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Redefining “happily ever after”

Redefining “happily ever after”
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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

Ludwig van Beethoven
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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.”

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey
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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.”

The Wright Brothers

The Wright Brothers
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If you’ve heard of Wilbur and Orville Wright and their accomplishments and innovations in the field of air travel, you can thank their sister Katharine Wright for that. She acted as a public relations manager for her notoriously shy brothers, providing accurate scientific information to reporters, and also screened potential business offers. Partially due to their hectic schedules, neither Wilbur nor Orville ever married. In fact, Wilbur once commented to a reporter that he didn’t have time for a wife and an airplane. Though Katharine did eventually get married, it wasn’t until the age of 52, so the trio of siblings spent most of their lives together. Orville was so upset by his sister’s marriage that he refused to attend the wedding and didn’t speak with her for two years.

Do you have tension in your own family? Here are 12 things your birth order reveals about you.

Queen Elizabeth I

Queen Elizabeth I
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Some people know that marriage isn’t for them at a very early age. That was the case for Queen Elizabeth I of England way back in the 16th century. At the age of eight, she announced, “I will never marry,” and didn’t change her mind. Known as the “Virgin Queen,” Elizabeth I had her share of suitors but chose not to marry any of them. There are many theories as to why she decided to preserve her single status, including the fact that she wanted to retain her autonomy as a ruler. She had also witnessed the debacle of her sister Mary I’s marriage to Philip II of Spain, which brought with it an unwanted foreign influence on British politics. Either way, she remained single her entire life and rule.

Check out these 13 royal scandals that shocked the world.

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton
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The first few years of Isaac Newton’s life were rough and likely shaped his outlook on relationships. He was born in 1642, several months after his father had died. Newton’s mother remarried when he was 3 years old, but his new stepfather didn’t want children, so he was sent to live with his grandparents instead. “The experience of being abandoned by his mother scarred Newton and likely played a role in shaping his solitary, untrusting nature,” History.com reports. A loner for most of his life, Newton focused on his scientific work and never married.

If, however, romance is in your life, check out these celebrity love letters for some inspiration when writing a note to your beloved.

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Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott
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As the daughter of a Transcendentalist philosopher and one of the first social workers in Boston, Louisa May Alcott grew up with more freedom and education than the average girl in the mid–19th century. Though she wrote more than 200 works, she is best known for her novel Little Women. Alcott had no desire to get married and wanted the same for the fictional version of herself: Jo March in Little Women. Unfortunately, her publisher insisted that she marry the character off at the end of her iconic book, and that’s the ending we know today.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla
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After years of being ignored by history in favour of shining the spotlight on Thomas Edison, inventor Nikola Tesla is finally getting some attention and recognition nearly 80 years after his death. Though best known for designing the alternating-current (AC) electric system and the Tesla coil, he was also known for some of his quirks. For instance, not only did he decide not to marry, but he also opted to remain celibate, claiming that celibacy helped him be more creative. Tesla did, however, claim to have had a relationship with a pigeon, once saying, “I loved that pigeon as a man loves a woman, and she loved me. As long as I had her, there was a purpose to my life.”

While Tesla was completely serious when uttered that interesting statement, these memorable movie quotes will put a smile on your face.

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale
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As one of the most famous nurses in the world, Florence Nightingale cared for a lot of people—but that didn’t include a husband. Though she had numerous suitors throughout her life and at least two marriage proposals, she decided not to marry, believing that God had chosen her to work and serve others as a single woman. She summed up her reasoning for rejecting a marriage proposal in a diary entry she wrote when she was 17: “I have a moral, an active nature which requires satisfaction and that I would not find in his life. I could be satisfied to spend a life with him in combining our different powers to some great object. I could not satisfy this nature by spending a life with him in making society and arranging domestic things.”

 

Jon Hamm

Jon Hamm
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Even during Jon Hamm’s 18-year relationship with fellow actor Jennifer Westfeldt, he didn’t think marriage was in the cards for him. “I don’t have the marriage chip, and neither of us have the greatest examples of marriages in our families,” he told Parade in 2010. “Jen is the love of my life, and we’ve already been together four times longer than my parents were married.” Unfortunately, the couple ultimately broke up in 2015. But just because he’s not looking to tie the knot, that doesn’t mean he isn’t interested in romantic relationships. In fact, in 2017, he told In Style that being single “is really hard” and “sucks.” Still, it has its benefits, even if you don’t necessarily appreciate them at the time.

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Reader’s Digest Magazine delayed due to coronavirus
Please be advised that due to the current lockdown in Malaysia and the Philippines, Reader’s Digest magazine will not be available at its regular on-sale date to our subscribers or through our retail channels in these regions. We hope to have the issues available around 15 April in Malaysia and around 24 April in the Philippines, but this is dependent on when the lockdown restrictions are lifted. We sincerely apologise for this inconvenience.
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