Continuing on in the month of love, I’d be remiss if I didn’t discuss the source of much inspiration and frustration in the romantic world – love stories.
From Jane Austen to Nora Roberts, Pretty Woman to Dirty Dancing, love stories whether in novels, films or our own imagination have the power to raise our expectations or dash all hopes.
We all know the scene. It’s the last few minutes of the movie and the love interests are finally opening up their hearts to each other. They’ve overcome misunderstandings and mistaken identities, all to get to this point of seeing and accepting each other.
They embrace, kiss passionately as the credits start to roll and you know they’ll live happily ever after.
What a crock of bullsh**. Don’t get me wrong, I love myself a good romance. And I’ll continue to read as many romance novels as I can get my hands on, but I’ve always wondered what happened after. After that final kiss. What’s the pillow talk like in the morning when the prince wakes up next to the peasant and they start to live their everyday lives together? When they start to deal with the daily annoyances and petty issues abound.
“A fish and a bird may indeed fall in love, but where shall they live?” – Elizabeth Gilbert
There is rarely a movie or show about actual marriage itself, unless you remember Married… with Children, which is just another kind of exaggerated view of love and marriage. You never really see what’s behind the day to day union of lives and how a couple deals with paying bills together or deciding whose turn it is to cook dinner and do the laundry.
And since most of our view of reality is heavily influenced by society, which includes books, films and anecdotal evidence, the choosing of a partner and merger of two separate lives into one is fraught with unrealistic expectations and often misguided beliefs about what happily ever after actually looks like.
“Marriage becomes hard work once you have poured the entirety of your life’s expectations for happiness into the hands of one mere person. Keeping that going is hard work.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Which is why I so greatly appreciated the candor and honest reality of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage. This is the story that happens after her happy ending from Eat, Pray, Love in which is found herself and her ability to love again post-divorce.
I loved this book because I’m also a bit of a skeptic when it comes to terms like “death do us part” and “I’ll love you forever”. Absolutes like that kind of freak me out. Not because I don’t think people are insincere when they speak the words (though s me may be), but more so because I put great stock in the human ability for self-delusion.
We humans can say something and absolutely mean it one day, but then 100, 1000 or 10,000 days later may not have that same belief.
I’m sure almost every couple goes into marriage believing with all their being that this is the one person on the planet that will bring happiness to the rest of the lives. That once their lives are joined then all misery will be secondary and easily overcome. And perhaps for some that’s true. However, with the rate of divorce in the industrialized world as high as it is, that’s not the whole truth.
So in this pseudo-sequel, Liz not only discusses candidly her own reservations about marriage but goes back through history and culture to discover the true meaning and purpose of marriage throughout the ages, (particularly looking at western culture, with some anecdotes of her travels through Southeast Asia).
She went back to the beginning of marriage, when it was merely used as a political means to an end, and how that transformed through the centuries as women’s rights and autonomy grew. Even delving a bit into family history and how her mother and grandmother viewed their marriages and what they compromised for the sake of the family.
Her approach of weaving the story that’s part anthropological and part biographical made for an interesting read.
Rather than just straight memoir, Liz melds both the lessons she learns in her extensive research as well as her circumstance of being in limbo both legally and in travel plans.
As you may have guessed from the title, Liz finally found a truce with her fears and cynicism around marriage. And from reading the book, I too have a different view of the bonds of holy matrimony. Love and marriage are vastly more complicated than much of our popular culture shows. It is more than just last minute confessions of true love and sultry kisses. It’s the everyday choice to work together through whatever joys and sorrows the world brings.
“To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
And once that choice is made, it has to be continually renewed. Love is not an easy ride. It’ll push you and pull you. It will drive you crazy with happiness and with tears.
But one thing I think most of us can agree upon is that it’s very much worth all the ups and downs.
If you haven’t yet read this book, then go out and get it today! It’ll open your mind and heart to marriage. And just to show I’m not anti-romance, here’s a few amazing movie clips for you…
What does marriage mean for you? How did you decide to marry your partner? Or does the word still freak you out too? Let me know in the comments below!
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