I’m the first to admit to being an armchair conspiracy theorist (The CIA killed Tupac!), but I’m also a chronic idealist (Beyonce’s baby bump is real!). So pop a couple grains of salt and hear me out: the marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries was arranged by E!, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they weren’t in love. Or something that seemed a lot like it at least.
In Kardashian’s vague, meandering message to her fans last week, she managed to make at least one clear point. “I felt like I was on a fast roller coaster and couldn’t get off when now I know I probably should have. I got [so] caught up with the hoopla and the filming of the TV show that when I probably should have ended my relationship, I didn’t know how to and didn’t want to disappoint a lot of people.”
Though it’s not easy to sympathize with an already rich woman who allows a camera crew into her home in order to make herself even richer, her above statement hints at something that I think many of us can relate to: public perception does affect the decisions we make in our own love lives.
Let’s say your friends don’t like the person you’re dating. Even if you’re a strong-willed, champion communicator, your friends’ opinion will strain your relationship, in one way or another. Some of us are better at dealing with this kind of stress than others, but the stress is there.
Now let’s say it’s the opposite.
I was once in a new relationship that seemed meant to be. People I barely knew went out of their way to tell us how perfect we were together. The whole world seemed to sigh a collective “awwww,” whenever the two of us walked down the street. This widespread approval of our new relationship was like a drug and I wanted more of it. If my experience was, say, the equivalent of taking a bong hit, I can only imagine that what Kim Kardashian was feeling was like shooting heroin into your eyeball when you’re already on ecstasy.
In my “famous” relationship, we jumped in faster than we should have and it ended soon after. There were of course, a myriad of other factors influencing our decisions, but the experience taught me this: New Relationship Glow + Constant Public Affirmation = Believing the Fairytale. Happily ever after, while it can exist, is usually the result of taking the time to be sure about your partner and developing (and using) communication skills as a couple. The fairy tale ending is rarely ever the product of a commitment made at fever pitch.
In spite of this, the public continues to encourage hopeless romantics and poo-poo more prudent paramours. A recent post on YourTango called for certain publicly ambiguous celebrity couples to bite the bullet and reveal their relationship status to the world at large. It’s as if we’re a nation of overbearing mothers, nagging celebrity couples to settle down already. “Make up your mind — are you together or not?” We seem to be hungry for clearly defined relationships — it doesn’t matter if we really believe they’ll last or not. Whether we’re accusing a politician who changes his or her mind of being “wishy washy” or expressing our frustration that Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds have not explained what they’re doing together in Boston if they’re not “officially dating,” we tend to frown upon ambiguity, as a rule.
Kim Kardashian made money off of her wedding, no matter what she says, and it was a lot more than the 200,000 dollars she’s donating to charity to make up for the wedding gifts. I believe that E! was, without a doubt, pulling the strings (and cackling maniacally) when Kris met Kim. However, I’m also willing to give Kim the benefit of the doubt that she married for (what she thought at the time was) love. Not because I have much faith in the word of a woman who purposefully leaked her own sex tape (Oh yeah? Then why was she wearing a bra the whole time? Who does that?), but because I believe that people often get caught up in a combination of attraction, positive attention and social pressure to commit that feels like “love” as many of us have come to accept it — less of a surprising and beautiful occurrence that inspires us to greatness and more of a collective sigh of relief from a world that can be so afraid that true love doesn’t actually exist, that we’ll applaud a reasonable facsimile.
Did Kim Kardashian “follow her heart” into marriage? Is she now, as she claims, “following her heart,” into divorce? Only she can know. But I think, if we’re honest, we can admit that the paths our hearts would take us down are often complicated by our own expectations and those of others around us.
Especially if we make a habit of (or millions and millions of dollars from) relying on the opinions of strangers.