Irreconcilable Differences

The union between Brad Pitt, winner of People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive (1995 and 2000, thankyouverymuch) and Angelina Jolie, Esquire Magazine’s Sexiest Woman Alive (2004) was a match  made in Hollywood  heaven. Two devastatingly good-looking, influential, A-list movie stars with talent to spare and money to burn meet on a movie set and sparks fly. They were the reincarnation of Liz Taylor and Richard Burton, jet-setting around the world with their brood of children, living in a fabulous chateau in southern France. It was a union so combustibly irresistible, it spawned a ridiculous nickname, commanded the front page of the tabloids for ten years running. And then it ended. If the Sexiest Couple Alive couldn’t manage to keep the fire burning, is there hope for the rest of us? The short answer: nope. Cue sackcloth and ashes.

I don’t get people who cry #walangforever like they actually expect people to stay together all the time, no matter what, come what may, world without end. Forever is a bullshit concept formed by hopeless romantics who have no idea what it takes to go the distance.

The traditional wedding vows are taken from the Book of Common Prayer, a liturgical book  published in 1549. It’s all too easy to promise “til death do us part” when the best you could hope for was to avoid catching the bubonic plague. In the 1500s, life didn’t begin at forty. It ended.

Now that our life expectancy has doubled and most cultures have adopted the concept of marrying for love instead of convenience, a constant flow of stimulation is required to stay engaged. There is a hackneyed joke that claims marriage isn’t a word; it’s a sentence. It’s not wrong. Keeping a relationship going takes a lot of dedication, because sometimes marriage is like being part of a chain gang. You’re shackled to your partner, breaking rocks all the live long day, trudging home at dusk to rest, caged together in a drab 6×6 cell only to wake up and do it all over again. Your partner’s little quirks and minor flaws may have been cute when you first started out, but given time and lack of distance, that little pet peeve can drive a body insane.  Sometimes people just give up and walk away. It’s easier than going to jail for a crime you wish you hadn’t committed but had to because he just wouldn’t stop squeezing the toothpaste in the middle instead of from the end of the tube like a goddamn rational person.

There is a reason a fiftieth wedding anniversary is celebrated with much fanfare. Increased life expectancy aside, there’s no guarantee you’ll ever live through five decades together. Also, if a couple has managed to spend fifty years together without one smothering the other in their sleep, that is an accomplishment worthy of several roast pigs and an eat-all-you-can buffet.

A marriage only works if both partners want it to work and are willing to hash things out to stay together and not just because they don’t have a pre-nup or don’t want their kids to grow up in a broken home. Today, when we say “till death do us part,” what we really mean is “till death of interest do us part.” Falling in love and getting married is easy. Staying married? Well that’s a whole different ballgame.


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