LIVING ON A PRAYER IS NO BASIS FOR A STABLE RELATIONSHIP
Dear Mr. Jovi,
Thank you for sending your letter regarding relationship concerns. I note that you state in your letter you were ‘asking for a friend’ and refer to ‘Tommy and Gina.' Safe to say, any advice I give you is purely confidential. I also note that the letter was dated in the mid-1980s; however, the exact date was unclear. I can only presume it got lost in the post or something. In any case, I have provided some advice below for your ‘friends.' Thank goodness you decided to get in touch.
I must begin by stating that, in all honesty, I have become somewhat disillusioned with my profession as a relationship counsellor and this letter was the final nail in the coffin, so to speak. I write this having recently resigned from my role with a flourish of devastating profanity. Basically, I couldn’t take it anymore. This major gripe with this job is that the work is monotonous. It’s all the same. Only the names will change. I agreed to close any open cases I had. I chose to open the case of Pinot Grigio I keep in my office. Make of what follows as you will.
In your letter you explain that this relationship was formed during your so-called 'heyday' and was heavily inspired by the trickle-down economics of the Reagan era. We may choose to blame politicians for a great many things, but I do not believe that this is one of them.
I have taken the liberty of examining each line of the concerns you raise, in order that we might support the couple to get to the real crux of their relationship issues, and either find some closure in what seems to me a very toxic situation or at least mediate some ground rules with more meaningful dialogue.
You advised that Tommy used to work on the docks, and that the union's been on strike. Initially, I was unsure what advice I could give you on this point. Clearly, unemployment can put additional stresses on any relationship. I have spoken to a colleague in our HR department who has suggested that, as Tommy is now a former employee of ‘the docks,’ it is unlikely to make any difference to him if the union is on strike or not. As you are probably aware there is no obligation for an employee to join a union. If he were to be part of the union, then there would have been a ballot for strike action, which, presumably, he had an opportunity to vote in. A non-union member is still able to attend work despite strike action and therefore continue to earn a wage. If he is not willing to do so, he can seek alternative employment.
The lesson here, Mr. Jovi, is that often we make excuses for our own behaviour and try to apportion blame to the circumstances we find ourselves in. This was a definite relationship ‘red flag,’ in my professional opinion, as there was no indication that he was taking action to resolve the issues he faced. Disappointing as this is, we will move on to the next line.
He's down on his luck, it's tough, so tough
I understand that Tommy may feel unlucky, however, referring to the above points, it is not luck that has landed him sans employment. There are circumstances which are within your ability to change and some which are beyond ourselves. We must play with the hand we are dealt and always strive to better ourselves. It seems as if Tommy has given up, which no doubt is a source of frustration and anger for Gina. I would accept cost of living, inflation, and global economics as some limited forms of justification but not, as you say, luck.
Gina works the diner all day, working for her man
Really, Mr. Jovi. It is as if in your worldview, feminism never happened. Why does Tommy insist that Gina needs to work for him? It is this hint of misogyny in the relationship that will only serve to drive her away. I would suggest that Tommy adopt a more modernistic approach to gender politics and accept that she does not actually need a man. She really doesn’t need that bad medicine.
If I were to offer some advice directly to Gina, I would remind her that she is a strong independent woman. She should seek out an independent education and ensure that she oversees her own destiny. You do not advise of any shared dependents that this couple have. I am wholly surprised that Gina hasn’t already thought about kicking that deadbeat Tommy to the curb. In short and to quote the vernacular, Gina should go and be her best self, girlfriend
She brings home her pay, for love, for love
I think that if Gina wants to further the notion of love, she should be thinking about what Tommy is bringing to the party and not everything she has already been required to give up (including, in this case, all her money). I would suggest that if Tommy really loved her, he would be out every day looking for work instead of his current plan, which we will come to shortly.
She says, we've got to hold on to what we've got
At last, some common sense, and as I predicted it comes from the female in this relationship. Absolutely correct, hold on to what you have got, don’t fritter it away on a deadbeat musician/former dockworker, Gina, he’s not the millionaire Billy Connolly you know.
It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not
Au contraire, Tommy/ Gina (it’s not clear from your letter, Mr. Jovi, who makes this statement). I would suggest that if they don’t care whether they are successful or not, it is likely that they will fail as a couple, as they have not invested any passion in their future or shared plans/ dreams.
We've got each other and that's a lot for love
I would ask both parties to be honest and objective. If they were talking about their own friends, following a visit or weekend vacation perhaps, they would no doubt find themselves discussing the varied merits of the relationship on the car journey home and would ultimately agree that the relationship is doomed. I dare you to tell me I’m wrong.
We'll give it a shot
You see, further evidence—case in point, ‘we’ll give it a shot’ may appear on the surface to be a misguided romanticised ideal. But this never saved a marriage, you may as well say I’ll try and be better, whatever the hell that means.
Woah, we're halfway there
Mr. Jovi, please inform Tommy, it is only because of a low educational attainment that you could possibly make such a bold statement. You aren’t even a quarter of the way there, my little deluded layabout. There has clearly been no budget planning, there is no mention of a savings plan. I could go on, but I must pause here to crack open another bottle of this delicious Pinot. I will need it to deal with the next phase of this car crash.
Woah, livin' on a prayer
Ah, so we finally arrive at the crux of your concern, and here I find we must pause to absorb the enormity of this crass and deluded statement. This takes some diagnosis. Let us suppose for a moment that there is some evidential proof that prayer works, that an omniscient being is listening in to every daily request from every person on this awful planet, all 7.5 billion of us. Then, despite all the hideousness, this Being starts prioritising financial security over, say, a cure for cancer, or global warming or (God forbid), world peace. Then, as if to add insult to injury, selects some poodle-haired, greed-driven pretty boy for his first charity case. Methinks somehow this prayer may go unanswered.
The second point here is that, in any case, practicality is out. You cannot live on prayer, you can live on food and water, that’s it. Pick any restaurant in the world and I can guarantee that prayer is never on the menu, ok?
Take my hand, we'll make it I swear
OK, now this really made me puke. Tommy’s plan seems to be that if praying doesn’t work, all your issues can be solved by holding hands. This is surely the last refuge of a small-town boy with zero ambition and an even-flimsier-than-the-prayer argument. I’ll tell you what, let me put a call in to Wall Street right now, see what they make of it, and when they have finished vomiting with laughter, we can put the phone down and move on to a sensible argument.
Tommy’s got his six-string in hock
Sorry to be blunt, but why did Tommy not just sell his guitar instead of pawning it? Surely this would have generated more money short-term? Even I had ridiculous dreams about being a rock star once, you know, but that was when I was five years old. Tommy needs to get some realistic goals for himself and put an end to this puerile nonsense. Perhaps he could teach music, or retrain as a hairdresser? Whatever he decides, I beg of you please, on a personal note, please don’t let Tommy be that guy who gets his guitar out at parties without being asked. Don’t let him be that monster.
Now he's holding in what he used to make it talk So tough, it's tough
I mean, if you are going to just talk nonsense, we may just as well stop right here. Say what you mean, did you write this when you were drunk? We all like to go wild in the streets at times, but sobriety, at least on occasion, has a whole range of merits to offer.
Gina dreams of running away and do you blame her? This may be the most pertinent and lifesaving idea she has had. But where is she going to run to? How does she envisage this will improve her circumstances? Sure, there are money worries, but she does have employment, perhaps she could ask for a pay rise? Or seek a promotion? Or may I refer you to my earlier point about dropping the dead wood with the acoustic guitar (i.e. Tommy).
When she cries in the night, Tommy whispers, baby, it's okay, someday
Someday is what we in the profession describe as undefined terminology. How about never? Does ‘never’ work for you? What she needs to hear is ‘I’ll be there for you’ but, to be honest, words can’t say what love can do. Your actions are more important than your words. Verbosity cannot make you a reliable partner any more than putting on a fancy hat and a waistcoat makes you a cowboy.
We've got to hold on to what we've got It doesn't make a difference if we make it or not We've got each other and that's a lot for love We'll give it a shot
Woah, we're halfway there Woah, livin' on a prayer Take my hand, we'll make it I swear Woah, livin' on a prayer Livin' on a prayer
I feel you have begun to make the same points in your letter and quite honestly, this is beyond boring—it's frankly exhausting. Repeating oneself does not win the argument. You will find yourself back where you started. I think if you have taken my previous advice, you could have cut this section out altogether, like a cameo role in an otherwise passable but historically incorrect brat pack movie.
Oh, we've got to hold on, ready or not
Everything I have heard about this guy so far tells me he obviously isn’t remotely ready for a relationship with a real woman. Tommy gives love a bad name.
You live for the fight when it's all that you've got
I may have misunderstood you here, Mr. Jovi, but you seem to infer an underlying hint of domestic tension in the relationship. Firstly, violence never solved anything. An eye for an eye and all the world will go blind, so sayeth Gandhi. Secondly and more importantly, if fighting is all that they have got, perhaps it’s time to end the relationship, or at least seek some relationship counseling (not with me, obviously). Thirdly, living for the fight? Seriously, there is so much more to life than that. Consider that there is poetry, art, music. Go and get some culture, or, I don’t know, take up the acting profession as a means to vent your as-yet-undiagnosed anger issues.
The more I review your letter, it begins to feel is if it might have been song lyrics rather than a desperate request for advice. By coincidence there is a record label company next door to my office who could perhaps have made more sense of your correspondence. I remember falling outside their building once and spilling my Frappuccino. I didn’t even see the slippery when wet sign, but I sense at this point I am digressing. Additionally, for some reason perhaps only known to you, the words key change have been hastily scrawled in the margin of your letter; perhaps this was simply an afterthought, but it leads me to my key piece of advice. In summary, Mr. Jovi, if that’s even your real name, the only ‘key change’ that should be taking place is in your friend’s attitude and responsibility to his girlfriend, even if his finances are tighter than stonewashed skinny jeans. Ultimately, I am highly concerned about your suggested approach that they should continue to ‘live on a prayer’ rather than to seek professional support directly. I would strongly urge you to discuss this matter with your friends and ask them to reconsider.
I do wish them both well for the future, although, sadly, like in so many cases, I expect to see this relationship to be little more than ashes by the time you receive my response. Then again, perhaps going down in a blaze of glory was always their intention.
I wish you all well. I will post this out once the Pinot has run dry. I must bid you adieu, as I never say goodbye.
(former) relationship advisor
Gavin Turner is a writer and poet from Wigan, England. He has most recently been published in Punk Noir magazine, Voidspace zine, and Roi Faineant press. His debut chapbook, The Round Journey, was released in 2022.
Kellie Scott-Reed is AEIC and host of "A Word?" Find her work in Punk Noir magazine, Identity Theory magazine, Roi Faineant Press, and on Spotify and Apple Music under the band name Fivehead.