The Frenchmen: are they cynics, cuckolds and opponents of marriage?

A discussion of marriage usually spawns various reactions (joy, happiness and jubilation vs. doubt, black humour and despair ), probably because it’s a major milestone in a couple’s lifetime. Here are a couple of French proverbs and famous quotations on the subject: try to bring them out again over dinner – guaranteed to make a great impression ! 😉

Those who are in favour of the marriage:

Marriage is a prose translation of the poem of love. [Alfred Bougeard]
A happy marriage is a long discussion seeming always too short. [André Maurois]
Mariage pluvieux, mariage heureux. (Rainy wedding, happy marriage)
Mariage plus vieux, mariage heureux. (Wedding late in life, happy marriage) [Christophe Chenebault]

Those who declare themselves without opinion:

Marriage must ceaselessly fight a hungry monster : habitude. [Honoré de Balzac]
A good marriage is one where at day one forgets being lovers, and at night being husband and wife. [Jean Rostand]
There is no bad marriage. Only bad husbands.

Those who are opposed to marriage:

A man’s greatest misfortune, it’s a happy marriage. No hope of divorce. [Milan Kundera]
Wedding bells tire out women’s arms and lengthen their tongue.
Wedding day and funeral day are two days of joy for the holdover.


Cuckolds: for sure, they attract gibes and quipes… Recipe for a good story about cuckolds: a bit of scandal, one spoonful of voyeurism, a pinch of mockery … Cuckolds: a pure application of the German Schadenfreude (happiness from someone else’s misfortunes) !

Better cuckold than blind. At least one can see the fellows. [Guillaume Apollinaire]
He’s such a cuckold that in order to make love to his wife he disguises himself as a neighbour. [Jules Renard]
The heaviness of the chains of marriage is to be carried by two people. Sometimes three. [Alexandre Dumas, son]
Better cuckold than Secretary. It lasts longer and you don’t have to attend the seances. [Léo Campion]
Un cocu ? Un entier qui partage sa moitié avec un tiers. (A cuckold ? One guy sharing his better-half with a third person.) [Alphonse Allais]

Here is now a juicy expression in French: the cuckold is “wearing horns” (porter les cornes), the cheating spouse “sticks horns” (planter des cornes) into his partner’s head. The origin remains unclear, so I prefer to confine myself to the funny explanation: although horns are well visible to everyone, the bearer is the last person to be aware of it… In other words, everyone knows about it but the concerned person…


Another expression: “Lucky in gambling, unhappy in love” (Heureux au jeu, malheureux en amour), which is based upon the double meaning of heureux: fortunate / happy. The opposite is used, too: Malheureux au jeu, heureux en amour. Good to know for your next Monopoly game, poker session or kicker match…


Celebrating wedding anniversaries à la française is like running a grocery. Each year bears a name of material, plant, stone or fabric.
For example, a none-year-old couple celebrates cotton wedding ; after two years, leather wedding ; then wheat, wax and wood. 10 years: tin wedding ; 20 years: china wedding ; 30 years: pearl wedding. Poetic, isn’t it ?

Somehow, some names reveal a lack of inspiration: mercury wedding, zinc, chinchilla… o_O

The list ends with oak (85 years of wedding), uranium (90 years), granite (95 years) and water (one century of marriage!). Vive les mariés ! You find here the full list.


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