Dr. Keith: Advice for William and Kate

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By now, much of the world knows that Prince William has become engaged to a woman named Kate Middleton. The couple dated 8 years.

Much will be written about the massive challenges facing the royal couple, given the long tradition and the responsibilities for decorum that the monarchy carries with it.

In fact, a public life of the royal kind probably has the chance to hold William and Kate’s marriage together, rather than cause it to dissolve. This is good news, and it is bad news.

The good news is that, with all the pressures William and Kate will face as they try to conform their individual wants and needs to the requirements of marriage, the hassle involved with divorcing—including the inherent public disappointment—will encourage them to try to work things out. The bad news is that their royal marriage could end up being a kind of Krazy Glue that holds them in one another’s orbit, even if they end up very much disliking one another.

I hate to be so, well, honest, at the climax of so splendid a romance, but I think this is no time in the world to be wedded to any fictions. After all, most marriages end in divorce. And of those that survive, my long experience as a psychiatrist and as a person living life on the face of this planet suggests about 90 percent or more are unhappy. That leaves a slim 5 percent or fewer (and I am being generous) that continue to be relationships that the folks involved in them consider a source of strength in their lives, rather than a burden.

See, William and Kate will likely learn that their eight years of dating suggested they were ambivalent about one another, from the start. Yes, they were young when they met, but eight years is still a long time, in the dating world. They will learn that the legacy of William having been raised by two parents who were very ambivalent about one another (at best) and ultimately separated isn’t so easy to shake, either. These dynamics tend to reproduce themselves, from generation to generation. They will learn that a man who grows up to learn of his mother’s and father’s infidelities can have strong, sometimes emotionally destructive ideas about trust, control and autonomy. They will learn that there are also very serious psychological consequences to having one’s existence hijacked from birth and rolled into a royal fairy tale that has about as much bearing on real life as Facebook friends do on genuine friendship. And those are just the cautionary notes from William’s life history. Kate has her own life history, bringing with it (as all life histories do) certain outsized hopes and expectations and fears.

I know, I know, I don’t sound optimistic or romantic about the William and Kate thing. I do not seem to be swooning. Maybe I just connect the myths of royalty with the myths about marriage being “forever” (which it just isn’t for most people who swear it will be). Or maybe I connect the myths of royalty with the rest of the destructive fiction—economic and political—that continues to threaten everything that is good in America and around the world.

So here’s my wish for this young, royal couple: Tell one another the truth. Admit early on when your passion for one another begins to wane (as it probably already has). Really work to find ways to maintain it. Talk long into the night about the pain you have both endured in your families of origin. Make sure you have cried in front of one another. State very early on that your covenant with one another is about a connection of soul that must be conveyed in as beautiful a way as possible to your children. And, take a look at the tapes of your interviews about your engagement. You look uncomfortable. You look distant from one another and, to my eye, even from yourselves. You look a little like a couple of deer in headlights. Be willing to be afraid of the future and to speak of it to one another, to be disappointed about the past and to speak of it to one another, to be, even, struggling with the present and speak of it to one another. Admit to one another that the challenges you face are massive, that your happiness is under siege, but that you can still triumph, if only by holding each other close in the storm.

Dr. Keith Ablow is a psychiatrist and member of the Fox News Medical A-Team. He is a New York Times best-selling author, whose book “Living the Truth: Transform Your Life Through the Power of Insight and Honesty” has launched a self-help movement. Dr. Ablow can be reached at info@keithablow.com.