Why doesn't love last forever? What advice can Somerset Maugham give Jennifer Aniston?

February 20, 2018
Why doesn't love last forever?  What advice can Somerset Maugham give Jennifer Aniston?
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Dear Erica,

What do you think about Jennifer Aniston’s breakup with Justin Theroux?  Why can’t she get a happily ever after?

Saddened in San Francisco

Dear Saddened in San Francisco,

Jennifer Aniston’s series of romantic breakups, from her marriage to Brad Pitt to her short-lived romances with John Mayer and Vince Vaughn followed by the end of her recent marriage to Justin Theroux begs the question: where is her happily ever after?  Is she destined to be alone?  In considering Jennifer Aniston’s situation, I am not going to suggest that it is because she is fickle, works in the superficial world of Hollywood, or chooses the wrong men. All are possibilities mind you, but I am giving her the benefit of the doubt. Instead I would like to recognize the striking similarity in her views on the difficulty in maintaining a long term relationship with those of the writer Somerset Maugham.

Although the trials and tribulations of Hollywood royalty may seem as irrelevant to our personal romantic troubles as the lives of imaginary characters in an old novel, we have more in common with them both than we realize.  Shortly after she broke up with Brad Pitt all those years ago, Jennifer Aniston said in an interview, “Whoever said that every relationship has to last forever?  That’s hoping for too much.”  

In life, we are constantly evolving, growing, and ultimately changing.  And when it comes to relationships, this makes things difficult.  As Somerset Maugham says, “We are not the same persons this year as the last; nor are those we love.  It is a happy chance, if we, changing, continue to love a changed person.”  In his novel, The Painted Veil, shallow, pretty Kitty Fane embarks on a passionate love affair with the equally shallow Charlie Townsend which goes awry when her husband walks in on them. (Ouch) After spending time in Mei Tan Fu with her estranged doctor husband, and working at the local convent, the suffering and death she witnesses changes her outlook on life. And so when she returns to Hong Kong, her feelings for Charlie Townsend undergo a great transformation as her passionate adoration turns into distaste and contempt, clearly evinced in her last words to him: “You really are the most vain and fatuous ass it’s ever been my bad luck to run across.”  (Nothing like calling a man a vain and fatuous ass to put him in his place!)

Our daily experiences change us, and we can find ourselves worlds apart after only a few days apart. So even if we are not Jennifer Aniston, or an imaginary character in a Somerset Maugham novel, we can relate to their difficulties in maintaining a long term relationship because as Somerset Maugham warns, “It is a happy chance, if we changing, continue to love a changed person.”  It takes commitment and sacrifice to maintain a healthy and loving relationship.  And I can't help thinking that even if Jen & Justin loved each other very much, their busy work schedules, and bi-coastal lifestyle led them to grow in different directions and ultimately drew them apart.

Best,

Erica