Poets and Philosophers on Love, Sex, and “The Meaning of Marriage”

I like to underline and write in books as I read them. It’s one of the things I love about owning the physical paper and binding, as opposed to electronic books bound to a screen. I see purposes for both, but in general I prefer books sitting on the shelf.

As I read through “The Meaning of Marriage” a while ago, I underlined and highlighted and marked scores of quotes and thoughts for consideration. Here are a bunch of ideas about love, relationships, sex, and marriage that the author, Tim Keller, quoted or referenced from other authors, philosophers, poets, and professors.

The Conundrum of Love

“The primary problem is…learning how to love and care for the stranger to whom ou find yourself married.” – Duke University ethics professor Stanley Hauerwas

“Why should neurotic, selfish, immature people suddenly become angels when they fall in love?” – author Denis de Rougemont

Poets Interpreting Love

“Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care,
But for another gives its ease,
And builds a heaven in hell’s despair.
Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another’s loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven’s despite.”
-William Blake, “Songs of Experience,” from The Clod and the Pebble

“Like everything which is not the involuntary result of fleeting emotion but the creation of time and will, any marriage, happy or unhappy, is infinitely more interesting than any romance, however passionate.” – W.H. Auden, A Certain World: A Commonplace Book

Martin Luther on Sexual Desires

“Martin Luther was reputed to say about sexual desires, “You can’t stop birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from making nests in your hair.” By that he meant that we can’t stop sexual thoughts from occurring to us – they are natural and unavoidable. However, we are responsible for what we do with those thoughts. We must not entertain and dwell on them.” – Tim Keller

C.S. Lewis on Love and Friendship

“…But if you avoid marriage simply because you don’t want to lose your freedom, that is one of the worst things you can do to your heart. C.S. Lewis put it vividly:
Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements’ lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.‘”

“Do not waste time bother whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C.S. Lewis

“Friendship arises…when two or more…discover that they have in common some insight or interest…As Emerson said, Do you love me? Means Do you see the same truth? – or at least, Do you care about the same truth? The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of great importance can be our Friend…That is why those pathetic people who simply “want friends” can never make any. The very condition of having friends is that we should want something else besides friends. Where the truthful answer to the question Do you see the same truth? would be, I don’t care about the truth – I only want you to be my friend, no friendship can arise. Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travelers.” – C.S. Lewis

“Ultimately, your marriage partner should be part of what could be called our “mythos.” C.S. Lewis spoke of a “secret threat” that unites every person’s favorite books, music, places, or pastimes. Certain things trigger an “inconsolable longing” that gets you in touch with the Joy that is God.” – Tim Keller


What quotes about love, sex, marriage, and friendship do you like?



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