‘You have always been careless with your possessions. Lost more wallets, sunglasses, and jackets than I can remember. An endearing lack of concern about material things. But now you seem to have mislaid us. Such bad timing. Didn’t you notice I was already losing it?’ (Descent by Sabrina Broadbent, p. 303-4)
Today’s society is fast-paced and consumer based. We expect instant gratification. Technology changes quickly, and so we are always replacing our things (phones, computers, etc.) with newer, better, more attractive models. Television and other media are about excitement. Gone are the days of slow-paced sustained entertainment. This is the MTV generation. We want snippets of satisfaction. We make celebrities of the young and rich and beautiful. It is commonplace for middle-aged men to have affairs with women young enough to be their daughters.
Think about it. Our world doesn’t advertise staying in love. It advertises falling in love. Most movies end when the couple hooks up. Songs are either about first falling in love or breaking up. The bit in-between, the sustained relationship, seems to have become optional.
It is little wonder, then, that one in every three marriages ends in divorce (this is true in both the US and UK; rates very in other countries, but are increasing world-wide). We don’t want happily ever after. We want the rush of beginnings and the drama of break-ups.
Author Sabrina Broadbent explores this modern phenomenon in her impressive first novel Descent. The book is Genevieve’s narrative to her husband.. The heartbreaking part of the novel is not when her husband cheats on her or when her life loses the lustre of excitement that her pre-parenthood London existence had. The tragedy is their lack of communication. Yet her story does not read like an accusation, but more like a journal. She will never tell him all of these things. He would never listen even if she tried. It is personal, honest, and straightforward. It avoids melodrama. It forces us to question ourselves. How well do we know the people who should be closest to us? How many relationships keep going out of habit or convenience rather than more fundamental reasons?
You don’t need to read a book to know this is happening. How many people do you know who have been divorced? How many of your friends have given up hope on ‘the real thing’ and instead settle for relationships that are ‘right for right now’?
What do we want? Do we want a life of chronic romances, full of the excitement of first-dates and first-kisses, but also lonely? Or do we want the deeper love that grows over time as we share experiences and dreams with each other?
If we learn from this book and the chilling statistics, we will communicate better with our partners. We will be attracted to each other, complete with love handles and gray hairs, rather than trading our spouses in for newer, younger models. We will value love more than lust, and constancy more than excitement.
Can love survive marriage and daily life? That depends on what you want.