We watched their movie the other night and it reminded me of a few things and started me thinking about relationships and how and why they last (or don’t). In the movie, the couple get married after 6 months and at the wedding, the groom’s sister whispers to her husband, I give it (the marriage) a year. It seems a harsh, hard statement to make and cynical at the time but with a high divorce rate approaching 50% it’s not unreasonable. A greater statistics can be used for non-martial relationships. We’ve all had exs! But the facts are more revealing.
The movie set the couple up to fail. They have different approaches to problems. She sings lyrics and gets them wrong much to his annoyance. He empties the bin when it’s completely full rather when needed. She goes to parties to network. He likes to party. She has limits. He doesn’t know when to stop. He is charming but hopeless at times. She is organised but stuck-up.
It reminded me of when I found myself talking to a Japanese marriage counsellor once. Not for any personal reasons, but we simply found ourselves chatting in a café. She informed me there were two main times in life when people get divorced in Japan; either after a year when they see it isn’t working or once the kids have left home and the wife can finally say she has no use for the husband. In the first instance, the marriage is often forgotten and never mentioned when the members get remarried. Being a divorcee is worse than being unhappily married for some. In the second case, the man receives the shock of finding out his wife simply tolerated him and possibly can’t stand him. In both cases, they can walk away from each other. There main responsibilities, notably the kids have moved on themselves and probably wish to see their parents happy.
In relationships, we are quicker to cut our losses. It’s no shame for a relationship to end especially if it simply isn’t working. There are plenty more fish in the sea. How it ends is the key to moving on easily. Relationships are work and the idea you just get along is bullshit. People have different understanding of the same situation and being flexible and non-judgemental is the key to making it work. Constructive advice when something isn’t to your liking is more effective and efficient than criticism. On most issues there are different ways to look at it. If you want to make it work, you have to understand where each of you is coming from.
The divorce rate across the world from the West to the Arab world to the Far-East is probably the result of two factors. The pressure from society to gain social or religious consent leads to many forced marriages but in these areas of the world the divorce rate was lower. Marriage was a form of economic security sacrificing happiness. This is now less the case, raising the divorce rate because of the second factor. The more modern ideal of giving yourself a happy life clashes with the first. We live in an era of individualism driven by economics and liberty where we all have access to information, are informed we have our own power, our opinions are important and must seek utility through wealth and Benthamian happiness. We are utility maximisers and masters of our own domain. Our happiness is paramount.
Now the divorce laws have liberalised, women have their own economic power and together with men, they seek happiness, together or not. This also explains marrying later. Further pressure comes from a selfishness linked to individualism which shortened our tolerance to a temporary compromise to our maximum utility. We want it now, all of it when a little compromise is often all it took. The median age of divorce is in their early 40s for men and women after around a decade of marriage.
I’ve often be accused of moving on too quickly but trying to make it work is sometimes just not compatible with everything else I wish to do. I get frustrated when I am unable to read, exercise, write, slob around, watch football, in essence criticised for being myself. I’ve got to this age fairly smoothly by doing what suits me and making the right compromises at the right time. It’s been bumpy but I’ve enjoyed it. However relationships are perfect for us. They just don’t work perfectly. You’ve just got to give it time. Yet we need and strive for them naturally. The shy and the arrogant are both lonely. You have got to move to the middle, again the compromise.
So here is the spoiler alert for the movie. Of course it was never going to work but unlike American movies and, to ruin the film for you, they happily break up but hugging and thanking each other for ‘agreeing to divorce.’ That’s fine in this instance. It made sense for the film and gave it something unique to tell the audience. However in ‘real life, neither in this film or Friends, let’s just try a little harder. Modern divorce rates are the result of liberty and often that is a very good idea. No one wishes to be stuck in an unhappy marriage. The liberty to be who we want to be can clash with the compromises necessary for a successful relationship. It also lend to arrogance, the idea that we are all so special others are simply a burden. But they don’t have to if we treat it all as a synergetic compromise. Try to allow each of you to be the best you can be and be as happy as you can be.
So, sorry for ruining it for you. However it’s still very worth watching. It has some seriously funny moments.