I really loved Lionel Shriver’s Post-Birthday World, but I find this recurring theme weird — that no man can be good and honest and kind and warm at the same time. He’s either good and dull and unaffectionate (and maybe cheats on you anyway — though how does that even work with “good and honest”? Or he’s warm and affectionate and fun but also volatile and abusive. That both men can still love you: the “good” man can love you in spite of not being affectionate — he doesn’t like holding your hand or kissing you and he’d rather watch TV than talk — and in spite of taking you for granted — letting you do all the cooking and household shopping and even refuse to accompany you while you’re doing it. And the other man can be manipulative and yell at you and be suspicious of you but that’s just because he loves you and that’s why the sex is so great and you still don’t regret marrying him.
In real life, please stay away from both these guys.
So according to all these books, there’s no such thing as a perfect man (for you) or a perfect relationship. No such thing as an honest, long-term, affectionate partnership. No one you can trust and be truly yourself with.
But yet: that mirrors what I see around me. Most people seem to resent their spouses, feel neglected, and not be really happy. And what seems worse to me — they don't expect to be really happy. they seem to accept this is all there is. long years with someone you don’t really agree with, whose company you only sometimes enjoy. i thought it was only true for India — with our cultural emphasis on families and marriages and our cultural horror of single people. But these books, if they are accurate, indicate otherwise. And I get it, to an extent — I have a horror of being alone myself. I don’t like the idea of living alone, or with roommates (and definitely not with family). It seems so safe to have one person at home to talk to , to go out with. Reminds me of that (bad) movie, Shall We Dance, (which I loved at the time), where Susan Sarandon’s character says we get married because “We want a witness to our lives.” Because unless someone else is there, it didn’t really happen. It’s not important. You’re not important.
But is it so rare, then, to have what I have? Someone I want to be with, and who so obviously wants to be with me? Someone who's almost always kind, affectionate, and is always honest? Who is truly my best friend and has my best interests at heart?
It seems a little weird, cheap even, to write down all the ways in which he is so good to and for me — and I don’t think I can get them all — but it seems right to record it. Because we don’t have to settle for the sub-standard relationships in literary novels (or in most romance novels, for that matter).
He is so kind. He takes care of me. He cooks for me nearly every day, and sometimes more than once a day. He runs errands so I don’t have to. He takes care of the finances. He may not like doing all this, but he rarely complains. And he looks after me when I’m not well.
He likes my company. And he doesn’t really seek out anyone else’s — which may not be the healthiest thing — but he likes his solitude, and other than that, he likes me.
He talks to me. He tells me what he’s thinking and feeling. He treats me like a friend and shares his whole life with me, even the parts I’m not involved in.
He listens when I want to talk.
He encourages me. He praises me. He makes me feel better when I’m feeling less confident.
He is funny and he tries to make me laugh.
He is nice to my people — my mom, my cousin who’s like a brother, my friends — because he cares for me.
He buys me things. He doesn’t like spending money on himself, and he doesn’t usually buy me extravagant gifts, but he buys me nice things he knows I want, and he encourages me to spend on myself.
He tries to take an interest in things I’m interested in, and sometimes ends up liking them as much as I do — books, blogs, music, art— it’s so nice to share these, though we have some separate interests.
We try out things together — movies and TV shows, food… Having somewhat similar tastes helps.
He lets me be my own person. It was difficult for him at first, but he came around to my being non-vegetarian, drinking — and he tried out these too. He’s even okay with my occasional smoking. It helps that we have similar views on all this. He encourages me to spend time away from him on things I want to do: write, volunteer, meet friends…
He is attracted to me.
He is responsible. He doesn’t do dangerous or stupid things, like hard drinking or rash driving or extravagant spending.
He is so loyal.
We have such similar values. He has barely any prejudice, any narrow-mindedness.
We are each our own person and yet we so like each other, like spending time together, and really care about each other.
Sure, we have had disagreements and difficult times and even difficult years. I have no illusions that we will be together forever — but I wouldn’t be surprised if we were, either.
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