Friday, September 17, 2010

On Relationships...

(obviously not my grandparents, but it's a soldier & nurse in post-WWII America just like them...and they knew each other about as well as my grandparents did...)

My grandparents’ courtship is documented. They met, exchanged letters for a little under a year, and only saw each other in person again on their wedding day. Sounds romantic--love at first sight and all, right? Well, it would’ve been romantic if they’d had a happy marriage. My reading of these letters is marred by the fact that I know how the story ends. I know he drank and had a horrible temper, and they bickered and argued endlessly, and nearly split up on more than one occasion.

Why did this happen? Why didn’t this romantic courtship lead to a “happily ever after”? Because they didn’t know each other. I found some real shockers in these letters, the most ridiculous of which was in March 1950 (a month after the engagement ring came in the mail), when it occurred to my grandpa that he didn’t know how old his fiancĂ©e was. It went something like “I guess I was too busy being in love with you to ask. How old are you, anyway?” Very sweet, but very, very stupid. So, the moral of that story: don’t bind yourself for life to somebody you don’t know.

A second moral, which may be a bit controversial, is to cut your losses. If you “almost” get divorced, then there is something deeply wrong with your marriage. And if your split “almost” happens again, then you clearly haven’t resolved whatever these problems are. It might not be something you can resolve. Or maybe you don’t even care enough to try to solve it. If so, then please just cut your losses. Making it to your 50th Anniversary isn’t worth putting up with 50 years of crap.

A third point, which may need to be an entry all of its own, is that you should shop around. My grandma seems to have been caught up in “The Bridal Wave”. She was 28, still living at home. Next door, her sister, just a couple of years older, had been married and already had 3 kids by the time Lenore got engaged. I only have Mason’s side of the letters, but he comments on her mentions of various friends’ weddings. Everybody she knew was getting married, and Lenore wasn’t even dating anybody. She was quickly becoming “an old maid”, “spinster aunt”, etc. So when this soldier showed some interest, she snagged him. (For his part, it seems Mason had more dating experience…but at 26, he was still a bit old to be unmarried. More than once, he mentions the better "quality of life" that married soldiers have, and seems to really envy them.) Given her limited experience with men, it’s understandable that she wouldn’t know the red flags to watch for—his rush to use the L-word, his jealous & possessive tendencies, the fact he doesn’t know how old she is, etc. So, the moral of this—don’t rush, and watch out for red flags.

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