Good Relationships Aren’t Romantic

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Good Relationships Aren't Romantic

Yesterday, I was watching — as I do every Wednesday — Eyes Wide Shut. The scene that sets forth the action of the movie works like this. Alice (played by Nicole Kidman), asks her husband, Bill (played by Tom Cruise), if he fucked two models at a party. When he says, “no” and she asks “why?” he tells her it’s because they’re married and that he loves her. She responds, “So basically, what it comes down to is that you wouldn’t screw the two models out of consideration for me, but otherwise you would.” He then gets evasive and changes the subject.

I found this interesting. Bill had an opportunity at simple honesty. When asked if he stopped himself from fucking two models out of consideration for her, the answer should have been a resounding “yes.” Of course that was the reason. Wanting to fuck two models simultaneously? That’s the most normal thing I’ve ever heard of. That’s the button-down-and-khakis of fantasies. It’s almost boring in its ubiquity as a male desire. If he was a single man, no one would have a problem with him fucking those two models — we’d celebrate. Men would high-five him and women would nod approvingly at the absolute stallion our Lord has brought forth to this world. So yes, it was out of consideration for her that he stopped himself. There’s nothing wrong with that.

I think these kinds of scenarios play out all of the time in relationships. This idea that the person becomes something else, something purer, the moment they enter a relationship. As if they’re sex drive becomes laser-focused to a single individual; a compass of a boner, always and only pointing True North. Everyone knows this isn’t the case. Of course you’re going to find other people attractive. But what about when that truth is facing you down?

There’s another scene in Eyes Wide Shut where Alice reveals there was a young naval officer she met the previous summer who she desperately wanted to fuck. The only thing that stopped her was a lack of courage. She couldn’t seem to break through her commitment on her own, but the tiniest push one way or another — a furtive glance or a whispered proposal — would have consumed her and toppled the marriage. Imagine your wife telling you about a moment when she wanted another man more than you. How would you handle that confession?

We’re all OK with desiring other people, as long as the person you desire doesn’t want anyone else. But that’s not the way this works. You don’t get to keep your head on a swivel guessing bra sizes of every girl that walks by without also understanding that someday, somewhere, there is a very real possibility that you will not be your wife or girlfriend’s first pick. In that moment, she will keep herself from doing the thing she really wants for one reason: out of consideration for you.

Some would say that consideration is too practical and boring of a feeling for love. I’d say it’s more real. Disney movies show all this passion and romance. They treat love like a lottery that everyone will win. Hot people are a commodity that will never run out. Desires don’t change, and neither do needs. Those needs — the person who knows the right thing to say, the right way to hold your hand, the cuddle position that doesn’t make you feel fat — are what hold you back.

There’s an old story that goes like this: A man walks up to a woman and asks her, “Would you sleep with me for ten million dollars?”

“Of course I would,” she replies.

“What if I offered you one dollar?” he asks.

“What kind of a girl do you think I am?” she replies.

“Miss, we’ve already established what you are. Now, we’re just haggling over price.”

We like to believe in a better nature of the person sitting across from us at dinner. We want to buy the romanticism of a perfect love, and unmarred desire. But it’s in the extremes in which we are revealed to be human, normal, and desirous.


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