Part One with this title was posted in 2007,
We've examined the practicalities and plausibilities of the HAPPILY EVER AFTER ending, the HEA, at considerable depth and from many angles.
And here's a post with links to the previous 6 parts getting deep into this subject:
What Does She See In Him -- the key question all Romance writers must keep firmly in mind when crafting the plot:
It remains that half or more of the USA population claims (sometimes bitterly) that they don't believe in Happily Ever After -- and have defaulted to "Happily for Now" - a term I've heard used in TV drama dialogue, it's so common.
It's a philosophy of life, like the irksome and extremely destructive fallacy which we've also discussed, "I'm doing all I can ..."
What's the relationship between these two philosophies? And what has that relationship to do with the growing commonality of the Cheating Woman and the popularity of a book I'll point you to below.
"I'm doing all I can ..." means I don't have to make any actual effort to accomplish anything -- I'm off the hook once I've just done what I already know how to do.
HAPPILY EVER AFTER -- the HEA ending -- requires heroism on the part of both people in the relationship.
Heroism is doing MORE than you can. Heroism is accomplishing the task regardless of your personal limits, regardless of what limits your environment, social custom, work-rules, etc. put on you -- regardless of any external force acting on you.
Once you have given your Word of Honor, you do what you said, regardless.
That's why giving a Word of Honor is an extremely rare and precious occasion.
Saying you will do something and then just not doing it because "I can't" corrodes the strength of your character -- and often has little effect on anyone else.
The Word of Honor is something that has likewise been suppressed in our current culture.
I suspect you could make a case in a well written Romance story for the Word of Honor (Noblesse Oblige, too) being a component of most Religions (or mystical practices). And the discarding of the Word of Honor may be a "baby and the bathwater" situation -- where we have scrubbed religion from public notice, but along with that eradicated all personal Honor.
That's what "I'm doing all I can" actually means -- it is a plea to regard your Honor as unsmirched because you have fulfilled your Word, despite the fact that the task is not accomplished.
If you can't quite grasp this, I recommend you read a few of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's Saint Germain novels.
So Happiness is actually a mental/emotional condition that originates inside your deepest Self where you find you are satisfied with your own performance.
You can't live "Happily Ever After" if inside yourself you find your personal structure disintegrating -- which it will if you don't keep your Word in all things all the time, regardless of whether you can or not.
Note that when you do something you can't do -- it becomes something you can.
It changes you, inside and outside, when you accomplish a task that is beyond you at the moment you start out to do it. So "I'm doing all I can" is a pledge to never change, never grow, never mature, never set a record, never raise the bar for all humanity. That's a Word given -- and if you keep that Word, you will likely never achieve the HEA for yourself.
The "I'm doing all I can" defense is a plea for another person to accept that your inner character is intact -- to try to prove to yourself that it actually is intact when you know for a fact that it is not intact.
Our culture has elevated "appearances" above "truth."
If you induce others to acknowledge that you are blameless, then you can accept that you are.
Only it just does not work that way -- no matter what, we KNOW that coming up short of accomplishing what we've promised to accomplish (or been paid to accomplish in our jobs) is corroding our personal integrity as battery acid corrodes the contacts in a car until the car won't start. The metal of the contacts crumbles, eaten by the acid -- and "doing all I can" then not persisting until the task is accomplished has an acidic byproduct that destroys the character's "contacts" with -- whatever it is that's "out there" and is the source of Love in the universe.
When that contact stops working, the Love energy stops flowing.
So that's the relationship between "Happily Ever After" and "Doing All I Can." In a word: Love.
Now, what has that to do with the cheating spouse? In this case, I'm talking about the plot element The Cheating Wife.
I hope that this article is still available when you are reading this post:
According to the UK Adultery Survey 2012 by undercoverlovers.com, cheating women are more likely to stray as they are seeking emotional fulfillment, an improvement to their self-esteem and romance. When women cheat will depend on how fulfilled they feel in their marriages. But according to the survey, wives who cheat will do so five years into their marriages whereas men will do so seven years in.
After much soul-searching, I finally got to understand what drove me to cheat and why I had stepped into the shoes of cheating women:
The article goes on to point at everything in life except what leaps out at me as the most obvious point.
It's all about "doing all I can" and the loss of the attitude that you don't keep your Word of Honor simply to the point where you CAN keep it -- you just keep it, regardless, no matter what.
Why would anyone torment themselves with misery just to keep their Word of Honor?
Look at the history of miserable marriages -- we've all read those Regency Romances, arranged marriages, marriages to way older men, and we know that legally grounds for Divorce can be phrased as "incompatibility." That just means it's too miserable, I quit.
In other words, marriage is temporary, and you can quit whenever you're not happy or have "done all you can" to make the other person happy.
Read that article, and maybe explore the book it's from -- it does make the point (vividly) that nobody can "make" you happy -- happiness does not come from outside. Nor does misery.
Back then, I bought into the notion that because I wasn't happy, someone else could dish happiness up on a silver platter. As my ex husband was not able to, someone else could surely, right? This of course wasn't true and to this day, it still isn't. In fact, the whole ordeal stressed me out and exposed me to more confusion and unhappiness.
Lesson learned: Being part of the cheating women club, I understand now that running away from myself was not the answer and that I am responsible for my own happiness and fulfillment. My happiness is, under no circumstances, anybody else’s responsibility -- least of all whoever I am in a relationship with.
So this author has articulated the essential fact that the issue is inside the miserable person -- as shown by statistics changing husbands doesn't usually solve the problem in one go. (It's something else when the husband cheats and leaves, that's usually his problem, and if you haven't noticed men are different from women in a couple of ways.)
And much of this ruminating (all of it fodder for novels!) is about finding, isolating, and solving that issue causing the misery, whatever it is.
But if you're looking to write that blockbuster novel or screenplay that just sweeps the nation and gives you immortal fame, you need to find the fallacies upon which this author is basing her thesis.
She sums up the thesis this way:
All of these reasons may sound like excuses, and you know what? Cheating was a selfish act. I will be the first to admit it. I could have chosen not to do what I did, but if I put myself in the shoes of that young girl, at that time, I really felt that cheating was the solution.
But she does not address the source of the "selfishness" -- or why "selfishness" is not a good thing, or what to replace it with. She doesn't even define what selfishness is so that others can examine themselves internally and discover their own selfishness.
She notes that looking back, she can see her younger self was selfish.
How many people do you know who, while in the process of deploying "selfishness" throughout their lives (job, home, kids, fun, volunteering, charity events, social clubs like Masons, church) as a behavior principle actually call their motive "selfish?"
How can you look at your own self (as the Main Character in your novel reveals to the reader their own inner self) -- and identify the "selfish" elements and judge them against an external, fixed, value system to discover how selfish they are? This book does not appear to provide that clue.
Pondering the fallacies in this author's thinking -- fallacies that make her non-fiction and inspirational speaking so popular -- will show you the fallacies within your reader's minds.
Armed with the inventory of fallacies your reader has never questioned, does not want to question, may actively snear at questioning, you can create characters to speak for all these points of view.
Pit conflicting fallacies against each other via characters who have based their self-esteem on such fallacies, and you will have a story. Look at the quotes I've extracted from the article above -- see how they tell a story? They tell a STORY -- but do not constitute a PLOT. You can tell that same story with a dozen different plots and found a writing career that will last a lifetime. Really! There are that many permutations and combinations to these fallacies!
For more on Fallacy as a foundation for theme (which generates both story and plot) see the 6 part series of posts in January 2013 titled Theme-Plot Integration.
The Walk of Shame
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