Do We Falsely Idealize Lifetime Married Couples?
Unexpected change is sweeping through the lives of some of my dearest girlfriends these days. It has arrived wearing the face of divorce or break-up. As a result, deep and complex conversations around the nature of love, secrecy, and commitment have ensued. And now, for the first time in my life, I find myself seriously wondering: are lifetime married couples – the ones I’ve always idealized for having found and sustained true love – REALLY happy? Or have I unknowingly been idealizing, hence torturing myself, by a true love concept that doesn’t, or very rarely, exist?
Let me ask you: which couple, in your life, do you idealize? For my friend Deborah, it’s always been her grandparents. Married some 38 years, Deborah put them on a pedestal for sharing the kind of love she’d always hoped for, yet to this day, remains elusive.
But recently, when she expressed her admiration to her grandma, the response she received shocked her. Apparently grandpa had run around on grandma during their marriage for decades – DECADES. She’d just resigned to thinking she couldn’t find ‘better’.
Single mom Maddie referred to her aunt and uncle’s relationship as her ongoing source of hope and inspiration. Married 32 years, some of Maddie’s fondest childhood memories were of listening to them laugh and joke around as she tried to go to sleep in the family cottage. “They always seemed so happy. Like laughter followed them wherever they went.”
Turns out not only was uncle cheating on aunty during their marriage, aunty had numerous lovers, too. “The truth was that they were hardcore partiers!” said Maddie. “And they were off doing their own thing with other partners while my other aunty raised my cousin!”
So what is the lesson to be learned from such examples? Is it that we should stick around no matter what’s happening in a marriage, cause one day it might turn around? Or should we face the fact that we’re oftentimes idealizing couples that probably would have got divorced if divorce wasn’t as a diffult and socially unacceptable during their day?
I’d really like to know who YOUR example of the perfect couple is. Who are they? How long have they been married, has it been ten years or thirty? And I’d love to know if you’ve asked them if their True Love has been as perfect as it seems on the outside.
I bet lots of these couples will openly admit that they’ve experienced ‘tough times.’ They may well also say that that’s what marriage is about – ENDURING those tough times, cause in the end, you find your way back to each other.
But this begs the questions, what is TOO long of a ‘tough time’? Cause being unhappily, if not miserably, married for ten years, even three years, seems too long in my books. So many people assert that people give up on marriages too easily today, ESPECIALLY those who have been married for decades. But sometimes there’s a fine line between taking the marriage sacrament too seriously and allowing a partner to treat us like shit because we lack the means/ courage/ financial ressources/ support to get the heck out of it.
(sigh). I dunno. I’m not saying I don’t believe in true love here – believe me, I do and I see the many very happy couples around me. But I don’t think true love is defined by the years a couple spends together anymore; it can very ‘true’, yet still die out and end in divorce. I’ll also point out that most of the true, vibrant love I witness is on the faces of people who have been married under fifteen years.
And when I see older couples smiling who HAVE spent a lifetimes together, I can’t help but wonder what was the price-tag for that smile? And would I have paid it today…