Scientific Evidence For Happily Ever After
Previous parts of Theme-Worldbuilding Integration are indexed here:
We have discussed, under Theme-Symbolism Integration, why it is that we cry at weddings.
That entry has links to the two previous parts of that series on symbolism.
There is, at such turning points, a moment when our view of Life, The Universe, And Everything cracks open and a shaft of metaphorical "light" from beyond shifts the light-shadow pattern we think is reality. We see potential futures and yearn either not to see such hopeful views or to live with that vision constantly.
Each person, at a wedding or other turning point in life -- birth of a baby, death of a grandparent, college graduation -- reacts differently to the vistas of potential open before them.
And even one given individual may react to the same kind of Event (wedding, birth, graduation, funeral) differently at different times in life. Individuals change in response to experiences.
There is a commercial for a memory-enhancing product that declares, categorically, that YOU ARE YOUR MEMORIES.
Personally, I do not see that as true in any way. You are YOU before you've had any experiences, and you are the same person after you've forgotten about a particular event, but chosen to cherish and memorialize other Events. A lot of what you remember is consciously selected, but most of it is not.
Take post-traumatic-stress disorder, for example, much in the news with our discussion of war and allowing returning soldiers to purchase firearms -- and other attempts at crafting a "filter" to determine who is (or is not) allowed to carry (concealed or otherwise.)
In post-traumatic-stress disorder, often a memory recirculates with the impact of reliving an event over and over. This produces all sorts of nervous system malfunctions -- depression, anxiety, etc. etc. This sometimes occurs in the bystanders, parents, spouses, and co-workers of those people killed at a mass shooting or some sort of Terrorist driven Event. The impact of losing a child to random violence can produce the same recurring flood of memory/emotion as being in an army combat unit overwhelmed by enemies.
Does that memory make you "who you are?" Can you ever go back to who you were before that Event disrupted your nervous system?
Are you just your physical nervous system and physiical brain?
Or are "you" a physical body plus something else?
Yes, of course, your Identity (that makes you distinct from all other humans) is entwined with the things you do, the consequences that splash back on you, the actions and reactions of Others, and all the "accidents" that intrude into your life.
We ordinarily think of our "self" as a blended combination of all that, plus profession, current job, who you're married to or live with or have as an "Ex" whose presence in your life disrupts your plans and constrains your freedom.
What you think a "Self" is -- where it comes from and why it exists, how it is shaped or crafted by Events -- influences whether you consider a Happily Ever After condition possible (for you, or for anyone).
The concept "Soul Mate" is all tied up with that theory of Identity.
Pick a theory of Identity for your "World" that you are "Building" to cradle and showcase your "Story" and you narrow the range of options for each subsequent choice you make as you build the world around your story.
A primary question relevant to whether your story ends in Happily Ever After or Happily For Now, or misery-forever, is "What Makes People Different From Each Other?"
Or perhaps your world is built on the most common assumption extant today, that humans actually are all alike, and the differences just blemishes to be polished off so a society can function smoothly, like a machine.
Over centuries, different theories have been experimented with about how a society should handle sexuality. There's "males have all the rights" cave man style. There's "smart women seduce the strongest male" so offspring will be fed and protected. There's "women own everything and rule men" matriarchy arrangements we have seen described among African tribes. These variatiions have more to do with survival than with happiness.
Happiness is an add-on item.
One theory is that power makes humans happy, and only one person can have all the power so only one can be happy. Usually, our novels, stories, and cautionary tales describe how miserable someonoe with "all the power" is bound to be.
Is happiness caused by oppressing everyone and making them serve you? (the harem theory).
Is "stability" (the same thing your grandparents had) the ideal model for "happiness?"
Younger people crave "novelty" for its own sake, but is endless novelty the key to happiness?
These are THEME questions -- answer them and further narrow the options for more of your world's dimensions.
Keep in mind how subjective our view of the world actually is.
Each of your Characters can live in a world where the answers to those questions of Identity and the nature of Happiness are different from all the others. This is the best way to generate Conflict any reader can understand both internal and external conflicts -- thus also plots.
Many great Romance novels have been constructed around the "arranged marriage" -- either via resisting the arrangement or reluctantly going along with it, then falling in love with the Other Party despite one's better sense.
Today's world scorns societies that rely on "arranged marriage" -- often viewing such things as misogenistic since it is the woman who usually is bartered like a possession.
But maybe there's more to be said for the "arranged marriage" -- perhaps we have just lost the technique for matching couples? Online Dating services operate as (or cast the allure of) Marriage Brokers.
There has been some success (also spectacular failures) with using math and science to match people in marriage. New research that has serfaced at time.com in June (of course) of 2016 indicates that an arranged marriage between two who expect to work hard at changing themselves (rather than changing the Other) actually does lead to "Happily Ever After."
One of the key ingredients in making Marriage 'work' happily, the article points out, is how we choose to edit our memories and cherish certain aspects of Events over others.
Or possibly, these choices are made subconsciously and are a product of inherent traits of Personality -- you can choose which to include in the world you are building to write your story.
This article is well worth reading in its entirety.
Here is the summary from near the end and there's more after this bit. Read this whole article, and the book it is about!
Here’s what Jonah had to say about how to make a relationship last:
Similarity doesn’t matter: Matching music playlists don’t predict happy marriages. Sorry. Focus on emotions.
Arguing is good: Negative communication beats no communication every time.
Know it’s going to take work: The healthy way to get to “Romeo and Juliet” is to think “arranged marriage.”
Have grit: Devotion. Loyalty. That’s grit. And it predicts success at the office and at home.
“Glorify the struggle”: It’s all about the story you tell. Did the conflict lead to a happy ending? Hint: it better.
Love is a challenge. But life is a greater challenge. We’d like a sure-thing that guarantees happiness and takes away all the pain. But that’s fiction.
If you’ll excuse a superhero analogy, you need to stop trying to be Superman. He’s invulnerable. But nobody is invulnerable. Bad things happen to all of us. We cannot avoid pain.
You’d be better off trying to be Wolverine. He isn’t invulnerable. But he can recover from almost any injury. You can’t live a life free from conflict but you can learn to cope with the hard times until the good times return.
And what helps you cope with the problems of life better than anything? And makes you successful and happy? “Our closest relationships determine how we respond to the toughest times in life.” Here’s Jonah:
The article discusses a book titled A BOOK ABOUT LOVE and has some video clips of the author of that book.
The description of this book on Amazon says:
Weaving together scientific studies from clinical psychologists, longitudinal studies of health and happiness, historical accounts and literary depictions, child-rearing manuals, and the language of online dating sites, Jonah Lehrer’s A Book About Love plumbs the most mysterious, most formative, most important impulse governing our lives.
And is particularly skeptical of "online dating" sites -- which make great plot-points but perhaps in "life" have not yet perfected an "algorithm." In science fiction romance novels, you can simply postulate that some new genius hacker had naiiled that algorithm and is running a dating site that really matches soul-mates.
As of June, 2016, that would be science fiction romance -- arranged marriage using a science that is too absurd to exist, or perhaps is just dreamed of. Lots of plots can be turned on the idea that an imaginary online dating site is defrauding subscribers.
How "science" is regarded in your built world will determine a lot of the plot and conflict, but the decision is a THEMATIC one. Is "science" infallible? Is a "science denier" certifiably crazy and not qualified to buy a gun? Is "science" always wrong? Or is the pursuit of real scientific answers to "personality" and "life choices" blasphemy?
Perhaps in your world, Online Dating Site Fraud has become a political issue in a major Governor or Presidential campaign? Government must control the internet and scrub out all false and fraudulent information -- make sure the wrong people don't get hold of the ability to, say, "3-D Print" an AR-15.
Guns and Romance mix very well, as we've seen in the film FACE OFF.