MCN Columnists
Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

Of Romance and Fairy Tales, and Happily Ever After

Published under 1,000 Monkeys.

Do such things as “true love” and “soul mates” actually exist outside the realm of fantasy and fairy tales, or are we just setting ourselves up from childhood with an unrealistic expectations of what our romantic relationships as adults are going to be?

There was a time, back when I was maybe twelve or so, when I thought I had the marriage thing all figured out: Just find the right guy, marry him, have kids together, don’t fight over the small stuff, and work through the bigger stuff together. That’s how it worked in books and movies, after all. And that’s what I wanted, that happily ever after, the relationship with my soul mate that would last forever.

Now, nearly 30 years later, I realize not only how little I knew about what marriage really is, but how much my notions of what relationships entail came from romanticized worldviews gleaned from books and movies. I know now that “you complete me” doesn’t really exist outside of movies; in real life, another person can never complete you or be responsible for your happiness. You have to complete yourself.


Once my marriage started falling apart, I became much more attuned to relationships around me. A few years ago I was having coffee with a friend in an outdoor shopping plaza on a Sunday morning. My friend’s marriage was fraying (it would, in fact, fall apart for good just a couple weeks later), mine was crumbling at the very foundation, and both of us had, perhaps, a slightly jaded view of men and relationships at that time. So take this tale with that hefty grain of salt.

We sat there chatting and sipping our lattes and people watching, and I found myself particularly drawn to young families of the husband-wife-toddler-baby variety. After a while, my friend and I noticed that the men seemed universally emotionally disconnected from the wives and kids — and that the wives seemed completely oblivious to this. The wives were mostly focused on busy, active toddlers and preschoolers, while the dads mostly tagged along and waited for instructions: “Grab Jordan before he falls in the fountain, honey!” or “Would you please hold the baby while I run to the restroom?”

My friend and I noticed that we could actuallly see the dads pulling together the effort to focus, to pay attention to what they were being directed to do, at least for a little while. But for the most part, none of the men seemed to want to be there; in their heads, it seemed, they were off on the 14th green, or sleeping in, or reading the paper, or flirting with the cute new office assistant, or even just paying bills or studying the Bible; wherever they were, it wasn’t in that plaza connecting — really being present in that moment — with their wives and children.

I’d always thought the argument that women were by nature more inclined to nurture young children than men was nothing more than a bullshit excuse perpetrated by men who simply didn’t want to pull their weight in the home. Now I wondered.

Starting around this same time, many friends of ours, friends we had perceived as having good, solid marriages, were getting divorced, seemingly out of the blue. Many of them had marriages as long as my own. And most of the time, when I talked to those friends about the falling apart of their own marriages, I got some variation of this answer: “We just grew apart.”

I’ve come to believe that “we grew apart” as it applies to marriage means a lot of different things. On one level, people do grow and change with each passing year; if we didn’t grow and change, we’d stagnate and life would be very dull. “We grew apart” can also mean that the marriage wasn’t well tended, perhaps that one or both partners grew increasingly unhappy within the marriage, and rather than turning to each other and communicating about those things, they turned inward and brooding — or perhaps turned to someone outside the marriage, and had an affair, or a string of affairs.

Perhaps the biggest single cause of “we grew apart,” though, is ironically the very thing we think will make our marriages even stronger: having children. This isn’t to say I think having kids is bad — quite the contrary. I have five children, four from my most recent marriage, and I wouldn’t trade them for all the Prince Charmings in Happily-Ever-After. But one thing I’ve learned in the past 20+ years of balancing parenting and a relationship is this: We are, on the whole, vastly ill-prepared for the impact having children will have on our relationships.

Here’s what happens, from a woman’s perspective: You have a baby, and it’s great, it’s magical, it’s everything you ever thought it would be. You bond with this child, this tiny being, in a way that totally surprises you. You get immersed in this little creature called “the baby” and everything else — including the partner who helped make that baby — takes a back seat to the immediacy of the needs of this tiny, completely dependent being.

The woman’s partner, however much he may also love the baby, however much he may also be involved in caring for the baby, will feel jealous, and left out. This surprises a lot of men, this idea of feeling jealous of their own child, but nonetheless it’s a very common issue for new parents and I suspect many couples just don’t address it. Maybe the wife isn’t aware or it, or perhaps the husband would feel stupid or petty saying to his wife, that, like Earl, the perpetually needy husband in Waitress, he’s jealous their baby will take away the attention he wants on him.

But the thing is, it’s simply not in our nature to enjoy having the attention that once belonged to us go to someone else, even if that someone else is our own child. Older siblings get jealous of new babies, and so do husbands. If you combine the jealousy factor a new baby brings to a relationship with a (quite possibly) decreased sex life, increased responsibility and fears over financial stability, and add in an emotional connection that has grown stronger between you and your baby as you bond, but also weakened between you and your partner as your energy and attention goes to baby and not him, what you have is a recipe for a marriage to start cracking at the foundation.

It may take years for those first cracks to really impact a marriage, but if they’re not dealt with, over time those tiny cracks will grow into bigger cracks that eventually lead to “we just grew apart” when friends ask what the hell happened to this great couple they thought had it all together.

Which brings me to the question of the day: What’s the point of marriage? Is it really for two people to be happily monogamous and entertwine their lives forever and ever, amen? Or is it primarily just to bring two people together long enough to procreate, to extend the human race, and then after that it’s a crap shoot whether you stay together or not? I don’t know.

I do know this much: My husband and I both tried very hard to keep our marriage together while raising four children, and much as we both wanted to make it work, we just couldn’t — or at least, we didn’t. We, like so many of our friends, “just grew apart.”

The vision I started out with of finding that soul mate, that romantic ideal, faded away like so much smoke and mirrors, and maybe it does only exist in books and movies. But maybe, just maybe, somewhere inside I haven’t quite given up on the idea of finding it. Maybe there’s still a happily ever after, somewhere up ahead around a bend.

– Kim Voynar
January 25, 2010

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon