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The Pretty Woman Lie

The Pretty Woman Lie

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"It must've been love…but it's over now
Must've been good - but I lost it somehow..."

Anyone out there recognize those words? They're from the Pretty Woman soundtrack. Actually, I would say that those words pretty much describe what would have become of the relationship between the main characters had the story happened in real life, not in Hollywood.

Quick review: Pretty Woman (1990) tells the story of Vivian, a young woman with a heart of gold who supports herself by engaging in the world's "oldest profession." One night she's picked up on Hollywood Boulevard by Edward Lewis, a ruthless businessman who makes his money by buying companies and then selling them off piece by piece, regardless of who gets hurt in the process. After a night together, he asks her to be his social escort to the various parties and functions he has to attend throughout his week in LA. She agrees (for $3000), and lo and behold - they "fall in love."

Sounds wonderful, doesn't it? A relationship totally based on physical pleasure and attraction turns into a deep, loving, eternal bond. It's like a singles bar dream come true: You pick up a woman (or a man, for that matter) who looks good to you, begin an intimate physical relationship, and the rest will just follow. Right?

I'll answer with another quote from the end of the movie:

"Keep on dreamin' - this is Hollywood."

In other words, it could happen on the big screen (where anything can happen), but in real life it just doesn't work. I call it the Pretty Woman Lie. Physical attraction - or attraction to externals - can never serve as a basis for a deep, loving connection between husband and wife. At some point, the attraction will wane, and the relationship will disintegrate. That's because externals can and do change. Beauty doesn't last forever, and someone who was making $500,000 a year can have a reversal of fortune. And when that happens, there's nothing left to keep the couple together anymore.

Let me tell you a true story of someone I know, and you'll understand what I mean.

I once knew a fellow whom we'll call Jack. Jack had the exact idea of his dream girl in his head. She would be blonde, blue-eyed, petite, outgoing, fun-loving, and she would love to ski (his favorite sport). I remember thinking at the time that this guy is never going to get married because his criteria are way too specific and way too superficial, but seeing as he never asked my opinion, I never gave it. Good thing, too, because one bright day, Jack met a woman whom we'll call Cheryl. Guess what? Cheryl was blonde, blue-eyed and petite. She was outgoing, fun-loving, and - you guessed it - she loved to ski. Jack was in seventh heaven. They went out for a couple of months, got engaged, and were married in May, well in advance of ski season. They decided to postpone their honeymoon for winter, when they would fly to Switzerland for the most romantic ski of their lives. It seemed that no couple could be happier than they were, and even I began to wonder if this time I'd made a mistake. Jack definitely seemed to have hit the "jack"pot; Cheryl was all he'd dreamed of, and she even turned out to have a great, sweet personality to boot.

Winter came, and they left for their late-but-never-honeymoon.

And that's when it happened.

Cheryl had a terrible ski accident.

Thank G-d, Cheryl lived. The wonders of modern medicine saved her life.

Unfortunately, they couldn't save her ability to walk - she was confined to a wheelchair.

There was something else the doctors couldn't save, either.

Her marriage.

Jack divorced her a few months after the accident.

Why? Because she would never be able to be the fun-loving, skiing person he married.

Her physical limitations were all he could see. Her personality, her sweetness, the love of fun that were still in her heart could not compensate for the fact that, physically, she would never be able to do and be all that she had done and been before. And, since that had really been all her appeal for him, she lost favor in his eyes and he divorced her.

Jack fell for the Pretty Woman Lie, and Cheryl was devastated - but not for long.

She realized that, as painful as her accident was, it might have saved her from an even greater pain down the line. She understood that if Jack divorced her at this point, it would only have been a matter of time before the same thing would have happened anyway. If all he could see in her was the externals, then at some point he would either have tired of them, or he would have met someone with even more blinding externals than hers - and the marriage would have ended.

While other women may have (understandably!) given in to their emotional devastation, Cheryl's innate love of life didn't allow her to do so. After she had sufficiently recuperated, she found and rented a great studio apartment, went back to work, and continued living as she had before the accident - albeit in a wheelchair.

About three years later, one of Cheryl's friends introduced her to Mike, a successful CPA. Cheryl was immediately impressed with his warm, caring personality, and he was equally impressed with her sweetness and her determination. Unlike Jack, Mike didn't fall for the Pretty Woman Lie, and Cheryl's disability didn't prevent him from seeing the person she was inside, and from discovering that the two of them had similar goals and ideals in life. After a (cautious) courtship of a few months, Mike and Cheryl decided to get married. There wasn't a dry eye in the place during the wedding ceremony.

Today, Mike and Cheryl are still happily married, even happier than they were during their honeymoon. They have three adorable children, and as far as they're concerned, life is wonderful. Jack, on the other hand, just got divorced for the third time, and despite his friend's efforts to explain where he's going wrong, he still can't figure it out.

By the way, Pretty Woman is his favorite movie.

The Pretty Woman Lie | 10 Stupid Things You Shouldn't Say On a Date Quiz | Relationships Require Patience | Avoid the 5 Dating Pitfalls | The Dirty Dancing Love Lie | more articles »
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