September 19, 2015

Can this (fake) marriage be saved? Eurydice writes to a (real!) relationship expert

In Offenbach's loony bizzaro-world version of the story of Orpheus and Euridice, the happy couple is *cough cough* not so happy. They're a typical Parisian married couple of the 1850's; in other words...
Duana Welch, Ph.D.
Dispenser of advice to love-lorn opera characters


...they can't stand each other. They're bored bored BORED,  and they're both carrying on affairs with mistress and boyfriend, respectively. But not respectfully, if you see what I mean.

BUT! Thanks to the character of Public Opinion in this version, that middle-class matron who insists that Orffy and Eury "play it straight", Eurydice just texted me that she's willing to make one last attempt to save her marriage and, thus, her reputation.

So I put her in touch with one of my favorite Facebook friends, Dr. Duana Welch. As one learns on her websiteDuana C. Welch, Ph.D. (pronounced DWAY-nuh) is the relationship advice columnist known for applying social science research to reader questions about a variety of romantic-relationship issues.  Her blog, “LoveScience: Research-based relationship advice for everyone” is a best-seller in the relationship and behavioral science categories at Amazon.com, and is also available free at www.LoveScienceMedia.com.   Duana launched LoveScience in 2009.  She’s also a regular contributor at Psychology Today and eHarmony, where she muses about relationship science.  Duana’s book, Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do, released in January, 2015; it is the first science-based book to take readers from before they meet until they commit to The One. 

Critics have called Love Factually "a must read for all those of us seeking a lasting love", and "a smart, funny page-turner, full of heart and based on the best science."


From time to time I like to ask Duana to weigh in with her expert opinion on the often very complicated love-lives of opera characters, including the fun couples in Aida and Cosi fan tutte. So naturally, when it came to Orffy and Eury, I thought of her.


Eurydice was pretty pumped to find out about Duana! I was just checking my email, and Eury sent me copies of her correspondence with Duana. Here's how Eurydice spelled out her marital problem:



Dear Duana,

I  don't know if you can help me or not, but I loved your book and if anyone can save my marriage it's you. Here's my problem:

Everyone thinks I have the perfect marriage. People actually write poems and songs and plays and stuff about my husband and me, but I'm stressing out because I feel like it's a big lie.

My husband (let's call him "Orffy") is this big-time musician. Everybody is really into his music - they cry and swoon and everything - but he NEVER stops playing that damn violin and it's driving me NUTS. I don't know if it's misophonia or WHAT (I looked that up on WebMD) but the sound of that fiddle is stepping on my last nerve. He saws away on it when he's feeling romantic or whatever, and honestly, I just want to soak it in kerosene and set it on fire and stomp on the ashes. 

My other problem: just down the road lives this shepherd dude. He is, like, the cutest shepherd EVER. When we make eye contact I just get tingly all over and I know it's mutual. Plus, he isn't into music, so it's like we're soul mates.

I want a divorce, but I know "Orffy" will totally freak out and plus all the poets and painters and other artists who think we're such a perfect inspirational couple will go bananas.

What should I do, Duana?

Signed,

Literally in Hades

Duana wrote write back (she's like that, you know, very efficient...) and here's her actual advice to Offenbach's unhappy heroine. Faithful readers, if the magic has gone out of YOUR relationship, you might give some thought to this:


Dear Mrs. Hades,

Being in a bad marriage is a lot like hell: hot, and not in the good way.  Fortunately, research shows that married people are twice as likely as the unwed to describe themselves as happy.  

Unfortunately, there are exceptions, and you're one.  

Before I go on (and on), may I ask: What drew you to Orffy?  Surely his love of his instrument was there when he was courting you.  Perhaps you've grown tired of a tune played too often?

If so, I urge you to avert your eyes from Mr. Shepherd Dude and return them to your melodious mate, for the following reasons:

1) The big lie is that you're living a big lie; what's really happening is that your memory is playing tricks on you. People experience the past in terms of the present.  In one study, almost 400 couples reported themselves very happy as newlyweds, but a mere two years later, only the still-happy could recall that early bliss; the rest mis-recalled that things had always been bad.  

I'm sure it will relieve you to learn there's a scientific term for this: state-dependent memory.   You're unhappy now, so you probably reminisce as if that was always the case, and that makes you think your marriage is doomed to misery~so what's the point?  It's like depressed people who commit suicide because they can't recall ever being happy, so they project into the future that they never will be.  But unless Orffy dragged you away by your unwilling hair, you chose him too; something was hot in the best sense when you started out.  

2) You can get the spark back.  Nearly 90% of couples who contemplate divorce, but stay married, are very happy together within five years.  So there's another big lie exposed: The idea that you're unhappy now, so you always will be, is a whopper.

3) Most people who divorce and/or change partners to get a better life say divorce was tougher than they thought it would be, and the new partner comes with a new set of intractable problems.  Did you know that fully 70% of all couples' problems will never be solved?  Yep.  And that includes all the happy couples.  You don't have to solve your problems to be happy, and you can be happy even in the face (or in this case, ear) of issues with your current mate.  

So not only will Orffy and the general public freak out about your break-up, but odds are that you eventually will, too late.  And I can assure you that the Little Drummer Boy there has his share of crazy-making quirks.  Why give up fame and adoration and your vows for a young hottie with a long staff?  Wait...that was badly said.

Anyway, the bottom line is this: There are times when divorce is appropriate, and they're what I call the Three A's: chronic addiction, adultery, or abuse.  About a third to a half of current divorces meet this standard.  People who divorce over these are indeed better off without their erstwhile spouses.  However, "chronic violin playing" is not on that short list.  

So don't ditch Orffy.  Instead, I recommend getting earplugs, creating an Orffy-free and sound-proof zone in your house, and telling him how sexy he is when he puts his instrument down.  Consciously return to listing the endearing things he does each day, rather than meditating on the one thing you don't like.  Let the man you've already got help you fall back in love with him, so you can revel in all those love songs being composed in your honor.  


Besides, baaaaa-ing gets old, too.  And you can count only so many sheep before the boredom sets in.  

Faithful readers, Eurydice might not be real, but Duana C. Welch, Ph.D., sure is. And if I were you, I'd check out Love Factually at the link above. 

Thanks, Duana!

2 comments:


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