I have been a Diana fan forever, like almost everyone in the world, so of course I have watched the latest about hers sons and their lives. The news is big this time. It was only Saturday that THE engagement was announced–and it was on the cover of People magazine at my home grocery store in San Francisco on Tuesday. How is this possible?
There has been another royal wedding this year, this one in Sweden. I wrote a post about it but didn’t get it posted in time. The issues are the same, and perhaps a bit of time passing puts it in even more perspective. Incidentally, as if there were not enough posturing and idealization of the couple involved, I have since learned the the princess has struggled with bulemia, and her father, the King, has recently been discovered to be engaging in all kinds of tawdry sex games with all kinds of women to whom he is not married. Are these royal couples to be envied or pitied? You decide! And I would love to hear what you think!
The Summer of Love in Stockholm, 2010
Large banners over the arrival hall in the Stockholm airport flaunt romantic pictures of a lovely princess and her handsome intended. Electronic numbers announce the countdown of the days remaining until the wedding day they would have us believe the entire country is celebrating. She is draped with a banner that’s a royal version of a Boy Scout badge sash, and a matching sash envelopes the entire summer months, or so the Swedish Tourist Board would have us believe.
Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden is indeed lovely, with her long dark hair, smile with a bit of the tremulousness that so charmed us with Diana (but without the downcast face), her tiara and her gown. Her beau is similarly handsome, fresh-faced and earnest looking. How romantic. Oh, my emotional heart leaps! Will we at long last find someone to step into the stately and charismatic high heels of the late and beloved Princess Diana?
Are we as a species not completely insane when it comes to the subject of love and marriage? It is surely audacious of Sweden, with a divorce rate that exceeds that of America, to presume that the fairytale will come true, even for the richest and most handsome among us! Yet how easily we are seduced by this romantic illusion. Despite all of our life experiences to the contrary, we would so love to believe that it is still possible, if only we were rich, beautiful, and young enough, to ride off into the sunset, with our romantic dreams not only intact but coming true!
The irresistible allure of this dream is particularly ironic in Sweden. Support for the monarchy is declining among all groups, regardless of age or sex. Somehow the prospect of romance overrides the normal pragmatic, down to earth world view usually espounsed by Swedes. Millions of people jammed the streets of the capital to share in the four days of celebrating this royal wedding. In terms of attendance, it rivaled the Olympics.
Does this ride on the perpetual roller coaster of unrequited hope and disaster really serve us? Or is it time to look at love and romance from a more realistic point of view, one that might actually have a prayer of giving us what we say we would like, rather than the illusion we futilely hope for without ever receiving even a fraction of what we long for?
What if all of this myth of love happily ever after were an illusion and the very source of why relationships don’t work for so many of us?
Inviting as it is, it holds out such an idealized picture of what a relationship is like that it sets a standard that is impossible for those of us outside of the movies to measure up to. Even more harmful, the unattainableness of this myth is the unspoken truth that no one dares speak of. It’s the proverbial large pink elephant in the middle of the living room. Without acknowledging that this myth is a myth, we cannot be free enough to create a relationship which has a prayer of working for us.
The most costly aspect of this trip down fairytale lane is the intense distortion of our very being it encourages us to make, in an attempt to force our living breathing warts-and-all selves into the fantasy image. Can we ever measure up, or do we always fall short?
What can we do to free ourselves from these illusions in order to create relationships which might actually work for us?
One great first step would be to separate sex and relationship. What’s that, you say? How is that possible? Exactly the point.
A relationship that lasts is a fragile and complicated item, requiring as much if not more business acumen and sense of humor than it does romance of any kind or copulation. Yet we tend to lump sex and relationship together, with the assumption that once sexual intimacy is shared, a relationship is the only and inescapable outcome. This is tantamount to turning every dinner date that ends in bed into a proposal of marriage or at least cohabitation. Is this really in our best interests?
What if it were possible to have sex for the fun of it, without any presumption that relationship would follow? It might follow—and it might not. Wouldn’t that restore freedom of choice to both parties, and take a lot of the burden of significance and meaning off a roll in the hay….which was supposed to be fun, after all?
One way of freeing ourselves from this roller coaster is what Gary Douglas and Dr. Dain Heer, authors of Sex Is Not A Four Letter Word But Relationships Often Times Is, have called the 1-2-3 rule. The 1-2-3 rule is an observation of a lemming-like tendancy we humans have to unquestioningly assume that while the first time we have sex, it can be for fun, once we do it a second time we are at least “in relationship” and the third time marriage is the inevitable destination. First observed by Douglas, this rule has been put to the test many times by Heer. He has not found it to fail yet.
Do they recommend stopping before the second or third date? It’s not necessary. But if one is interested in a relationship worth having, one with consciousness included, at the very least an awareness of this unspoken assumption (which applies equally to men and women) must be maintained.