Friday, April 29, 2011

William & Catherine; Charles & Diana: What We Can Learn From Them

I woke up bright and early this morning to catch live coverage of the wedding of the century – the union of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. Something about the British royal family just seems so fascinating to me. And if the news coverage of the wedding is any indicator, others around the world find it fascinating as well.

This is one of those events that, years from now, many will recall where they were when they witnessed it. William is second in line to the throne so his wedding ceremony is no small event. This union will likely produce a future monarch. Sounds like a storybook doesn’t it?

This brings to mind one of the more memorable days of my childhood. In July 1981, I was a young 11 year old in Jamaica spending summer vacation at my uncle and aunt’s home. My siblings, cousins and I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to witness the union of Prince Charles and then Diana Spencer. Can you believe that was almost 30 years ago? My my time flies!

Interestingly, as I typed this post this morning, on their pre-wedding coverage, CBS News showed the video of the wedding three decades ago. What we all witnessed back then was really a fairy tale come to life. The young, beautiful Diana met her prince – her knight in shining armor – and they got married. Thousands lined the streets in celebration as the happy couple waved from their horse drawn carriage. Diana Spencer became Diana, Princess of Wales! Just what dreams are made of! All that was left to complete the story were the words, “And they lived happily ever after!”

As with any new marriage, the beginning was splendid. They had the world was in the palm of their hands. This was the love affair of a lifetime! Prince William was soon born to the happy couple. Then Prince Harry. Then came life – real life with its challenges and issues.

Over time, it became apparent that what might have appeared to be a beautiful dream life from the outside was slowly becoming a nightmare. The “happily ever after” part of the story that so many hoped for was not to be. After years of trying to keep it together, the couple finally acknowledged what so many had suspected – the marriage was over. They soon joined the population of those divorced with kids.

What could have caused such a promising marriage to end? It couldn’t have been money problems – that we know. Afterall, they’re royalty. There are so many things we could point out but I think it’ll all lead to the phrase that’s written on so many divorce decrees – irreconcilable differences. The marriage ended sadly. And as we know, not too long afterward – in August 1997 – Diana’s life ended in tragedy.

Today, we witnessed another magical wedding ceremony. Prince William took to himself a beautiful bride. Catherine Middleton became Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Thousands lined the streets to celebrate with the happy couple. It’s estimated that approximately 2 billion people all over the world tuned in by television and the internet to witness the once in a generation event.

I woke up my wife and twelve year old daughter to watch it. It was a memorable family bonding moment. I’m sure that 20, 30, 50 years from now, we’ll all recall just where we were when we saw the wedding. There was something quite fascinating about it.

The story of Charles and Diana has already been told. Now the world will watch while William and Catherine write their own. I hope that you join me in wishing them the very best in everything – good health, prosperity, peace and the love affair of a lifetime. Oh and also kids – wonderful, beautiful kids.

Now here’s a lesson for you and me as we observe the lives of the British royal family. Statistically, it’s proven that approximately 50% of first marriages fail. With these two couples – one failed. Let’s hope that the second one stands the test of time. But the thing is, we never can be quite 100% sure of what will happen. Who knows the future?

I’m a firm believer in the institution of marriage. I recall going to my grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary as a child. Last month, my parents celebrated their 47th. I believe the words “till death do us part” are sacred and should not be said lightly. Having said all this, guess what? I went through a divorce. When I got married in 1996, that was the absolute last thing on my mind. I shared much of my experience in The Story Behind The Upbeat Dad. It’s not something I planned. But you know what? Life happened and I found myself five years later wondering what went wrong.

That marriage produced a child – a daughter, who was three at the time. So the divorce opened a new chapter in my life – parenting as a divorcee. It’s not quite something that you prepare for. Divorce happens so you learn to deal with being a parent with the changed situation.

Now I’m happily remarried and my daughter – now twelve – lives with us. We have a son who turns nine months old next week. This new marriage really does seem like the love affair of a lifetime and I couldn’t be happier. I wrote The Story of My Blended Family to tell how it all came together. I think that this is the “happily ever after” story that I dreamed about – and that my wife dreamed about as well.

In life, we do not know just what the future holds. When we get married, two people become one. How do you successfully fuse two separate hearts and minds? It’s not quite as simple as it might seem. A strong marriage takes work.

I remember several years ago, a happily married older and wiser friend of our family told me something that I thought was quite thought-provoking. She said that in every marriage, there always comes a time when you can find some real significant issue that can lead you to come to the conclusion that ending it is the only option. But if each party sticks to the unconditional, lifetime commitment that they make on their wedding day, these marriages will last. Profound, wouldn’t you say?

If you find yourself today trapped in an unhappy marriage, just know that I’ve felt that pain. Also know that all you can do is all you can do. You cannot be happily married by yourself – it takes two to build a marriage. If both parties aren’t equally committed to making the marriage work, it will always be an uphill battle at best.

If you’re divorced or going through a divorce, believe me, life goes on. Prince Charles is happily remarried and somehow has made the best of his blended family. He appears to be at peace with the turmoil of the past; it’s but a distant memory as he now enjoys his new daughter-in-law.

Finally, if you’re married or you’re in a relationship and looking into getting married, I wish for you and yours the very best. Just know that, just like a baby comes out of the womb and has to learn to master each phase of development, the same applies to relationships and marriages. No baby has ever walked and talked the first day out of the womb. It takes time to grow and develop.

The great British Empire was not established overnight; it took years to be built. But it has stood the test of time. So, too, it is with strong, successful marriages. Take things step by step – one day at a time; and before you know it, you’ll have a love as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Please join me in wishing William and Catherine a long-lasting, happy marriage. And from the depths of my heart, I wish you and yours the very best in all things.

Have a great day!

The Upbeat Dad



  2. Great article, Rodrick... Very insightful, thought-proving and hopeful for all. Thanks for re-posting.