One of the major minefields every marriage tap dances through must be conflict resolution. If your conflicts are in any way like ours, the heavy artillery barely gets a chance to accumulate a thin layer of restful dust before it is called out into the battlefield again, all guns blazing. For most part though, in marriages, there is conflict and there is resolution, and the twain often don’t go together. More often than not, they aren’t even on talking terms with each other, and would make for very bad dinner guests if seated together, given that they wouldn’t give each other the time of day.
Of course, there are the regular garden variety marital conflicts that are generally peppered through the average marriage like a hearty sprinkling of salt over the daily grind, adding added flavour and pep with a good hearty resolution (I’m not even mentioning make up sex here, okay) that is integral to the functioning of a healthy coupledom. Toilet seats wars, wet towel on bed battles, remote control arm wrestling bouts, spats on vacation after one has circumnavigated the earth just because the male chromosome does not allow for the asking for directions, these are all par for the course. There is no perfect marriage. Except, perhaps on social media.
Social media is where the perfect marriage resides, with passport and domicile certificate. Shiny, happy, loving. Some status updates so sugary they could inflict stage 2 diabetes on the unwary reader. Pictures so adoring of each other that Hollywood could take correspondence courses for the next romance they put out
Sadly though, marriages on social media are just that. Relegated to walls and statuses. Real life is often antipodal to what is on display. A few weeks ago, a perfect social media family in Colorado, USA, had the wife and two daughters go missing. The wife was a social media influencer, who posted pictures and videos of their everyday life, often about how loving and caring the marriage was, and these received likes and views that went into eight digits.
The husband was arrested some days later for the murder of the wife and his two daughters. The wife was 15 weeks pregnant with their third child at the time of the murder. The marriage, it would seem was on the brink of a separation. It was an argument about getting separated that triggered off the fatal violence. What was all the more shocking was that this was a marriage that to all purposes appeared perfect on social media. Some of their videos had millions of likes. People around the world followed their posts and revelled in the sanitised version of an ideal, loving marriage that they put out there. To quote from a news report, friends said, “They were always hugging or holding hands or kissing. They had the perfect family.”
The lives put out for public consumption, and the reality of the lived marriage is often poles apart. Social media is often not the reality, the happy shiny pictures more often than not the camouflage for marriages so broken down and torn apart that nothing but separation or divorce could redeem them. In some cases, as horrific as this one, death.
The gold standard social media couples are part of most of our friend lists. They seem to have it all, the loving spouse, the immaculate home, the perfectly spiffy and well behaved adorable little kids, the picturesque vacations and are all that our own fading around the edges coupledom is not. There are no messy mornings, no dog breath, no fights that have the cutlery in the sideboard rattle and the plaster fall off the ceiling, there are no moments of absolute despair. Social media is a sanitised, filtered version of the life we want others to think we have. It is a foreign country that one enters and exits in intervals while living out one’s despair in the grime of the not photographed every days.
A marriage in distress is the social pariah of social media. You never see it. You would never guess it lurking, like a slobbering monster, growling behind the loving posts and photographs that go up on walls. The stuff that makes up the nuts and bolts of the marriage, behind closed doors, when all social media windows are shut. Then there are the pioneers, who go against the grain. Keith Hinson, a 37-year-old resident of Orlando, Florida, posted the first of what became a sort of mini-meme: the divorce selfie. But his was a radical gesture, one that does not see much of a following in a space where any flaws in paradise are not to be put forth to the world to consume and comment upon.
Perhaps social media would change radically if one did so. Perhaps those who talk about the not so perfect marriages would encourage others not to compare theirs with an illusionary yardstick. Perhaps that would give everyone courage and hope that every marriage struggles with its own issues, and most make it through. Some don’t. And that picture perfect fairy tale marriages are creatures of myth. Because, of course, reality is no fairy tale. And after the happily ever after is an ever after that no one talks about.