Shanti Emerson: And they lived happily ever after
As if! How many of us as children had the fairy tales read to us of beautiful young women (often princesses) banished by cruel jealous stepmothers who kept them far away until the handsome but lonely Prince Charming rescued them and they lived … you got it … happily ever after.
How many songs said the same about love …”One Enchanted Evening … You will see a stranger across a crowded room.” And the worst … Dean Martin’s “You’re nobody until somebody loves you … so find someone to love.” Get real, Dino.
Country and Western songwriters are much more realistic than the romantics such as Cole Porter or Rogers and Hart whom I listened to. Look at the movies that end with the boy and girl falling in love and getting married, but don’t show a minute in their married lives.
I got married years ago to a man who seemed perfect for me, and our union was a bloody failure. We were ideal for each other according to Seventeen Magazine because we were from the same beautiful neighborhood in Houston, had the same level of education (even went to Virginia colleges and transferred to the University of Texas), were both raised Protestant, went to high schools next door to each other etc., etc. Everything was the same, and we met at ages 21 and 22. We even came from families with one son and one daughter. We (at least I) had way too high expectations of marriage and were doomed from the beginning.
One surprising fact is that arranged marriages are often successful. When parents choose the mates for their children, they look closely and seriously at the family and the reputation of the eligible young people. Their rational choices often lead to strong partnerships for their kids.
According to the Eastern traditions, we shouldn’t look on the outside for happiness and contentment, but on the inside. If we fill ourselves with kindness, love and forgiveness, we will be content, and our serene energy will bring contentment to others. These are views of the meditators and journal writers. They work from the inside out.
On my recent trip to India, I saw hundreds of people who were really joyful and had no partners at all. They were Buddhist monks in Dharamshala, Bodh Gaya, and Delhi and were smiling, loving and easily approachable. They seemed to live happily ever after.
But it wouldn’t be truthful to not acknowledge the presence of good friends and families in our happiness. Music, good food, health, economic freedom and the thousands of pleasures out there provide joy. But if we are not kind to others, we will never be happy. If we expect to find joy in the attainment of material objects, we will be disappointed.
But back to living happily ever after with our mates, sometimes it’s really tough and often, our unions don’t make it. My generation was the first to have many, many divorces. Unhappily married partners in earlier generations stuck together for the sake of the children and for their reputations.
Researchers estimate that nearly 50% of all American marriages will end in divorce with 41% coming from first marriages. Second and third marriages have a much greater chance of ending in divorce. The Millennials have the lowest divorce rate and wait longer to get married than other age groups. They are responsible for the downward trend in marriages and divorces.
According to the internet, here are some ways to make sure you do live happily every after you get married: Don’t have too high expectations. (Hey, we’re all human and make lots of errors.) Realize it’s OK to be different. (No two people are alike.) Think and expect the best about your mate. Be kind to each other and realize that you’re on the same team. Show appreciation often. Don’t make comparisons. Determine that divorce isn’t an option, and that you will work together to solve any relationship problems. One social worker told me that we marry for support, sex and sharing.
It’s especially important to be in a good relationship as we grow older. We need someone to take us to the doctor and back home after we get new knees, hips and teeth. It’s better than Uber!
As for the Seventeen Magazine quiz I took so long ago to find out if I had chosen the right mate, I’d like to report that my partner for the last 20 years has a different skin color from mine, was born on the other side of the planet (Asia), was raised in a radically different religion (Hinduism), is the fifth of seven children, has a different first language (Sindhi) and yet (with a few bumps in the road) we live happily ever after.
Shanti Emerson is a Nevada County resident and a member of The Union Editorial Board. Her opinions are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of the board or its members. She can be reached at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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