The title of this post is taken from the best-selling book by Elizabeth Gilbert (with my own personal embellishments). I use it because this post is about the news that Elizabeth Gilbert has left her husband to enter into a lesbian relationship with her best friend. In 2016, that previous sentence is no longer a shock, so why spend any time addressing it? The reason it bares mention is because of who Elizabeth Gilbert is: the patron saint of female empowerment.
The premise of Eat, Pray, Love is a travel memoir of a woman who leaves her boring life in search of herself and true love. Eventually she finds both, recognizing with clarity who she is as a person and meeting a Brazilian man who she later marries. It sounds so freeing and wonderful, leading many women to follow her lead and to walk away from their husbands and lives in order to find themselves in travel (their stories are chronicled in her book Eat, Pray, Love Made me do it). Her marriage to her true love was covered by People Magazine, retold on Oprah, and her story made into a Julia Roberts movie. Why is any of this important? BECAUSE IT IS A LIE. Millions (Elizabeth has 1.6+ million followers on Facebook) are being duped by a story that promises something it can never deliver.
When Elizabeth left her Brazilian man for her best friend, it was not just the next step in her journey, it was also the latest chapter in the story of her destruction; the latest person left in her wake. The truth of ‘finding yourself’ is that it so often happens at the expense of other people. No one cared about the ex-husband she left behind in her memoir because it was easy to dismiss him as a bad guy, keeping her from joy. This is different. Now she has left the man who did nothing but love her. She ruined his happiness in order to find hers. Don’t just take my word for it, this is how she describes herself in a New York Times article, titled “Confessions of a Seduction Addict:”
[I] careened from one intimate entanglement to the next—dozens of them—without so much as a day off between romances … Seduction was never a casual sport for me; it was more like a heist, adrenalizing and urgent. I would plan the heist for months, scouting out the target, looking for unguarded entries. Then I would break into his deepest vault, steal all his emotional currency and spend it on myself.
The interesting thing about this article is that she poses it as how she used to view things; the way she acted before she realized the truth about herself. The problem is, it reflects how she still acts toward her relationships. Gilbert’s view of love and relationship is as a currency that can be had by one party OR the other. If this is the case, there is not reason why she should not be allowed to take it (before he does). The problem is, this isn’t actually how relationships work (or should work). Marriage is not about fighting over limited resources, but two people who are making more of one another through the act of self-sacrifice. As long as you see relationships as a struggle; over power, over recognition, over money, over getting my way… you will always see the person you are in a relationship with as a resource to use for your own gratification (or to fight from stealing it from you). The lie of the empowerment model of relationship is that it can not get past seeing the other person as resource to be used up, discarded, and moved on from.
The reason I care about this is that my life is filled with people who listen to this message only to find that they have preyed on others for their own gain (and burnt all of their bridges in the process). I care about this because my life is filled with the husbands who are left behind to pick up the pieces. Mostly, I care because I believe that God has created something GOOD in monogamous marriage that is being destroyed by the false hope of self-discovery through true love.
Miss Gilbert, feel free to love whomever you want, but please, stop setting yourself up as an example to follow; and I promise to never write a blog about you ever again.