Our children don’t want to marry just anybody. They want soul mates, the perfect companions. And why not? We’ve been telling them for decades this is possible. We may not have said it directly, but nearly every book they read, nearly every movie they see, nearly every song they listen to suggests there’s such a thing as perfect love.
So that’s what they want.
But there’s no such thing as a perfect soulmate. Occasionally, someone finds a partner they define as perfect, but most of the time, that results from being desirous of a solid relationship and the ability to rationalize one’s partner as perfect for the sake of achieving the stability one seeks.
Let me explain.
If you want to be married and have a family, and if you are sufficiently attracted to someone, and if you manage to snag that someone, and if that someone is of a similar mindset, you begin to merge part of your being into them, just as they melt partly into you.
You become more alike in all the ways that matter and you eventually come to see the other person as your soulmate. But it didn’t start out that way. It probably started as lust or infatuation and took years to develop into that kind of relationship. Yes, there are exceptions. People who knew right away. But that is definitely not the norm.
If we look at arranged marriages, we see that they generally last longer than marriages born of love – having a much smaller divorce rate. This is partly due to other factors, of course, like the stigma of divorce in such societies, as well as the pressure applied by family members to make it work.
But with love marriages, the peak of emotion is often reached on or before the wedding day. The expectations are usually much greater, making it that much more difficult for the partners to live up to them.
As a result, more love marriages fall apart, more families become de-stabilized, more children grow up in broken homes, more bitterness and emotional detachment ensue. Our society struggles to maintain balance and optimistic growth. It begins to deteriorate, slowly, almost imperceptibly at first. But eventually we grow jaded because nothing seems to work out the way we want it to.
Our expectations, set too high, cannot be met. And yet we continue, in our art, to celebrate perfection, perpetuating a system that is impossible to achieve and/or sustain. We find ourselves continually disappointed by reality as we increasingly believe the myth that we can have it all.
What does this mean?
It means we’re headed for increased conflict, for even more sudden outbursts of violence by people who feel they’ve been left behind, people who think they’ve been cheated by their fellow citizens.
Every time we authors write a story that results in true love and eternal happiness, we add another layer of fluff to the millions of layers that have preceded it, each one pressing down just that little bit harder, smothering normality with the accumulated weight of countless airy fantasies.
And it’s not just art. Business interests, governmental authorities, societal and religious leaders all imply that we can have it all if we just play their game, abide by their rules (the rules that brought them to the top over the backs of the rest of us).
“Work hard and you too will get to the mountaintop.” Only it often doesn’t end up that way. We trust them because they’ve made it to where we want to go, but that doesn’t mean we’ll get there if we follow the same path. What worked before is not guaranteed to work again.
What’s the harm in a little fantasy?
Not much, only potentially everything.
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