Letters: Value of arguing

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Sir: The discussion between Polly Toynbee and Melanie Phillips (Debate, 24 May) pivots on the unhappiness that exists in marriage and whether one should suffer it or have the freedom to escape it through divorce.

In the course of six letters neither Ms Toynbee nor Ms Phillips advance the concept of unhappiness as being a necessary and enriching part of marriage, as it is in any personal social development. Should the birth of a new life be without pain? Should the summer never have a winter?

The anguish caused by the traditionalists is their avoidance and refusal to accept conflict. Ms Toynbee and Ms Phillips seem to assume that conflict is a point of divergence in a relationship, rather than the point of convergence of two free individuals. If the goal of marriage is happiness and happiness is assumed to be devoured by marital arguments then marriage has no future, or at best no true worth.


Oslo, Norway