Isn’t it rather ironic that we all live in the same world, but we’re not really a part of each other’s worlds? We all have different backgrounds—race, religion, hobbies, values.
My absolute favorite conflict in love stories: the classic “I can’t be with you because we’re from different worlds.” Think about it. It’s in so many fairy tales. The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast. It’s the center of some of the best novels. Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights. The good girl who falls in love with the boy on the other side of the tracks. The stable boy and the wealthy landowner’s lovely daughter.
At the heart of this conflict is the fact that society seems to expect like to be with like. Societal norms dictate certain conventions that if not followed will earn one strange glances.
It’s not only prevalent in the Western world, but in all parts of the globe. I’ve watched enough of my mom’s Chinese palace dramas to know that fact. Heck, it’s in practically every Korean drama.
So let’s fast forward to modern day. I live in So. Cal. It’s a melting pot of classes, races, educational backgrounds. And you’ll laugh at me for this one…heights.
We’re supposedly more tolerant of our differences. But this conflict of expecting like with like…I don’t think it’s disappeared, do you? I guess the whole class system isn’t as big now as it was in the past. However, just think for example, if a woman with a PhD in genetic engineering married her car mechanic, do you think she’d get a few stares, like what the hell are you thinking? Do you think her parents would question her judgment?
And true, I see lots of interracial couples walking down the street. But that doesn’t stop some people from staring at them. From wondering why that Caucasian girl is with that Asian dude when she’s such a pretty blonde, and he’s not Hollywood’s version of drop-dead gorgeous.
As for height…if you saw a 5’10” woman with a 5’4” guy, would you wonder, why is that tall girl with that short guy? Would you in your mind just think, that’s weird…what an odd couple? (My best friend married a man who is shorter than her, but who the hell cares, since he’s kind? But apparently, someone thought she was his mom) I had another friend who said she gave up high heels so that she wouldn’t be taller than her then boyfriend, now husband.
Or even when it isn’t about romance, but mere friendships. Why hang out with people who are so different from you? Why is your best friend someone who doesn’t share your beliefs? Hanging questions that I can feel directed at me by certain people, though they put it in more “polite” terms. But this is a topic for another time.
Back to the conflict at hand. I can’t say that in the end, love will overcome all those differences when it comes to reality. Compatibility is very important when finding your lifetime partner.
While I’m sure there are differences that a couple can compromise in order to be together, there are some that cannot be overlooked, especially when they involve morals, personal beliefs, religion. If you believe in something, but your partner believes the opposite, you will butt heads. It’s inevitable.
It’s one of those things that is pretty much impossible to overlook, as much as I wish it could because I’m personally struggling with this one.
Like I said in my previous post, conflict arises in a love story, when the hero and heroine have conflicting goals.
Jane and Mr. Rochester come to mind. She had to leave him in order to stop herself from compromising her morals. But in the end, everything was made right when his first wife died, and he was sorry for what he did. Only then were the two of them finally able to have their happy ending.
Here’s where the fairy tales and romance novels end: the happy ever after. But that’s where real life just begins.
I wish real life worked like the stories I read. I really do. I’m sure some people have taken the chance to overcome their differences and succeeded in doing so.
If I were to take that chance, people would be against it. People would judge me. Declare that I’m wrong. But most of all, I would fear that they were right. What if I made the wrong choice, screwed things up forever, messed up my life and someone else’s life? Would I hate myself?
That’s the thing about stories. I like writing them because I can control what happens. I can give my characters their happy ending.
I can’t guarantee that for myself.
Anyway, that’s my real life example. And I suppose this is why the conflict of being in different worlds appeals so much to me. I love reading about how love can overcome the boundaries of social class, societal norms, and almost any other difference out there.
Is it possible to push aside differences and have that happy ending? If the woman has a higher paying job and is more educated than her husband, would the man not feel insecure about that? Would they be able to overcome the conflict that arises? If the man’s parents object to his girlfriend’s racial background, would he be able to defend her against their attacks? If a woman’s family were to object to her boyfriend because he didn’t have a very high income, would she eventually listen to them and break up with him?
Some of these stories might end up with happy endings, some with tragic ones. But just how important is it for one’s family to approve of a relationship? How important are external voices in influencing one’s decisions in choosing a mate?
That is another conflict for another day.