Posted 09.17.14

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Since we are near the opposite side of the calendar from Valentines Day, it might be interesting to look at love and relationships without the candlelight and red lingerie of February 14.

We all have friends who've been married or in stable relationships for decades. That seems a marvel to me, even though I, too, have met this standard with my lovely partner. Many people decry today's high divorce rates, the decline in legal marriages, broken families, and so on. Again, it seems surprising that two people can actually live happily together for more than a few years. Yet many do.

Once the tedium -- and the weight of innumerable domestic spats -- build up, the momentum for a break-up seems inevitable, or at least should explain why so many couples do come apart. Almost fifty percent.

The sociologically-minded blame our consumerist society. We are constantly looking for the new (not better, just new) and we're expecting everything in our lives to be disposable and ultra easy-to-use. "Ease of interface!"

It is true that we Canadians are disposable-minded. Look down the street on garbage or recycling day -- literally everything is tossed out. But I'm not so sure this is "the cause" of marriage breakdowns. Where is the cause, and which is the effect? No doubt all these things, from our attitudes toward disposables to our steady appetite for anything new, play a role in modern relationships.

I think, rather, it's in the laws of physics that we'll find points worth pursuing; yes, physics. And by relationships and physics, I don't mean the very pleasant memories we associate with "physical relationships."

By physics, we mean physical action -- the wear and tear of time's passage, mainly. And growth, the physics of biology -- we grow constantly, stretching upward, bending, reaching, exploring -- we are all growing, most of the time.

And how reasonable to expect two growing people to grow, stretch, and bend together -- simultaneously-for forty years? We're growing apart, merely by growing. Is it realistic to expect two people to grow in sync for decades?

Likewise for time's wear and tear. Not only the intense storms within domestic familiarity, but add the loss of mystery, the doggedness of habits, and of our inner expectations, and pretty soon we're lucky to be sleeping in the same - now king-size - bed, at opposite edges.

I certainly admire my friends and all others who celebrate their 30th and 40th and 50th anniversaries. We publish photos of couples who have sweetly grown to look alike, mimicking each other's gestures, tone, and expressions for forty years. Mazle Tov to them all!

But they are beating the odds. The statistics aren't as rosy; the numbers do support the blunt realities we've considered here. The promises of Valentines Day do slowly wear away.

( Soon, in the spirit of anti-Valentines, we'll ponder why arranged marriages can't be worse in the long-term than our "true love" fantasies.)


Copyright © 2014 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/09.14