault or failure and that they simply occur.
This sentiment is based on a greater thought in regards to life itself and how the ebbs and flows of it are unfathomable. This correlates to what occurs in many marriages. Many couples just grow apart and are forced to deal with the distance in their relationship later down the line. It’s not always about blame or wrongdoing.
Crane understands that and cites how ancestral the concept of marriage can be. The comfort and ease of a routine can make the lives of two individuals easy, but not necessarily whole. That can often lead to tension, as the two married individuals grit their teeth and force their relationship, displaying a conscious resistance to the natural unfolding of events. According to Taoists, this can often make divorce the most unconstrained and spontaneous of choices.
The goal of harmony
While some of the research on Taoism regarding opinions and beliefs pertaining to marriage and divorce may be unclear, depending on the sources involved, many elements translate between cultures. In growing apart as a couple, many people who experience divorce feel that they were able to lead healthier and happier lives.
The ebbs and flows of a relationship change over time. In the beliefs associated with Taoism, harmony is considered to be an end-goal, and that seems difficult to achieve with an unhappy marriage looming over someone.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.