Gray In L.A.: Eat, Pray, Split? Do Marriage and Success Ever Work?

By Sabine Reichel

Elizabeth Gilbert (46), the brilliant and immensely successful writer who turned domestic desperation into gold by making her inspiring self-help road-trip into a worldwide phenomenon has split up with her dreamboat of a husband after 12 years!

This must be shocking news to her millions of fans that devoured Eat Pray Love and the fairy-tale ending where once heart-broken Liz fell in love with a sexy and wonderful Brazilian named “Felipe” (really Jose). She, who had her strong reservations about marriage — she wrote an entire book called Commitment about that topic — even married Jose.

It was such a great, romantic, enviable story we all could have used in our own pedestrian lives: Rich, intelligent, funny, super-successful woman finds happiness. “See, it’s possible, you can have it all!” The women cheered.

I bet a lot of Gilbert’s many fans feel a tiny bit betrayed now, too. I’m not one of them. I’m actually not surprised. Saw it coming. Sorry to say but female artists — and real writers are artists, too — and marriage aren’t a match made in heaven. Successful artists (even worse) combined with marriage just doesn’t work in the long run. Too many restrictions, too many boring duties. Too much playing “the other half.”

I know something about being a writer — someone who is a creative creature driven by curiosity, the hunger for adventure, self-expression, truth and the never-ending search for the Self. Women, having been the suppressed sex for too long, have always been yearning for just a snippet of their own creative authenticity in a man’s world that wouldn’t let them roam freely. No wonder that given half a chance to choose between doing what you love to do and doing what you’re supposed to do — the choice is a no-brainer.

What’s usually in the way of unleashing your creative forces and doesn’t mix well with success — I think you know that already — is motherhood, men and marriage. It sounds selfish, and it probably is, but for ambitious women the more interesting commitment isn’t to the institution of matrimony but to yourself because you are your very own artwork in progress. Look at certain very strong and very successful artists of a different kind — and see if they have a hubby tagging along, God knows, some of them tried that in vain.

The fantastic Cindy Sherman? Single. Gloria Steinem, divorced, single. Joni Mitchell, twice divorced, single. Madonna, twice divorced, single. All seem lost to the world of domesticity and husbands, most are not looking for new ones. Regardless of their individual personality — from charming to bossy and bitchy — what they all have in common is that they didn’t want to give up on their vision, their journeys and therefore their careers. The men in their lives couldn’t take not being the center of attention and felt like an appendix.

The artistic personality likes the word “compromise” as much as Dracula likes seeing the sunrise. But without compromise no marriage, any union, can survive. Falling in love, being in love and staying in love are the hardest things to maintain in romance and partnership, even if you don’t have a big career but just a meager job. So think hard before you jump in.

Here are some pointers from a pro:

1. If you are an artistic and creative woman, are successful and have your very own agenda and see yourself as the captain of your ship, forget about marriage!

2. Being an artist is not just a special life — it’s a certain road, a destiny, and a very risky endeavor if you want predictability and permanent peace at home. It’s not going to happen!

3. Equality between the sexes hasn’t arrived yet. So someone or something’s got to give (up). We all know who that is. Not him. Never him. So think twice before you tie the knot.

Bold Elizabeth Gilbert, I think, is breaking the mold, and I’m excited.

Traditionally, it’s always about men on the road and their all too tall tales, exploring all there is waiting for them: the rock musicians, explorers, innovators, cowboys, adventurers, and especially male writers. The image of the tortured Hemingway-like lone wolf behind the typewriter, drowning in whiskey and consumed by some bitter thoughts about a treacherous bad girl is old and strong. He’s still the rumpled hero. Female counterpart? None. Someone like poor Dorothy Parker — seen as just a brilliant drunk, living and dying alone in a New York hotel. Sad, not glorious.

The great thing about the lucid, sane, savvy, optimistic almost chirpy Liz is that she is perfectly equipped for the proud and happy life of the Road Warrior, all by herself. I don’t see her fall by the roadside or hanging out in some dingy bar ranting about worthless men. That’s so retro.

I’m with you Liz! You’re going to keep having a rich, authentic, fabulous, independent life with or without a new marriage (which I doubt you will have), or maybe even a new significant man. So, on to new shores, Liz! Many women are waiting for your new tales of freedom. Good, to have that kind of a role model, too. A Woman — By Herself.