impossible. If a serious woman has freely married a seriousnman, lived with him, born him children, what legal formulancan undo such an experience? That there are exceptions tonthis description of marriage, no one doubts; and they havenfurnished plots for plays and novels through the ages:nunconsummated unions, incestuous unions, marriagesnmade under compulsion.nThe ancient Jews recognized various justifications forndivorce, and the more liberal rabbis were willing to grant itnon the grounds that a man disliked his wife’s cooking or hadnfound a more attractive woman to marry. Jesus recognizednboth the difficulties of the situation and the bad faith ofnmany husbands. Divorce, he said, was granted by Mosesnbecause of the hardness of the people’s heart, but “if a manndivorce a woman and marry another he commits adultery.”nChrisHan theologians have wrestled with this problem butnwith no conclusive results. It is fairly easy to specify thenconditions under which a marital relationship should benterminated, as in cases of desertion, infidelity, and nonsupport,nbut do any of them justify remarriage?nCatholic theologians have tended to say no, while Protestantsnhave adopted a more hopeful tone. Neither set ofnarguments is conclusive. If pre-TridenHne Catholics celebratednmarriage as a sacrament, they also denigrated it as ansecond-best, a sop to human weakness; and if the Protestantsnwere staunch defenders of the primacy of marriage as ansocial institution, they robbed the institution of its sacramentalncharacter and turned it over to the tender mercies ofnsecular law.nIn a mystical sense, the older theology of marriage wasncertainly correct: marriage creates a bond that cannot benbroken, and there is no point in pretending that it can, ornthat we can find a genuine replacement for even a badnmarriage. But we cannot always lead lives of perfection.nConsider the case (real, not imagined) of a girl married at 16nto a husband who is quick to provide her with two childrennbut reluctant to get a job, who in fact sends out his wife tonwork and beats her if she holds back money for thenchildren’s food. Any sane person would applaud her decisionnto throw the bum out, but is she morally entitled tonmarry again, assuming we take marriage seriously as anlifelong commitment?nOf course, we could mitigate her case by bringing up thenyouthful age at which she married, her eagerness to escapenfrom harsh and (at least in her own mind) oppressivenparents, and the seductive wiles practiced by the young mannand his mother, who had prevailed upon the gid’s innocencenby constantly praising her son’s virtues and proclaimingnher belief that the marriage was predestined. But anmarriage is a marriage, and while a gid of 16 can actnfoolishly, she is probably acting of her own free will innmaking so serious a decision. No, the mitigating circumstancesnchange littie.nBut what of the children? They not only need the strongnhand of a father; they would also benefit from the income ofnthe hardworking man who has proposed marriage to thenyoung divorcee — to say nothing of the benefit of havingntheir mother at home for a longer time during the day. If thenultimate purpose of marriage is the begetting and rearing ofnchildren, a second marriage that helps the children ought tonbe acceptable as the lesser of two evils. The same principalnmight be applied to a father who needs a wife to take care ofnchildren deserted by their mother.nOn a lower level, one might even make the case that andeserted man or woman is better off morally, if they findnthemselves a permanent companion and avoid the temptationnto engage in frivolous erotic affairs. If the outcome is,non balance, a more temperate and more moral life, is it notnpossible to justify remarriage even when there are nonchildren (provided, of course, that the divorcee is theninnocent victim of a bad marriage)?nReal-life situations are rarely as simple as the examples inna Catholic marriage manual or as insoluble as the casesndescribed in counseling texts, but if the primary objects ofnmarriage are kept in mind, it should not be impossible fornmoral individuals to reach decisions that make the best of annadmittedly bad situation. The universal primary object ofnmarriage is children, and other important objects includencompanionship, the avoidance of promiscuity, and the socialnstability that is promoted by the unification of two families.n(The last two objects are of comparatively little account inncontemporary society.)nNone of these purposes of marriage can be fulfillednexcept by a couple that intends to enter into a permanentnunion. The very expectation of permanence is self-fulfilling.nWhile a skeptical critic of the institution compares marriagenwithout divorce to a galley slave in which partners chained tonthe same oar are forced to get along with each other, noncooperative relationship is possible if either party is free tondissolve the partnership at a moment’s notice.nThat, at least, is the conclusion reached by CeorgenAxelrod in The Evolution of Cooperation. Axelrod’s theorynis derived from his study of the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” game.nThe question he posed was which strategy, overall and innthe long run, would work best in a series of choicesnconfronting two imaginary prisoners being interrogated:nshould one “cooperate” with one’s fellow prisoner by sayingnnothing or should one “defect.” (The rules are actuallynmore complicated.) Axelrod concluded that while morenaggressive and dishonest strategies could succeed in thenshort run, ultimately the best strategy was “tit for tat”: beginnby cooperating and then repeat the other player’s last move.nIf he cooperates, then cooperate. If he defects, you defect.nIn addition to various restrictions and stipulations, Axelrodninsists upon one caveat: the principle of cooperationnonly works if both parties expect to continue playing thengame. Otherwise, the incentive to defect becomes too great.nAxelrod applies his theory very narrowly to divorce proceedingsnby suggesting that cooperation between divorced parentsncan be enhanced if the custodial parent is given thenpower to withhold visitation rights from former spousesndefault on child support. There is obviously a much broadernapplication. If husband and wife believe there is virtually honescape from marriage, they will not be so easily tempted intonquarrels and infidelities.nMarriage can be viewed strictiy on the low level of ancommercial contract in which both parties will incur certainncosts and benefits throughout the duration of the relationship.nOne or another party may have to forego certainnpresent benefits and pay heavy costs with the expectation ofnbeing “paid back” in the future. The classic case is the wifennnMARCH 1992/15n