'You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married)' Says Author Dana Adam Shapiro
Everyone questions marriage. Behind the fantasy are statistics we all know: roughly one in two American marriages will end in divorce. And that's hardly changed since the 70s. The concept behind it all is as universal as it is difficult to pin down: true love. And that's just where author Dana Adam Shapiro began when writing his latest book, "You Can Be Right (or You Can Be Married): Looking for Love in the Age of Divorce." Certainly bucks the "Mommy porn" trend...
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Shapiro wanted to answer the question: "Why does love die?"
"... I made a list of all the people I knew under forty who had gotten divorced," says Shapiro in the book, "I came up with fourteen names. It was a little early for the seven-year itch: What the f--k were all these people thinking? I wanted to peek through keyholes, rummage through medicine cabinets, read through deleted e-mails - anything to find out what really goes on behind closed doors. The word 'autopsy' comes from autopsia, ancient Greek for 'to see for oneself.' To that end, I set out in search of corpses. I was looking for evidence, for proof"
Shapiro has plied many trades over the years. He's written for Spin, Icon, and The New York Times Magazine, and received a Best Director Oscar nomination for his 2006 documentary film, "Murderball." Aside from having no professional experience as a husband or therapist, he admits the entire concept of divorce is foreign to his upbringing.
"I'm not a child of divorce. My parents are still very much together and they very much want a grandchild to bear their name," says Shapiro. "In fact, there isn't a single divorce in my family (which isn't to say that there shouldn't have been). For better or worse, my only sister, both sets of grandparents, both sets of great-grandparents - everybody got married and stayed that way. If that makes it sound like a predicament I suppose that's because I've often viewed it as such."
To hone in on an answer to his query, Shapiro interviewed dozens of anonymous couples who offered candid accounts of their troubles.
"It's dizzying. We're connected 24/7 but eternally noncommittal, ever present and therefore never present, spending real time following fake friends whom we never, ever speak to and who wouldn't come to our funerals if they lived next to the cemetery. Meanwhile, we speak in euphemisms ('benefits'), emote with emoticons (blush), and we insist on making ''til death' decisions based on something as oxymoronic as true love. What's the matter with us?"
"What keeps us sitting on a bar stool with eternal optimism and wearing hookup underwear on blind dates? If we can't even walk and talk straight during the courtship phase, then how are we supposed to bring out the best in each other over a lifetime? How are we supposed to deal with meddling in-laws, underachieving toddlers, and months - maybe even years - without making out?"
What did Shapiro take away from it all?
1. Cheating happens because of complacency: "[Divorce happens when] people aren't putting that effort in any more," Shapiro observes. "That's probably the worst thing you can do. You really do just have to re-earn it all the time."
2. We often expect problems to solve themselves: "One woman said to me, 'A man marries a woman hoping that she won't change and a woman marries a man hoping he will change and he doesn't,'" Shapiro says. "We bury a lot of the problems in the hopes that they'll just get better."
3. There is such a thing as compromising too much: "I think a lot of people try to be the ideal spouse, but sometimes it's at their own expense," he adds. "You wake up 10 years later thinking, 'I'm not me anymore.'"
"You Can Be Right or You Can Be Married" is out now.