I’ve seen too many friends and acquaintances leap into “lightning marriages”—I am borrowing from the Italian phrase matrimoni lampo—as well as all the horrifying high-profile Hollywood cases such as Kim Kardashian’s recent split-second marital debacle, so I started to research the main reasons for divorce. Asking any married couple on the planet why they fight will yield the same set of reasons. So why do people marry in the first place?
People marry for a variety of reasons in the name of “love”: money, social status, because everyone else is doing it, the desire for children, fear of being alone, or merely an excuse to have a party. All of these reasons are packaged into a nice little box that people refer to as “love,” and herein lies a substantial initial miscommunication.
Divorce’s primary cause is the misunderstanding of what “love” means. The “love” many people cite when they talk about marriage is nothing more than a love of self. It means the other person should put you first and do what you want. They should give you their money, let you bask in their social success, reap the benefits of their fame, and keep you company—essentially the other person should do and give everything for you and your happiness. It takes roughly a four-year-old’s brain capacity and emotional maturity to generate this definition of love. My four-year-old said to me the other day, “If I love you and you love me, then you do what I say!” The problem is that this bastardization of love will not hold until death do you part, or even as long as a transatlantic flight, because it means you are simply looking for a person who loves you, not for someone you love back. But people still try, believing it is enough merely to be loved. Mutiny and divorce inevitably ensue.
Divorce’s second cause is not merely a difference in priorities and expectations, but a whopping, awe-inspiring gap between reality and expectations. Why the abysmal dichotomy? Well, “love” is now created in a studio and bombarded into our houses as entertainment. It becomes a beautiful, shiny, and seemingly realistic alternate reality presented to you every moment of every waking day. It is responsible for this ever-growing gap between what is real and expected and what is fantasy and unknown. These TV husbands bring you breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day, they remember your birthday and anniversary and never forget to send flowers or throw surprise parties, they are never grumpy or tired—in essence, they are flawless.
If breached at all, the real topics that cause marital discord are represented in a less-than-realistic manner. People really don’t know what relationships looked like before TV and movies told them what a relationship was supposed to look like. What actually existed before Disney, et al., reinvented and re-scripted male-female relations was a world brimming with deception, mistresses, stolen moments with the stable boy, lying, boredom, sexual problems, money problems, psychological abuse, and addiction. These things were accepted—but more importantly, expected—aspects of life and therefore of marriage. It was not scandalous or humiliating if you got a bad apple or your marriage wasn’t shiny and perfect. The world has not changed. Human nature has not evolved or improved.
The only difference is that now people walk around with tinted glasses, expecting and believing male-female relations to be Disney-pink, and when the picture goes grey or fuzzy they simply change the channel. Women are ill-prepared, and when they find out that “happily ever after” does not work as it does in the Disney or ABC version, they run away in fear, screaming divorce and ready to torch the house to the ground—children and family pets included. TV leads people to believe they can have a TV-type relationship and if they keep looking—if they switch partners, jumble the kids around a bit, get a new house, car, and maybe even move to a new city–reality won’t find them. Sitcoms and movies are nothing more than long commercials for a fantasy life that people want. Unfortunately, not enough parents taught their children not to believe everything they see on TV.
These factors are multiplied by stupidity. Even a little stupidity goes a long way. The facts don’t lie. We are getting dumber. Standardized tests are getting easier, and policies such as No Child Left Behind have eliminated history from the curriculum in eleven states and drastically reduced the average person’s vocabulary. People are being groomed to believe everything they see on TV. It makes them easier to govern.
So here’s divorce expressed as a mathematical equation:
Divorce = (Self-Love + High Expectations) x Stupidity
Even if your husband’s little tics drive you crazy, marriage is worth it. The love of which Shakespeare speaks is a love of acceptance. The moral of Cinderella is not that everyone deserves a prince. Rather, the message for the not-so-stupid is that true love conquers all—all recognized flaws, weaknesses, and differences. Simply put: I love you even though you are a schmuck!
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