Redefining “happily ever after”
If TV and movies have taught us one thing about love, it’s that two people in love end up “happily ever after” once they get married. Great…except that’s as much of a fairy tale as stories involving giants and dragons. Yes, marriage is still considered the norm in many Western cultures, with more than 90 per cent of people ending up married by the age of 50. But just because there’s a wedding, that doesn’t mean that those involved are happy—or even content. In fact, approximately 40 to 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce, and these signs of trouble in paradise often lead to the beginning of the end. In other words, marriage isn’t for everyone. Here are 13 famous figures throughout history who either understood that or opted to stay single for other reasons. Whatever their rationale, we think it’s safe to say that things worked out just fine for them.
Ludwig van Beethoven
Though he may have bridged the Classical and Romantic eras of Western classical music, famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven didn’t have much luck in the romance department in his personal life. Part of this may have been because of his personality: He was known for being shy and lonely, as well as short-tempered, greedy, and paranoid. Though he never married, he was in love with a married woman named Antonie Brentano. In 1812, Beethoven wrote her a love letter, but he never actually sent it to her. He addressed it: “To you, my Immortal Beloved.” The letter said, in part, “My heart is full of so many things to say to you—ah—there are moments when I feel that speech amounts to nothing at all—Cheer up—remain my true, my only love, my all as I am yours.”
Though Oprah Winfrey met her partner, Stedman Graham, in 1986, and they were once engaged, she has gone on record saying that she has no regrets about not getting married or having children. “Both he and I now say, ‘If we had married, we would not be together,’” she told People in 2019. “No question about it—we would not stay married, because of what that would have meant to him, and I would have had my own ideas about it.”
As far as being a mother, Winfrey says that she has been able to have other meaningful maternal relationships. “I also believe that part of the reason why I don’t have regrets [about not having children] is because I got to fulfil it in the way that was best for me: the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa,” she explained in the same interview. “Those girls fill that maternal fold that I perhaps would have had. In fact, they overfill—I’m overflowed with maternal.”