Divorce, Not So Lovely

By Shannon Ho

I saw a video on YouTube the other day in which a guy proposed to his girlfriend via use of a flashmob at Disneyland. Though adorable and rather heartwarming, one nagging thought stood out as I watched the final seconds of the proposal: How long was the marriage going to last?

The news of marriage is supposed to be greeted with reactions of joy and excitement, not skepticism and bemusement. These days, Americans seem quite a bit more focused on the aspect of divorce and heartbreak.

Marriage isn’t exactly as fairy-tale as we would like to think — all couples go through hardships, and all couples are often faced with the decision of whether or not they should end their relationship. However, this attitude of pessimism toward love and marriage seems to be a rather recent phenomenon. With half of all marriages in America ending in divorce, it’s no wonder our culture has begun to see love more as a nuisance than a blessing.

The most glaringly obvious source of our negativity is our nation’s obsession with the lives of celebrities. Before the Internet and the paparazzi and the invention of camera cell phones, the private lives of stars in the Golden Age of Hollywood were almost completely unknown to the general public.

Affairs and scandals were inevitable, but publicists were able to do a remarkably good job in keeping them out of the news. The 1950s were perhaps the start of our nation’s involvement in the private lives of celebrities. The press had field days over the love affair between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall, who was 25 years his junior. And of course, Elizabeth Taylor’s astounding eight marriages are still a topic of hot controversy.  Today’s stars have arguably the strongest influence on the way we view relationships.

Brad and Jennifer split up six years ago, and their divorce is still making front-page headlines. Recently, couples who have been married for over 10 years such as Courtney Cox and David Arquette have filed for divorce. If those who are rich and famous can’t hold a decent relationship, how do we mere mortals stand a chance?

In all honesty, the “love” we see in our media does seems rather forced and manufactured. Nonetheless, we buy into it blindly, wishing for the sort of fantasy romance that can only be experienced in fiction. From Taylor Swift’s unceasing stream of pining for a Prince Charming to books written about vampires waiting hundreds of years for their true love, young adults shell out dollar after dollar to indulge for a fix of epic romance and swoons galore.

Unsurprisingly, many soon find their own relationships not up to par with the image of love they have in their minds. Many people rush into relationships immediately because they hope they will find happiness, but dissatisfaction soon sets in and it’s over before it even began.

But perhaps there is another reason for our culture’s fascination with divorce and separation. As we move forward into the future, our ways of thinking become more liberal and open-minded than the generation of our parents. For us, marriage is becoming an old-fashioned ideal. Why does true love need a marriage certificate to be authentic?

Divorce was seen as a mortal sin in decades past, and many couples stayed together regardless of how unhappy and unsatisfied they were. Now, separation is viewed as an acceptable and sometimes inevitable path of life that must be taken in order for one to pursue personal happiness and break the chains of tradition and society’s expectations.  Marriage is a custom that will probably never die, but so long as there is marriage, there will also be heartbreak and divorce.