Myths of Marriage: Can Love Last?
“Love and marriage, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage”
‘Fairy tales can come true, they can happen to you, if you’re among the very young at heart” sung by Frank Sinatra
In the 40’s, Frank Sinatra crooned to millions of swooning teenagers and set their hearts aflame. His songs sparked romantic visions of moonlit strolls and barefoot romps along the beach. Oh my! Those were the days. Or were they? Romance was in the air, and then it turned into…smog?
My mother, no different than the other girls of her generation, was swayed by the idea of romantic love. The Brooklyn bedroom I grew up in was lined with pink lace and white French provincial furniture. On the wall, papered in red roses hung a beautifully embroidered picture where two well-suited men bowed toward two women dressed in puffy coraline dresses. A poem was embroidered above the couples that read: “Adorn your heart, adorn your mind with love of the purest kind. Sweet is the morning of youth inspired with love and truth.” I read those innocent words over and over wondering what they meant.
Being born in 1950 and growing up a teenager in the sixties, I was split between free-love and romantic love. But engrained in my mind was the belief that if I wasn’t married by the time I was twenty-one, I was an old maid. By twenty I was married. Thirty-nine years later I am still married to the same man. How did we make it work? How did we thrive through the passages of time and continue to grow as individuals without killing one another? I’m not with the same man all these years because of the idealistic views of a dreamy rhyme. My husband and I are still going because of years of hard inner work, therapy, spiritual retreats, commitment, and brutally honest communication. Our marriage is always a work in progress. More to come on this process of marital longevity, but first let’s look at some history in regards to the myth of the “perfect marriage.”
In previous eras, family and society dictated the moral, socio-economic and religious obligations of marriage. The marital bond was to ensure royal bloodline, property inheritance and children to toil the soil. Throughout history, families arranged marriages, and it continues even today. For most of mankind’s “civilized” world a woman was considered a possession. She lived where her husband lived and performed the duties that managed a proper household. Love was a luxury, not a necessity for our ancestors.
Capitalism evolved society. Once women earned their own living they were free to marry or choose not to. No longer dependent on traditional family structure for moral, social and financial survival, women obtained unlimited lifestyle options.
Today, millions of people get married and millions more end up divorced. For couples working on marital issues, romantic love is their first attraction. However, it is only a matter of time when intimacy is tainted by the blame game of anger, fear and accusations, “if you really loved me, you would…!”
Somewhere between arranged marriages, romantic love and the feminist movement, the collective unconscious got trapped. We became lost in a dying vision of love. Today, a new mythology needs to emerge that allows relationships to evolve through consciousness, commitment and compassion. We need to give up the notion that there is somebody out there that will save us: fill up the hollow void that makes our heart ache to be “in love.” Relationship can then be an awakening; a spiritual exploration into our divinity.
Jack Crabtree and Christine Barber, authors of The Biblical Foundations of Marriage, The Romantic Myth, ask the age-old question; “What is love,” exactly? Quoted by the McKenzie Study Center radio show, they state, “Part of the mythology that is deeply ingrained into our culture is that there will be this person out there that makes us feel tender, noble, giving and serving.” We think, ‘If I can just marry that person, then being kind and selfless will be the most natural thing in the world and that will last forever.’ The problem is that if we go into a marriage thinking we need to sustain that high feeling, then we set ourselves up for complete defeat and disappointment. Marriage doesn’t come naturally the way loves comes when we are infatuated. The feeling we call “love” is a kind of “G-d given organic drug;” it builds right into our feelings a vision for what a commitment to another person should Px7 primal flow be all about. What must take its place for marriage to survive is a moral commitment. We learn joy by keeping our promises.
The idea of eternal romance has led most couples to dead ends and has kept us paralyzed in childish illusions of safety. The media encourages us to remain ignorant and asleep, drugged by the mythology of romance and hot sex being the ingredients of a “good marriage”, without which it just isn’t worth the trip down the altar.
According to Dr. John Welwood, psychologist, relationship expert and author of Journey of the Heart states, “We can struggle to hold to wishful fantasies and old outdated formulas, even though they neither match reality nor provide any useful directions, or we can learn to use the difficulties in our relationship as opportunities to become conscious and awake. Relationships force us to look at all the core issues of human existence: family history, our personality dynamics, questions about who we are, how to communicate our feelings, how to let love flow through us, how to be committed and how to surrender.”