Beyoncé and Jay-Z, a Marriage After Infidelity
Not every marriage can survive infidelity — or should — but love alone is just not enough to make it a better marriage
They were crazy in love in the beginning, but in the past few years, we’ve learned a lot more about Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s marriage, from Beyoncé’s allegations of Jay-Z’s infidelities in her 2016 album Lemonade to Jay-Z’s confession and remorse in his 2017 album 4:44, which seemingly led to a reconciliation not long after Beyoncé gave birth to their twins last June, but so much was left unsaid. How did they reconcile? Why?
Well, last weekend gave us an answer — the release of Everything is Love, the first album the Carters made together, and one that seems to send a clear message; marriage is worth fighting for, even after infidelity.
Honestly, not every marriage is worth fighting for, but let’s just go with it for now.
In “Lovehappy,” the last song on the nine-track album, the couple gets right into it, singing:
Beyoncé: “You fucked up the first stone, we had to get remarried.”
Jay-Z: “Yo chill”
Beyoncé: “We keeping it real with these people, right? Lucky I ain’t kill you when I met …”
Jay-Z: “You know how I met her We broke up and got back together/To get her back I had to sweat her.”
Later, Beyoncé gets real from her perspective:
You did some things to me /Boy you do some things to me/ But love is deeper than your pain and I believe you can change. /Baby, the ups and downs are worth it/ Long way to go but we’re working /We’re flawed but we’re still perfect for each other, yeah yeah /Sometimes I thought we’d never see the light /We went through hell with heaven on our side /This beach ain’t always been no paradise”
Anyone who has lived through infidelity knows how hard it can be to survive it, whether the marriage ends or remains intact. But to come out even better and stronger as a couple? Hmm, that’s a tough one. Renowned therapist Esther Perel says in her new book The State of Affairs: Rethinking Infidelity, it can — sometimes. Some couples can integrate the contradictions of love and desire, but first we have to acknowledge that we’ll never eliminate the dilemma — it’s not a “problem to solve; it is a paradox to manage,” she writes.
Love is not enough after infidelity
So, sorry, Bey, love is not enough and will never be enough to save a post-affair marriage. But it’s true that people can change. I did. To her credit, Beyoncé isn’t saying that’s where they are at, better and stronger — yet — but she clearly believes that “the ups and downs are worth it.” And in her case — and her case alone — we will have to believe her. As we are cautioned by FTC disclaimers: Your results may vary.
When Lemonade came out, around the time that Kanye West’s Life of Pablo was released, some said the two mega stars were making marriage “cool” again, that “‘Till death do us part’ really is an ideal worth striving for and that ‘For better or for worse’ can encompass some very bad things.” Except, marriage isn’t cool or uncool (and why should it be?), and of course it can “encompass some very bad things” — it’s best for each couple to decide between themselves what “very bad things” will be OK and not OK. But to present the idea that marriage is an “until death” thing no matter what shitty behavior is occurring within it is a dangerous message. As most therapists will tell you, not every couple can survive infidelity and come out stronger and more committed, and that’s OK.
But Beyoncé and Jay-Z are clearly sending a message about their marriage, as the Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber notes:
Marriage may be a traditional institution, but the Carters present it almost as a weapon of revolution, allowing them to strike out against other institutions — first among them racism and its pernicious symptom, black poverty. … The emphasis on it taking two people — two superstars, no less — to thrive in both their public and home lives may be read as a subtle sociopolitical stance in the face of rising single-parenthood across America (and in light of how much scrutiny gets placed on the black family in particular). … the Carters here don’t make any out-and-out statements about the right way to maintain a family. They only describe, in various ways, that they feel stronger together.”
And if there’s a take-away message from the Carters’ marriage — or at least the way it’s been presented, and perhaps packaged, in the past three albums — it’s this: There indeed is no “right” way to maintain a family. Some marriages may get past “very bad things” and others won’t; some marriages’ “ups and downs are worth it” and others aren’t; love alone can’t make a marriage better (but it can keep the couple working on it, for better or worse); some people can change and others can’t; and no matter how rich and successful you are, it doesn’t mean your relationship is going to be a “paradise.”
Rooting for marriage
Most of us want to see a couple who we believe “belong together” make it, and that includes celebrities like Beyoncé and Jay-Z (and maybe we can stop with the “love is dead” thing when they don’t) . We may not know them, but as “long as the Carters are singing about their relationship and its problems, we believe in them,” writes Vox. “We root for their marriage to succeed. We follow the revelations contained in every song breathlessly.”
I’m not sure we need to follow anyone’s marriage “breathlessly” except, perhaps, our own. And I’m not sure we should root for anyone’s marriage to succeed either; perhaps we should root for the two people in the marriage to individually succeed, to have their best, most authentic life — and that may mean the marriage has to end. Because sometimes, the “ups and downs” just may not be worth it.
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Originally published at omgchronicles.vickilarson.com