Whether it’s for real or not, it’s nice to see the media depict a passionate marriage and an ‘older’ woman (57!) being sexy and adored as Bazaar Magazine does in its photo spread of Sting and Trudie Styler.
Sting and Trudie have been married for 18 years and together for thirty; have 6 kids, and, apparently, they still have sex!
I don’t take her for granted.” How so? “Well,” he pauses, while Styler pops on his Lanvin fedora, “I could lose her. He’d have to be very rich and very handsome, but…”
In the book Can Love Last? The Fate of Romance Over Time, Stephen Mitchell argues that, contrary to popular belief, romance in long-term relationships doesn’t fade on its own. Rather, people put a lot of effort into forcing it away because as partners become ever more dependent on each other, lusting for that person is too unstable and scary.
I was happy to come across Mitchell’s book, because I always felt like marriage was not about security but insecurity. It seemed far safer to me to be single and be with many people than choose one person who I felt strongly about. Putting all your eggs in one basket, as they say, is a vulnerable position for anyone; I never understood marriage’s reputation as the opposite. No matter what the paper that you sign on your oh-so-special day says, we’re all human. You’re making promises to each other when you have no idea how you’ll change or how he will and all you can do is try your best to uphold them.
Mitchell says humans often deal with this almost intolerable level of risk and insecurity by splitting up relationships into a dangerous, lusty one and a stable, dependable one, thus the popularity of the virgin-whore dynamic or women falling for the ‘bad boy’ but marrying the one they can ‘count on.’
Mitchell argues that affairs and pornography are actually the safest, most low risk behavior people can engage in– as far as the human psyche. His theory is that the ‘rose-colored glasses’ phase is not an illusion at all, but one facet of a partner. But the disappointments, coming down and going up repeatedly, are so painful people try to avoid them by transforming their lovers into something less ‘valuable,’ someone entirely ‘known’ by criticism or not feeling sexual or pigeonholing them into fixed identities.
Mitchell says you can’t really help yourself from trying to transform your long-term partner into something you think you can count on. That’s human. Passionate, long-lasting relationships require the high risk of allowing yourself to go from infatuation to disappointment repeatedly, for a lifetime.
Mitchell paraphrases Nietzsche:
We can attribute to ourselves and our productions an illusory permanence, like a deluded builder of sandcastles who believes his creation is eternal. Or, alternatively, we can be defeated by our transience, unable to build, paralyzed as we wait for the tide to come in. Nietzsche envisions the man or woman living life to the fullest, as one who builds sandcastles passionately, all the time aware of the incoming tide. The ephemeral, illusory nature of all form does not detract from the surrender of passion of the work; it enhances and enriches it.
So there you have it, Sting and Nietzsche in one blog post. But I think S. would like it, being a famous fan of Nabokov and all.