Relationship advice on the internet is worse than something in Cosmo or Ladies’ Home Journal, mostly due to sheer volume and banality. The 9 Smartest Marriage Tips Ever from Salon bobbed through the data streams today, its author claiming to provide new, useful information derived from experts who ranged from her grandmother to the latest research. The article disappointed on that front. Two things are worth noting, though:
Marriage is like a credit card. Indeed. The economic model is a common trope for relationships. Turning this metaphor into a credit card is both crass and dangerous given today’s economy. Too many people spend beyond their means, too few people earn a living wage, and far too few people understand finances and the hidden cost of credit cards for this metaphor to guide romantic relationships properly. Our cultural language about debt is so mangled that Capital One relationships are doomed the minute we activate the credit card. Who wants a relationship with an emotional credit card bill?
Let go of the fantasy. The author’s best bit of advice comes from a guy who’s been married three times. Just like we believe someone with multiple failed businesses is a successful entrepreneur (fail fast, fail often), we think someone on their third marriage can give us relationship advice. Still, the advice is quote-worthy, or…really…maybe it’s just that the quote is quotable:
There is something absolutely divine — I mean, literally, the breath of God — in the ability to put someone else in your heart, to think of them first. But from the time of the greatest pornographer who ever lived, Shakespeare, we’ve demanded that love be something more. … And what happens is, the utter grandeur and magnificence of what love actually is gets overshadowed by this disappointment that it’s not the way we fantasized it should be.
-“Jim,” in You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce, by Dana Adam Shapiro
We all can do better than this.