The class began last night! The two who came were the newlywed couple (fifteen days, as of last night) who inspired me to get the class started in the first place. Our discussion ranged all over the place, so I’ll likely get two or three discrete post out of the hour.
The first point — top of my notes — was a myth that sets back more marriages than any other, and we can’t even blame it on Godless capitalist Hollywoodized free-lovin’ America, because it’s been saturating western society for centuries: the myth of “happily ever after.”
Imagine, if you will, a movie about a high school student’s struggle to get into Harvard. At the very end, she gets a letter with a Massachusetts return address. She opens it, trembling, and reads, “You are accepted.”
“And she lived happily ever after.” Roll credits.
Most people would feel cheated, because the movie ends just when the real effort begins. Yes, going to Harvard would a a fulfilling experience that the protagonist would never regret (I assume — I got my degree from Southern Utah University), but it would also be a trying and stretching time, full of effort and setbacks and probably some tears. It would not be a time in which she could rest on her laurels, waiting for effortless happiness as her due reward.
We would automatically call shenanigans on the Harvard story, but what ends the stereotypical fairytale, a pattern which is repeated ad infinitum in chick flicks and other pop-cultural expressions of the same centuries-old meme?
The couple marries, kisses, and “live happily ever after.”
Why is this myth more than a harmless fantasy — why is it actually destructive? Because people head into marriage thinking that it’ll be easy, and it’s not. Those first five years, especially, are a lot of work, as two people who are not at present “right for each other” spend time and effort grinding off rough corners until they finally fit together, like those ancient Peruvian stone walls with the blocks perfectly formed to each other. They weren’t found that way, you know.
If people go into marriage thinking that it’s the end of their efforts instead of the beginning, then the natural upshot is disappointment and unhappiness, and a belief that they married the wrong person, and ought to divorce and start over. The truth is, yes, their spouse is not the right person — yet. And neither are they. And they won’t ever be without the growing and striving and shaping and forming together that a new marriage necessitates.