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Kahn, C. (1983). Proverbs of Love and Marriage: A Psychological Perspective. Psychoanal. Rev., 70:359-371.

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(1983). Psychoanalytic Review, 70(3):359-371

Proverbs of Love and Marriage: A Psychological Perspective

Charlotte Kahn


For psychoanalysts working in the area of marriage and the family, it is interesting to note that in the definition of “proverb” in Webster's Third International Unabridged Dictionary the following example is given: “Marry in haste, repent at leisure.” A proverb has been defined variously as a “short popular saying that expresses effectively some commonplace truth or useful thought;” “a truth, moral, or fact expressed briefly;” “an imaginative expression of a practical philosophy;” “a single person's witty expression of a generally accepted wisdom;” or “a truth couched in obscure language, a parable;” “a statement that conveys a meaning indirectly by analogies or comparisons.”

It is not difficult to understand the meaning of the example, “Marry in haste, repent at leisure.” Not only do we understand, we can document with cases the human experience which led to the commonsense understanding expressed by the adage. Further, we can explain the sociocultural and psychological factors operating in a hasty decision to marry which almost inevitably result in unhappiness. In other words, we have knowledge; we have an enlightened awareness; we have an understanding of a somewhat different order from the intuitive, commonsense understanding of practical, homespun philosophy.

Direct and indirect declarations, proverbs, and maxims seem to serve the purpose of transmitting to one part of the population before their impending experience, the understanding arrived at by others after similar experiences. B. F. Skinner (1969) writes that “Maxims

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