We need to tell ourselves more accurate stories about the progress of relationships, stories that normalise troubles and show us an intelligent, helpful path through them.
MORE IDEAS FROM THE ARTICLE
The differences in how people have loved throughout history suggest that our style of loving is to a significant extent determined by what the prevailing environment dictates.
It is through novels, poems, songs and, latterly, films that we have acquired our misleading ideas about love.
... are crucial elements of wisdom, realism and maturity. Our love stories excite us to expect things of love that are neither very possible nor very practical.
We learn to judge ourselves by the hopes and expectations fostered by a misleading artistic medium.
Emma Bovary in Madame Bovary (1856) spent her childhood immersed in Romantic fiction. As a result, she’s expecting that her husband will be someone who understands her soul perfectly.
When she does get married to the kind, thoughtful but human. But she is quickly bored by the routines of married life. She is convinced that her life has gone profoundly wrong for one central reason: because it’s so different from what the novels she knows told her it would be.
Our art is full of omissions. For example, in so many romantic stories, the whole business of work is rarely viewed as relevant to the enduring of a relationship. Yet, in reality, part of the rationale of any relationship is to enable two people to function as a stable joint economic unit for the education of the next generation.
Romanticism and capitalism are the two dominant ideas of our time, guiding the way we think and feel about the two things that usually matter most in our lives: relationships and work.
The impressive philosophy of romantic love in art ( with focus on intimacy and openness and spending carefree days together) matches poorly with the requirements of working routines that fill our heads with complex demands, keep us away from home for long stretches and render us insecure about our positions in a competitive environment.
Until our art changes radically, we won’t go into relationships ready to perceive domestic issues as important potential flashpoints to look out for and pay attention to.
As kids, playing was described as fun while work was pretty much defined as not-fun. In school, it was implied that work was monotonous because it was in preparation for grownup work. Grownups all agreed that grownup work was worse and that kids had it easy in school.
This is why it can take people years to understand that work can literally be fun.