Friday, June 6, 2014

Anatomy of a Roller Coaster Marriage

In the old days, people used to say that it was a bad idea to wash your dirty linen in public. Apparently, the rule no longer applies, because Natalie Thomas has just exposed far more or her marriage than most of us want to know.

She describes it as a roller coaster ride, with its ecstatic highs and vertiginous drops:

The only thing different was the stage we were in compared to others. You can't tell a high on life honeymooner that their vacation will one day end. That it isn't all Mai Tais and massages. That life, a full life, with a significant other is an intoxicating, thrilling, ever-turning ride, yes, but one that you often want to get off, stop the spinning, lie down on the cold tile floor, grab the barf bag and dump it on his head.

And just when you think you're about to pull the emergency brake, that you can't take one more minute, suddenly you're soaring, hands raised, heart aflutter.

Or when you think you can't love him more, be happier or luckier, the bottom drops out.

After all that's what love is, living life to the brink, eyes welled with tears, head filled with fears, heart about to burst, never feeling more scared, vulnerable or alive.

It's a cycle and if we see it through long enough, white-knuckle through the bad, it'll always come back around to the good. At least that's what I tell myself.

To be fair, if that is the way Thomas and her husband want to live their marriage, more power to them. It feels like their violent mood swings are eventually going to exhaust them, but that is their prerogative.

Thomas goes awry when she claims that her marriage is just like everyone else’s. One suspects that this claim to honesty is covering up the fact that she is revealing far more than she should about her private life. And that she knows it.

Sad (or happy) to say, she is wrong. Some marriages do feel like roller coaster rides or like manic-depressive illness, but many, if not most of them are harmonious. Most people have better things to do with their energy than indulge excessive and potentially debilitating emotion.

Thomas seems to belong to the school of thought that believes, as an article of postmodern faith, that extreme emotions are the only authentic emotions.

Again, she has every right to live her life according to this pseudo-religious precept. And yet, feeling that your emotions are out of control and that your marriage is constantly veering from one extreme to another is not a formula for security, happiness or even bliss.

And one suspects that the habit of indiscretion, habit that Thomas has mastered, might, in and of itself, contribute to the violent ups and downs that seem to characterize her marriage.

She is simply wrong to provide so much intimate information about her marriage. In so doing she embarrasses herself and humiliates her husband. Could it be that her indiscretion has made her, and perhaps her husband prey to more violent emotions?

The loving couple does have a right to privacy, and it ought to be respected.

Thomas does not divulge prurient details, but she reveals too much that ought properly to remain between the two of them. Intimacy among married couples does not merely concern what happens in the bedroom.

For reasons that escape me, Thomas charts her marriage in bullet points:

  • He moves back from Texas to New York. We move in together, can't get enough of each other. Obsessed. Inseparable.
  • Until we fight about his old, ugly dresser and too many throw pillows, placing our independence on inanimate objects.
And this:

  • Making the baby. So bonded. So in love. Reliving our honeymoon. Relaxed. Stress-free. Sun-tanned. Wine-filled.
  • Pregnant. Bonded by the WTF moment. Thrilled about the future. Each doctor appointment and ultrasound, we grow a little closer.
  • Hormones. I could kill him for doing this TO ME. The mere smell of him repulses me. What he eats, how he chews, the fact that he's losing weight, getting sleep, seemingly totally unaffected by what's happening to me and what used to be my body.
What does it all mean?

Perhaps Thomas is showing us that if you are indiscreet about your private life and believe in the power of intense emotions, you are likely to have a bipolar marriage.

Surely, hers is not like all marriages. It is not a desirable state. It is draining and exhausting.

Yet, Thomas is also suggesting that anyone whose marriage involves domestic harmony is doing it wrong. Is it not somewhat irresponsible to suggest such a thing to other couples?

One suspects that Thomas has received some bad advice and has taken it far too seriously.

In the past most people believed that social life should aim at harmony. And that certainly included marriage.

Nowadays, people seem to believe that they should be aiming at gut-wrenching emotion. Good luck with that.


Lastango said...

"One suspects that Thomas has received some bad advice and has taken it far too seriously."

Perhaps she got some of that advice from the culture, and the you-go-girl web -- a place where women compete with each other for victim status, and in-your-face femaleness is all the rage. Suggesting someone is mercurial or behaving irresponsibly is denounced as "shaming".

I remember when actresses used to complain the only roles available for women were "nuts and sluts". Now we collectively celebrate that, as we defend perrogatives-without-obligations lifestyles.

Sam L. said...

Well, she IS writing for the PuffHo. Would they buy anything else? I'm guessing "no".

Ares Olympus said...

It does sound much like mental illness of some sort, although many think that's what love is, breaking people open of their boundaries and making them foolish, and whatever survives out the other side will define who we can be. But I don't think I'd recommend parenthood from that stage, unless you want a new generation of kids who will need life long crazy relationships and therapy to relive their childhood chaos.

When I wanted to learn about love in my early 20's I looked to Erich Fromm, and his book 1956 "The art of loving", as well as M. Scott Peck's The Road less traveled.

They're both rather spoil-sports for fun, which for me means I rather like their sober advice, but unsure if I really want to succeed if life is that much work. Standards are good to recognize, even if so you know when you're breaking them.