Tuesday, February 14, 2012

On Candy Hearts and the Failure of Romance

According to the enrichment journal on the divorce rate in America:
The divorce rate in America for first marriage is 41%
The divorce rate in America for second marriage is 60%
The divorce rate in America for third marriage is 73% (source)

There is a lot of hate aimed at the Day of Love.  People decry the waste of money, time, and energy on what so many call a commercial holiday, one that was created whole-cloth for the sake of selling greeting cards and supporting the florist industry.  I won't go into the history of Valentine's Day.  it's been done before.  I won't say that the day is right, either.  But I want to address one of the complaints that I hear far too often:
"Why only show your lover how you feel on Valentine's Day?  We should be spreading the romance every day of the year."

Right.  Because we're so darned good at that.

I've been married now for more than 10 years.  The marriage has followed the typical pattern of relationships:  in the beginning, there was giddy excitement, and lust, and an overwhelming urge to be together and share every story with each other and learn each other's favorite everythings.  After that came the domestic partnership phase, wherein we moved in together, established a home with each other, and feathered the nest.  During all of these early phases, we were the stuff of movies: there was no end to endearments and little notes left all over the place and calling each other when we weren't together, just to hear the sound of the other's voice.

"What are you doing?  Collating?  Oh, man, that sounds AWESOME!"

After that comes the longest-lasting part of a marriage.  In some couples, it turns into fear, resentment, and sadness, because all of those giddy trappings of happiness fade out, and they can't accept that passing gas, forgotten micro-anniversaries (first kiss, first time naked together in the shower, etc.), and tattered pajamas are the new norm.  The sense of "us" disappears, and the sense of "me" takes over:  "Why doesn't he care enough about ME to dress up for dinner?"  "Why doesn't she care enough about ME to work out every night, like she used to?"  "Why doesn't he care enough about ME to take me to the airport at 4:30 in the morning?"  "Why doesn't he care enough about ME to take out the trash every now and then?"

"He doesn't say his vows to me anymore when I put this thing on.  What about ME and my insecurity?"

Yes, some relationships degrade this way, and the divorce statistics jump, and people become embittered because their expectations for romance weren't sustained.

But sometimes, people see the long-lasting parts of relationships for what they are.  The consideration becomes about US and WE: "Can WE afford this new television?"  "Will WE enjoy that trip to Hawaii, or is it just my idea of fun?"  "Are WE ready to have children?"  The questions have to include the feelings of both parties; the thinking has to be done for two.

I saw the pattern with my parents, that the marriage was a business, a partnership, a sustained cohabitation.  They negotiated.  They argued.  They maintained.  But once a year, my father brought home to my mother an insanely sappy greeting card along with chocolates and flowers, all to win that little smile and the beguiling "Thank you" of his sweetheart.

"Are those Cadbury?  I LOVE CADBURY!"

Marriages aren't about eternal sappy sentiments.  It's too much to sustain; that stuff belongs in the realm of dating, so you can pretend you're perfect and do your gas-passing and ratty pajamas in private.  Marriages are about the taxes and the budget and figuring out the commute and going grocery shopping.  It's about being comfortable enough with someone to let them see that you aren't perfect.  It's about putting US before ME.  And every now and then, it's about becoming those giddy newbies again, and giving each other notes of appreciation, and letting the love become sweet.  It's a reminder that this isn't just a business, it's a marriage.  It's a way to manage the divorce statistic.

If you are able to weave magic into every single day of your marriage, that's a wonderful thing.  But for those who can't, don't begrudge them this one day.

Oh, and for all the singletons out there: From the awkward, painfully shy single girl who never got a second look, DON'T GIVE UP.  Don't look for somebody perfect.  Perfect people don't exist.  Itemize your flaws, and itemize the things you're willing to tolerate, and find somebody who fits, who makes you laugh, and who thinks you're awesome.

1 comment:

  1. I hope Timi doesn't mind that I, also, think that you're awesome.

    This was perfect. I heart you.