Let me be clear: Courteney Cox and David Arquette owe me - and my generation - absolutely nothing. They are simply two grown adults, living their lives, working on their marriage, and as of late, calling it quits over issues that I, a random bystander and gossip reader, realistically know nothing about. When did their relationship start breaking down? How does the barmaid fit into all of this? Truth be told, it's really none of my business.
That said, indulge me. I need to take a moment to mourn the passing of yet another famous couple who had previously given little ol' me a bit of hope in the love department. Why did it have to end? They seemed so stable! And happy! And compatible! What a bummer. For us Millennials, especially.
Of course, Courteney and David signed up to be actors - not role models. It's my fault for watching cable reruns of Scream and letting myself be charmed, each and every time, by their surprising on-screen/off-screen romance. I blame myself for taking a particular liking to them as a couple: the pretty woman who wasn't afraid to make fun of herself (starring in a show called Cougar Town, anyone?), and the quirky guy who wasn't quite as attractive but undoubtedly brought a lot of fun and spontaneity to their time together. They never asked me to be invested in them as a duo. So, this was my mistake.
But as part of a generation that was raised amidst an approximate 50% divorce rate, and that spent way too much time being carpooled between two Christmases and wondering whether it was going to be Mom or Dad picking them up from the soccer game this week, I can't help but be disappointed by the news that another relationship with role model potential has bitten the dust. Especially one that seemed - maybe thanks to a smart PR campaign, or maybe thanks to a generally healthy and respectful connection - to be solid and long-lasting (11 years is basically the equivalent of a golden anniversary these days). At least their marriage seemed stronger than so many of the other Hollywood romances that are thrown at us unfamous folk.
I, personally, am in the middle of a nationwide tour for the book portion of my multimedia project, WTF Is Up With My Love Life?! And as I've begun interviewing young men and women around the country, I've found - and this should shock no one - that we are all deeply affected by the relationships that surround us.
For many, this influence comes in the traditional form of parental relationships. True to the statistical claims, about half of my interviewees were raised by parents who have been married for 20, 30, 40 years. And during my interviews, the coupled-up offspring of those marriages tend to laugh and roll their eyes as they describe the many ways in which their current relationships mirror their parents'. "I never thought I would turn into my parents, but...!" is a common sentiment. And on the other hand, the single interviewees with still-married parents are often single because they have not yet found what their parents had. Either way, our parents' relationships seem to play a key role in our individual decisions about the kind of spouse and marital lifestyle we are seeking.
The interviewees who have divorced parents, or parents who were never married? Their situation is in no way tragic - many of them are committed to building different types of relationships than those that failed their parents. But their road to marital bliss, at least from a modeling perspective, is a bit harder going. Some have been completely turned off to the concept of marriage and lifelong monogamy, while others are unsure but deeply hesitant after seeing how much hard work a relationship can entail. A few of them seem to be floating aimlessly in the sea of potential romantic needs and wants and possibilities, frustrated by the relationship patterns that they see themselves repeating but unaware of how to break them.
Yet on the bright side, many of them have sought out other relationship role models to balance out the harsh lessons from their split parents. These role models are usually closer to them than, say, Courteney and David. But every relationship they see - that we all see - has a small but existing impact.
Committing to a lifetime of monogamy with anyone, even our most perfect of soulmates, can be tough - especially for a self-aware generation that is so used to splitting when something isn't to our liking. We don't love our job...we find another one. We don't like where we live...we pack up our car and move to another city. We're not impressed with the institutions and industries that already exist...we create new ones. But how will this willingness to change course and leave behind undesirable situations play out in the arena of commitment, marriage and monogamy? If monogamy is in fact the goal, and something that we still aspire to - then are we Millennials going to be able to do it?
We need role models who will show us how to stick things out when the going gets tough. In addition to the relationships that we observe in our own lives, we can't help but also look at those in the media to see if they're making it through the difficult, or just plain boring, times. So it comes as a disappointment when the couples who have always seemed pretty great to us - Courteney and David, Susan and Tim, Kate and Sam, Al and Tipper - don't make it as far as we'd hoped.
Therefore, the questions remain. Will we succeed in finding role models who inspire us to work towards lives that are filled with monogamy and commitment and partnership? And even if we do succeed, will we then have enough discipline and perspective to stay together even when we're grayer and saggier, despite our tendencies toward change and innovation and self-fulfillment? Or should lifelong monogamy not even be a goal for our generation - since the evidence that it can work continues to dwindle?
I guess we'll just have to see. But in the meantime, let's all cross our fingers for Goldie and Kurt.
For more on love in the post-dating world, check out www.WTFIsUpWithMyLoveLife.com.