Oprah Winfrey’s much anticipated interview with Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, has now hit the airwaves, causing a stir on both sides of the pond.
On the surface, the big takeaways from the interview revolve around politically correct buzzwords. “Racism” appears with sirens and flashing red lights upon the revelation that a member of the royal family privately asked Harry how dark his son’s skin might be. “Mental health” shines forth with Meghan’s admission of suicidal thoughts during her first pregnancy. And “voice,” often a medium for speaking one’s own truth (or rather, opinion), moves into the spotlight as Meghan explains how she lost hers when she married her husband and joined “The Firm” of the royal family.
Yet there’s one word that I think may get overlooked in the hubbub following this bombshell interview: research.
In a recap of the interview, the Daily Mail describes the scene, saying, “The Duchess of Sussex sat alone as she claimed she entered the Royal Family ‘naively’ and didn’t do any research about her husband or the institution before entering it.”
Some may find that a bit hard to believe. But let’s take Meghan at her word and accept that she truly did not do any research on her future husband or his family. Perhaps I’m the naïve one, but why would anyone, be they the lowest commoner in Britain or a wealthy American actress, do that?
One reasonable answer to this question is that Meghan fell into the trap of believing Disney.
The Walt Disney Company is the world’s biggest purveyor of all things princess. A girl is in a tough situation, a handsome prince comes along, they’re both starry-eyed and fall in love at first sight. By the end of the story, after the wicked stepmothers have been dispatched, they marry and live happily ever after in a castle, or so the scenario goes.
In the interview, Meghan herself gives the impression that life since leaving the palace is “happily ever after,” suggesting that this scenario is in fact what she was aiming for when she married the prince.
Yet real life—even if one does marry a prince—is not like these fairy tales. In real-life marriages the bride and groom are not the prince and princess of Disney’s films, waited on at every turn. Instead, both must work hard together, recognizing that friction will likely come, but resolving to handle it in a loving and responsible manner when it does, rather than stuffing it under the rug.
Likewise, real-life marriage does not remove external difficulties. Marriage is a blending of two families who can sometimes think and act very differently. Just as couples must learn to lovingly work through their own differences and difficulties, so, too, they must learn to work through difficulties with their extended families in a gracious and understanding way.
Such difficult experiences come to every couple. Being somewhat prepared by knowing where some of the stress points are helps people weather those difficulties. But one can’t know where those stress points are unless one does research, which, as Meghan admits, she failed to do.
What kind of research should Meghan have done to possibly preclude some of the unpleasant surprises she allegedly received? Research on her intended's family and the type of work they engage in might have been a good place to start. Details on the fractious relationship between Harry’s parents and the royal family’s ensuing difficulties with the press are readily available on the internet. Would Meghan have changed her mind had she known these facts and understood that the princess life she thought she was getting wasn’t as glorious as that depicted by Disney?
Marriage is a serious and important matter, which, as the marriage ceremony from the Book of Common Prayer states, “is not... to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly; but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God.” Unfortunately, many couples seem to make the same mistake as Meghan and Harry, relying on fluttery feelings rather than seeking counsel, doing careful research into each other’s backgrounds and ideas, and then soberly deciding to accept whatever difficulties life may throw at them.
Happy and healthy marriages are very possible and should be pursued wholeheartedly. But those who do pursue them should know that they are much harder to attain if one goes into them with eyes tightly shut while humming “someday my prince will come.”
Annie Holmquist is the editor of Intellectual Takeout. When not writing or editing, she enjoys reading, gardening, and time with family and friends.