a picture paints a thousand words

You look at pictures from weddings, honeymoons, new boats, new homes, or new cars, and all you see are beaming smiles and excitement looking back out at you…sometimes you even feel it; the energy, the zip, the rev, it’s all so “up” feeling…and then later, sometimes sooner than you had imagined could be possible, you find out that behind closed doors, in the day-to-days, and over months and months, not in front of a camera, there were few smiles, there were way too many tears, too frequently raised voices or slammed doors, and you come to realize that it was more likely that the negativity sucked the zip and the rev right out of every room these people were in together. Perhaps you come to realize that there was far more anxiety and upset in their real-life than excitement or joy of any sort whatsoever, all from what you assumed from the photographs that you saw. Happiness and contentment implied but not experienced…pictures show us, us on the outside, us the observers, a moment in time, but when we find out what so many moments really were like, for the people in the photographs, there is a jolt, a pang of sadness, a “wish I had known” sort of narrative for us, us on the outside, us the observers. At least that is how it feels for me, when I watch the unraveling of what appeared, on the surface, to be a happy marriage of a couple I once knew…

I believe it is universally acknowledged that half, or more, of all marriages end in divorce; but even KNOWING this, I for one get so excited when people get married. I want to cheer them on, “Yay for you, you are going to take a shot!” knowing, full well, that it might fail, but enthusiastically clap we do!!! Whether it’s months later in the pages of Vanity Fair or on the Today show some future morning, when I hear about famous people splitting up, I do feel a little bit sad…sad that they tried and could not do it; even with all the money and all the good looks ( and all the things we like to think “buys” happiness, but we all full well know they don’t) they still could not keep it together. Famous people in magazines or regular people in the neighborhood, my feelings are the same when a marriage fails, that’s a shame, I wished they could have made it, is pretty much what I think every time, no matter who the couple is.

Sure, when it’s real life people we know, we might get clues over the years that things were not quite as rosy as they often appeared; text messages with mixed messages, overhearing mutterings under breaths at dinner parties or events, and us, us on the outside, us the observers, trying to shrug it off as just bickering, which some couples certainly do…fluctuating estrogen levels married to empty beer cans can lead to bickering, trying to blend multiple children from multiple households can lead to bickering, not having enough money or having too much can lead to bickering…I mean, people try to come together as individuals and make a couple that becomes a unit, and from what I know, see, and hear, there seems to be an exquisite feat of skill sets needed to make that couple unit they’ve joined together, a strong one. Coupling seems simply just so terribly fragile, that it takes some serious efforts to make one that remains stable, or so it seems to us, us on the outside, us the observers.

I read an article earlier in the fall that said, “whether the pandemic caused new problems or amplified old ones, divorce cases have family lawyers and judges busier than ever.” I don’t know if the pandemic had ANYTHING to do with new problems, or old ones, for the people in my neighborhood, but I know that watching what once appeared to be the happiest of couples dissolve into tears and anger and dividing up dressers and tables and frying pans is as sad to watch as any sad movie. My heart hurts when people are hurting, that is simply how I am. I am constantly on a mission to create peace and harmony in my home, and I want the same for the people and the homes around me. It is my opinion that in every circumstance, no matter how you look at it, or whose side you’re on, the husband could always have been a bit of a better husband and the wife could always have been a bit of a better wife. Sure, sometimes one party is a total jerk and is the prime suspect in the dissolving of the marriage, but I think it takes two to make or break a relationship, no matter how new or old it is, which I guess coming from me is quite silly really…me, a woman who is not married, what business have I to comment on any marriage?? But, we all do it…us, us on the outside, us the observers…

What I do know for sure is that I have never once heard my father say an unkind word to my mother, and have never heard him raise his voice to her, not once. I grew up believing that this, more than anything else, has to do with making a marriage work, and us, us on the outside, us the observers, when we see a marriage where there are unkind words and where there are raised voices, well, it just seems like it might be doomed, doesn’t it?? When you know there are better ways to be part of a couple…half of a whole…

We see it on Google news, we see it in People magazine, we see it right in our communities…couples who appear/appeared to have it all, living the good life, traveling to exotic vacation locations, enjoying dinner and having cocktails in upscale eateries, we SEE IT, but we are not living it, and when the reality of what we were seeing becomes known, and the couple parts, we feel a little bit baffled, like “Oh but they seemed so happy!” and whether it’s JLo or your neighbor on the corner, the shock is kind of the same for us, us on the outside, us the observers…bewildering thoughts of “what must have gone wrong” when all we have seen is the photos and the GOOD STUFF…it seems that the pictures painted a thousand words, but few of them were true…

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