maybe the zeitgeist is wrong?

Not Bridget Jones’s Diary (Let’s call this character Not Bridget, or NB for short)

The bastard! he’s gone and left me for some bitch he met at work, left me to bring up the kids on my own, gone to live with someone else after apparently seeing her behind my back for ages, the two-timing bastard. After all that talk of true love, after all the “you are The One” and “you complete me” and all that rubbish… after all these years of picking up his socks off the floor and giving birth to his children and – – – suddenly I’m not good enough, suddenly I’m on the reject pile, suddenly some other woman is “The One”.

NB’s friends, in chorus:

The bastard! How could he do that to you!

NB’s ex’s friends, in chorus:

Of course you did the right thing – once you fell in love with someone else, why stick around? Your happiness is more important, there’s no point staying with someone if you’re not in love anymore. All that stuff about “till death do us part” is totally anachronistic. Sure she’s hurt, but what could you do? You can’t help falling in love, and you have to be true to yourself.

Confused Narrator: so, readers, remind me why the guy’s a bastard for doing what you actually think is perfectly ok? or… maybe we can agree that it actually isn’t ok to set up home with someone and then get up and go when your emotions are drawing you in a different direction? maybe we can acknowledge that human beings don’t thrive in an environment that treats them as commodities to be used and discarded? maybe we can wake up and see that commitment is actually something we deeply need, not some anachronistic idea invented by our so-much-less-sophisticated ancestors?

I grew up as a product of “do what you like as long as you don’t hurt anyone”, sleeping with whoever, treating sex as mostly recreation and sometimes an expression of intimacy but definitely not something you keep for marriage and definitely not something you think about very much before doing. Serial monogamy was the norm – you meet someone, you fancy each other, you start sleeping together, at some stage you decide to move in together, getting married is optional, and whether you’re married or not the expectation of it lasting forever is just a romantic notion you have in the beginning, when you’re head over heels in love. Otherwise everybody knows that these things don’t last, that love wears off after a while, that either of you might meet someone else, and, well, that’s life.

But we all know it hurts like hell when it happens, when the person you have bonded with so much that you feel like you belong together forever, that person suddenly turns to you one day and says: you know, this really isn’t working any more…

Oh, I hear you say, but you mustn’t talk like this, these arguments have been used to keep women in abusive relationships.

I know about abusive relationships, thanks. And I’d never advise a woman to stay when she’s being beaten up – but can’t you see that’s the exception, not the rule? Can’t you see the difference between “my husband is violent and abusive and I’m scared that one day he’ll kill me” and “I don’t feel that fantastic buzz any more like when we first met, our day-to-day life is boring and he doesn’t bring me flowers and that hunky guy at work is paying me so much more attention”?

If you treat another person as a commodity to be discarded when you’re tired of them, why shouldn’t others treat you the same? So we’re all treating one another as disposable goods, and somehow I’m supposed to believe that this is better and healthier than the days when people stuck with a marriage through decades and brought up kids together and grew old together despite the challenges, despite the drudgery, despite the fact that romance doesn’t normally last, despite the times they may have felt something for someone else – when people took commitment seriously, and stayed together because they said they would, and because they knew deep down that it’s better for society as a whole to have this kind of stability?

Yes, there are exceptions. Of course there are. But somehow it seems to me that in the west today the exceptions have become the norm, we’ve turned things upside down and instead of marriage for life being the norm, we now have a norm which gives people no security whatsoever, a norm which says you can never know what’s coming, a norm which says it’s perfectly ok to get up and go when you feel like getting up and going.

We don’t even talk about adultery or even “having an affair” – now it’s just that neutral phrase “having a relationship”, and if you’re having a relationship with someone who happens to be married, well, people shouldn’t judge… But how will you feel when someone “has a relationship” with your own spouse? Somehow that doesn’t [usually] feel so neutral and normal and acceptable. Somehow then it’s: The bastard! how could he do this to me!

7 thoughts on “maybe the zeitgeist is wrong?

  1. AMEN! We have gotten so used to being consumers, that we treat every relationship like a consumer relationship. It’s okay to have a consumer relationship with my grocer (if I find better produce, at a cheaper price, at a more convenient location, I’m outta here!) but we were called to covenant relationships and we have completely forgotten what that truly means.

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  2. both my sweetheart and I had been replaced. Both of our ex’s were a bit tough to live with but we did expect our marriages to last till the very end. Despite putting up with their issues for decades(and in my case physical pain…yes I was foolish to stay) both of our ex’s decided that there were other more interesting partners to spend time with. They didn’t file for divorce, they just fooled around behind our backs. Both my sweetheart and I initiated the divorces. So we both had pledged never to marry again.

    But we did and we are loving it. It was broken roads that brought us together. We learned a lot about what is important in a relationship. We are doing the best we can to model to our offspring, how a couple behaves together in love, since we didn’t do so in the decades of our previous marriages.

    I do hope my ex is a much better husband to his new wife than he ever was with me. His ex, is doing the serial monogamy lifestyle, as far as we know.

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    • Happy for you that you’re in a good place now. I too am in a good marriage now, after lots of heartache – it’s healing. I just wish we wouldn’t keep inflicting this pain on ourselves as a society and keep pretending that it’s ok.

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    • I hope one day I can have that. I’m very glad you’re in a good place. I have come to the conclusion I’ll never be “good enough” to marry. So I’ll take what I’ve got and make the most of it.

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