The life of H and S (a couple I knew a long time ago) is one I have followed over the years because there are so much to learn from it. They met when he was a TA in her undergrad class. She was six years younger than him. They made an exceptionally good looking pair and seemed to have everything that mattered in common. In short, a match made in heaven. Her parents were disappointed in her choice of husband because they thought she deserved a lot better than H.
The proverbial serpent in their marital paradise was socio-economic disparity between the two families. Her parents were tenured professors at a well-known university. They were also independently affluent. His father was a high-school drop out and worked with a traveling theater group. His mother had no formal education and worked odd jobs where she found them to support the family. They were both artistically gifted (a quality they had passed on to H) but had very little material success.
H for his part, had always excelled academically and was working his way up in the corporate world. However, his overwhelming sense of inferiority to S (and her family) along with the constant need to prove his worth to them, ended their marriage ten years and two kids later. H has since re-married a woman who is nothing like the beautiful and exceptionally talented S. Indeed, he made a concerted effort to find someone who did not remind him of S at all. They have another child together. His career has taken off in a way that even he may not have imagined possible even five or six years ago.
S continues to be a single mother to their two kids. H has detached himself from their lives to focus on his new family. The endless bickering over parenting style was draining them both out and not doing the kids any favors either. S had to slow down career-wise despite her considerable talents, to be able to mother them without a partner. Fifteen years later, H is exactly where he may have wanted to be to prove to S and her family that she could not have found herself a better, more qualified or successful husband. His accomplishments are spectacular by any standard. She was to him the epitome of the perfect wife, the soul-mate he had sought and found.
Theirs was the perfect union that came apart before it's potential could be fully realized. I often wonder if they don't regret having parted ways much too soon or maybe the end of the marriage gave H the drive to achieve what he has. Even though they are not together anymore, the need to prove himself to S and her family must be a driving force in H's life. I wonder if such a marriage can then be called "over" - if S is still not the what inspires H to achieve and excel each day. I wonder if they are still not a couple in the heart and soul.In such a vicarious union, does one party win at the expense of the other. H got his impetus to be wildly successful but S could not achieve anything close to her potential. I wonder about the fairness of it all - specially for S. If however, one removes material measures of success (and failure), would S have appear to have emerged a winner as well.