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Excerpted from Happily Even After by Alan Cohen. Copyright 1999 by Alan Cohen. Excerpted by permission of Hay House, Inc.  All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. HTML and web pages copyright by SpiritSite.com.
 

"This conversation symbolized two very different approaches to relationship: one that has dominated our culture for as long as I can remember, and one that feels new and even radical."

  Alan Cohen, Happily Even After, Part 1

While driving through San Francisco late one night, I happened upon a radio station that played songs requested by callers. A young woman named Carol asked that a particular song be played for a fellow named Eddie.

"And who is Eddie?" asked the DJ, a mature woman with a sultry voice perfectly suited for late-night radio and romance.

"Eddie is my husband," the caller answered, "actually, my soon-to-be ex-husband--he's leaving our marriage."

"Then why would you want to dedicate a song to him?" the DJ retorted, her voice abruptly shifting from seductress to intimidator.

"Because I want him to be happy, and I want to stay friends with him always."

"You want to stay friends with a guy who ruined your life?"

"He didn't ruin my life," Carol answered firmly. "We had a lot of wonderful times together, and even though we are going our separate ways, we care about each other. That's why I'm dedicating this song to him."

"Oh, all right," the DJ answered with a sigh of surrender. The song began to play.

As I made my way along Route 101 in the quiet of the night, it occurred to me that this conversation symbolized two very different approaches to relationship: one that has dominated our culture for as long as I can remember, and one that feels new and even radical. The old way is based on the belief that when a relationship ends, it was a failure because it did not turn into a marriage or the marriage did not fulfill its "until death do us part" vow. One person is cast as a villain, and the other a victim. Blame is hurled back and forth until the two people--who once adored each other--turn their backs on one another, or one person pines endlessly for his or her lost soulmate. 

If the couple divorces, brutal warfare ensues over property settlements, alimony, and child custody. Then both people go on to create the same relationship with the next partner, who promises to be different but turns out to be the same, or is different but just as bad or worse. Meanwhile, both partners struggle to pick up the pieces of their broken lives, and perhaps enter therapy to try to figure out, "Why am I so screwed up?"

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