Marriages are unceasing. Friends do it, and enemies; the unknown contractors of this engagement, or armistice, inspire an interest. It certainly is both exciting and comforting to hear that man and woman are ready to join in a mutual affirmative, say Yes together again. It sounds like the end of the war.

-- George Meredith

Peace is one of the most elusive riddles of our civilization -- supposedly everyone wants it, but what we actually have on this planet is a state of constant war; civil and uncivil wars, wars for freedom and wars for food, wars between nations, wars between religions, the war between the sexes.

Like nations, men and women have to strike a balance. The state of love given the state of war between the sexes makes any kind of a permanent peace seem a utopian dream. We are not only beyond tragedy, but beyond utopia.

Part of the difficulty is that we are raised to want and expect very different things from each other; the male idea that a woman is a trophy to be won is totally incompatible with the female idea that a man should be held off at all costs unless he makes a commitment for forever. These irreconcilable goals can lead to a state of enmity unprecedented in parties who are more than just friendly with each other.

In some quarters, such differences in expectations are viewed as being what make sexual relations interesting in the first place: if men didn't treat women like prey to be stalked and women didn't fend off the advance for as long as physically and emotionally possible, then it would take all the fun out of the mating game. If we regarded each other as partners rather than opposites and adversaries, all the tension, all the fascination would be gone. It would no longer be a challenge.

But love of the "hard to get" variety fades as soon as the conquest is complete. And peace is not compatible with challenges and competitions.