Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have been all over the news lately, due to a nearly unprecedented decision to leave their life as senior royals and take on a quieter life with their son in Canada.
While it seems unfathomable that a young incredibly famous couple would voluntarily stop using their His and Her Royal Highness status and leave the fame and wealth of the royal family, they’ve been led there by a lot of heartache and stress.
Prince Harry grew up knowing his mother was steered to an untimely death by the relentless scrutiny of the media pursuit. As a married man, he has had to witness the very same media going after his own wife.
Furthermore, by marrying someone so outside the realm of what the royalty would embrace, he has unfortunately attracted additional pressure from tabloids. Harry and Meghan’s relationship and the hardship they have have faced can reveal a lot about the difficulties of love across borders.
From two different continents…
A lot of the issues Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan have suffered were rooted in them being from two different worlds.
Meghan, is a mixed-race American. As a result of that, she was instantly attacked by the British media. Meghan represented a lot of things that were antithetical to the British Royal Family.
First of all, there is the evident, aforementioned issue of her race. Being half-black and half-white, Meghan is definitely not your typical royal. Secondly, her past career as an actress also positions her on the unconventional side, as there is a bias against that profession. Lastly, being American is obviously a tremendous barrier, due to the rivalry between the two realms.
It is no wonder that Prince Harry decided to leave the life he knew behind to start a new life elsewhere with his new family.
How Meghan and Harry’s story is actually relatable
While Meghan and Harry have a larger than life story–after all, it is made of the stuff from fairy tales–their situation is no different from other couples, where both parties come from different worlds.
Many relationships have had to overcome significant barriers, be they geographical, cultural or linguistic to be able to make their relationship work.
Let’s forget Meghan and Harry for a second and look a bit further back, to Romeo and Juliet. “Their relationship famously and rapidly went down in tragic flames, thanks to their feuding families,” said sex/relationship expert Ken Blackman.
But at least Romeo and Juliet were spared the discomfort of discovering down the road, a year or two later, how different they were.
They behaved differently, thought differently, and had different priorities and life goals. She preferred pheasant, while he’d rather have beef pie or suckling pig. They never had to have that difficult conversation.
“Their relationship wasn’t some expertly conceived pairing courtesy of the town matchmaker. They just immediately clicked, on a deeper human level, and ran with it. They were bound to run into problems one way or another!” said Blackman.
Romeo and Juliet were considered a classic view of undying love because of how they died. Had they lived…things may have looked quite different for them in the long run.
It is all about choosing each other again and again
While Harry and Meghan’s story seems to be closer to a fairy tale, the truth is that they show quite the signs of it being otherwise. What the public has been fed through the media and tabloid can sometimes tint the reality of a situation.
Their drastic decision to leave seems to indicate that their connection is built on a stronger foundation than what we tend to believe.
In my 20 years of coaching I’ve seen a lot of that, and I’ve come to believe the very best relationships, the long-term happy thriving ones, tend to look like this. They’re built on a solid core of ineffable human connection, rather than superficial compatibility.
Blackman further states that there is “a much higher success rate with the couple who love each other…but are struggling to reconcile their two worlds and work through their seemingly deal-breaking differences.”
Indeed, Blackman even concluded that those who tick every item on the “ideal checklist” and “where everything looks so perfect on paper” tended to struggle more.
Couples who know they’re choosing each other for love and consciously decide to work through their differences tend to be happier in the long run than couples who fit each other’s preconceived criteria and cross their fingers that love will naturally follow.
Why a connection is more than compatibility
It seems rather counterintuitive, doesn’t it? How could a relationship where both partners are so different, where more work and compromise is required, be more viable? Well, it has everything to do with fantasy versus reality.
All of our fantasies about what the ideal relationship looks like are really just our best guess at what conditions will foster love and connection. But then the fantasy becomes so important that we throw out the love and connection in pursuit of it.
Meghan and Harry seem to have that real deal sort of love. “From the first interview I saw of Meghan and Harry, it was clear they had that kind of real, intimate, loving, mutually felt connection,” said Blackman.
Yes, conflict is inevitable
When a couple finds themselves in conflict, the key for successful resolution for that conflict, is to remember that they love each other.
“It’s important to honour how each other’s emotions and how each other operates when in conflict,” said Jaime Bronstein, LCSW, a Psychotherapist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who specializes in relationships.
“If there is a couple with different styles of operation when in conflict, it’s important for them to acknowledge the different styles and come up with a compromise that makes both people happy,” continued Bronstein.
People go into a relationship with their own stories, issues and backgrounds, however when you truly love your partner unconditionally, you will want to do your best to work together to arrive at a mutual solution/resolution.
Meghan had to do most of the work
Initially, it fell to Meghan to do the lion’s share of cultural adjustment to make the relationship work. Yet, they ultimately decided, as a unit, to question that choice.
He’s seen and lived realities of the royal life, and I think he’s being genuine in pointing out how that didn’t go too well for his mum. But still it’s quite a bold, unapologetic move to walk away from that life.
Either way, they’re demonstrating what it’s like to prioritize love first, and then co-create the best life possible based on that choice. “I think they’re going to do more than fine in the long run,” said Blackman.
At the end of the day, despite the extraordinary position of being famous and royalty, Harry and Meghan are in a pretty familiar situation that many of us with interfering family members and friends can understand. If you are in a relationship with someone from a different cultural background or geographical location, there is much to learn from them.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
1. Set appropriate boundaries with toxic family members:
“Let your parents or other family members know early on that you appreciate their input and that you and your spouse are both adults and will decide what you want for your family. If you can articulate your feelings in a safe manner with love and respect, your parents will most likely understand,” said Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin, a licensed clinical professional counsellor and a Certified Imago Relationship Therapist.
Unfortunately, we all know of parents who have a hard time respecting boundaries. In those cases, you may need to be a little more firm until they get the message.
2. Be on the same page with your spouse:
“I cannot stress the importance of having a good working relationship with your spouse,” said Rabbi Slatkin. “Have an open dialogue with each other about your fears and expectations for potential holiday encounters.” This will give you the opportunity to discuss strategies to deal with potential conflict.
You can also be more in-tune with each other and notice if one of you is feeling uncomfortable. “When you prepare ahead of time and form a united front, you’ll be much better at dealing with your in-laws. While in the past, these occasions have contributed to more stress in their marriage, you now can weather them successfully because you were on the same page going in,” said Rabbi Slatkin.
3. Don’t get stressed out trying to impress your in-laws for the holidays
While it is praiseworthy to honour your in-laws and make sure they feel welcome in your home, it can also be a source of anxiety for many.
“If you find yourself getting stressed out and screaming at your spouse or your kids every time your in-laws come over, no one is going to have fun during the visit, so what is the point?” said Rabbi Slatkin.
“Your calm and happy home will impress your in-laws much more than your spotless house or Martha Stewart entertaining. Plenty of children grow up to resent having their grandparents come to visit because of the tension it creates in their home.”
4. Listen and honour what the other one is saying.
You do not need to fully understand one another, you just need to communicate to your partner that you validate what they are saying.
“Each partner feels heard, seen and loved and that’s what helps them get through the conflict,” said Bronstein.”One of the most important tips to remember, is to not yell at one another, because when there is yelling going on, there isn’t any listening going on, so it is just pure chaos, and nothing gets accomplished… except for feeling hurt by one another,” said Bronstein.
When people yell, most often they say irrational things that they don’t truly mean.
Meghan and Harry lead by example
Harry and Meghan took the first crucial step. They walked away from a toxic situation where negativity and interfering family and media were destroying their happiness and created a new life in a new place. Now, here’s hoping the world lets them live it.
Their story presents an example on how to make a relationship work, even against the most dire situations or circumstance.
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