Is the promise of a happy marriage a myth ?


In Disenchanted Snow White tells the audience that life for a Disney princess after a happily ever after end to their stories–isn’t. It appears even in a fairy tale world, true or sustainable happiness is elusive. The parameters of real life often get in the way. Writers have puzzled over the concept of happiness for centuries. Nathaniel Hathowrne opined it was a butterfly that only alighted, if at all, for a few brief seconds. Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson was credited with attributing happiness with success and among other things a garden, an improved social condition, and the laughter of children. Others have stated or implied that without romance their lives would be meaningless. It seems happiness is amorphous, and possibly undefinable. Likely that is why that feeling of euphoria often associated with happy marriages in time, or after some obstacle gets in the way–end, or evolves into complacency. The fact that the concept of happiness varies from individual to individual, and expectations seem to have a gender bias also complicates things. One man may think that a satisfying sexual life is the epiphany of happiness until one day his own body fails him, or he fails to achieve a desired result in the bedroom with his partner. A woman may associate happiness with children but after her baby is born that earlier dream of a nurturing lifestyle is infringed upon by the reality of dirty diapers, nightly feedings, crying and in some cases the colic, or the “croop”. Parents, particularly modern parents often forget to teach their children about these common every day occurrences that accompany life. Instead they continue to feed their children false hopes, tainted conceptions, fairy tales, and maybe at best guarded expectancies of what life may bring them. Most would have avoided any unpleasant discussions of personal and sexual incompatibility, impotency, infertility, and unpleasant daily nuances, such as insufficient milk production, or overly active mammary glands, sore breasts, and lactating at embarrassing times–like when your boss has you give a presentation to the board of directors on an important issue. At any rate, no one appears prepared to accept that happy marriages, begin with a universal notion of mutual satisfaction. This may be why so many end in failure before they make their seventh year, or when both parties retire, and they suddenly realize that the person they had put up with over the years is actually going to need more putting up.

I recently posited a question to some of my followers, writers, philosophers, and other cotemporaries on face book, and their responses were amazing, and diverse. I’d asked if they had achieved all of the successes in life, material things, whether they could be really happy if they were alone, and without someone to share it with. Some suggested that there are different kinds of happiness, not always associated with romantic love, and another suggested that happiness, like love has different levels without elaborating further. Some immediately admitted no, or not for long, others suggested that if they could read a good book and had time to themselves to enjoy it that they could remain contented, while another avoided the thrust of the question–human social connection–and moved to a more ethereal context his love and relationship with God. This man explained that he believed happiness was a myth, and that such concepts that exist in society had somehow evaded him, and his relationship ended in a disaster–so he preferred being alone, and in his aloneness his relationship with God developed, and became a fulfillment, or joy in his life that far exceeded the concept of happiness. Almost all of the ones who’d suggested they could be happy and alone, had had some form of broken relationship, or failed marriage. The definition that they had adopted, and clung to as happiness was not achieved and therefore they redefined what it is to be happy. All of them were between the ages of twenty nine, and forty nine, and thus still had other relationships that preoccupied their time, and interests. The man who’d claimed happiness or his concept of material happiness had evaded him, and he’d filled his life with the joy of seeking a relationship with God had minor children whom he has a strong connection. His sons obviously will share whatever wealth he accumulates in life with him, but he avoided the ultimate question of what happens after they grow up and have lives of their own. Modern families have evolved into a satellite system of social contact. Holidays, special occasions, and sometimes tragedy will bring them together, but it is expected that when the last bulb goes out on the tree, the last egg is found, or the wound heals they must go home. Even if that home is a mansion on a high, high rise overlooking Central Park West, or a yacht, and filled with the best writings of the centuries, I suggest it is not a fulfilling feeling of satisfaction that anyone would universally say was happiness. I cannot speak for the faithful or enchanted princess, but I can suggest that as human beings there is a desire, a need for human contact that is different than the joy that fills the heart in the presence of God, and all the more power to him, or her who does not feel the emptiness of being alone to even share his or her joy of spiritual awareness.

I do not believe that I could exist without someone to share my life with. This is more than romantic love, and although it incorporates altruism, companionship, and various levels of love of another, it requires a transcendence of intimacy that goes beyond mere friendship. I have a relationship with God, and although some may doubt its strength, my daughter constantly reminds me that I have to read the bible more thoroughly, but I still I have this yearning for a human connection–that for me is likely to be more difficult, not because of my history, bisexuality, or sanity (which some also may find questionable at this point in my life) but who I’ve become, or should I say perceive myself to be. Happiness as this disillusioned man had explained had evaded me too, and not for lack of trying. Relationships end for various other reasons than lack of compatibility, or for reasons that anyone can conceive. Nothing had ever felt satisfying to the point a feeling of belonging could be sustained. My children and now grandchildren perhaps were and are the source of my greatest joy, and yet there was a time when I had to let them go, and even build walls to prevent them from knowing who I was in order to protect them, or so I’d thought. No true happiness can be achieved from a relationship of mistrust, or on an illusion–even if that illusion is satisfying to the other partner. She who learns to deceive others including her loved ones, in time begins to deceive herself. Having created barriers all of my life because of an inherent fear of rejection, I may never know true happiness. But being human has empowered me, or blinded me (depending upon your point of view) to still believe in happy ever endings. A happy marriage is not a myth–if I choose to believe. I just need to refine, not necessarily redefine happiness. So that someone like me can feel fulfilled. The pursuit and accumulation of material things can never provide that feeling of euphoria, or joy, or purpose in my life to provide a level of satisfaction that I can accept as happiness–without someone to share my joy, love, suffering and trials with. So I keep seeking knowledge, love, and life–isn’t this what makes humanity so interesting?

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