In the past couple of days I’ve been inundated with emails from people alerting me to that recent New York Times blog post, for a while the most emailed on their website, called “The Science of a Happy Marriage.”
(Okay when I say inundated I actually mean I heard from two people, my grandmother and my best friend R, both of whom frequently send me links to things. But that is two more people than normally email me the same article in a given week. So there.)
Anyway R suggested, specifically, that I weigh in on this idea that what fosters commitment is not so much genetic but a specific dynamic in a relationship, that of “self-expansion”: “how much a partner enhances your life and broadens your horizons.”
Apparently you’re more likely to be faithful to someone who you feel challenges you and makes you a better, more interesting or more virtuous person.
Okay, I’ll buy that. I mean, I’m often drawn to men who I think are smarter and more creative than me: I want to be with someone who I can learn from.
As I may have mentioned, I have a writing professor who likes to harass me relentlessly about my love life.
He gets away with this for a couple of reasons. One is fairly obvious: that I am singularly open about it.
The other is that early in our relationship he made clear that he, a gay man, is similarly plagued: he likes to label both of us “tragic romantics.” (Also: “narcissists”– a characterization that my therapist disputes and I alternately reject and embrace.)
In class last night we workshopped a short story I”m (struggling to) write about an older woman who has a long-term affair. One of my classmates raised the (very legitimate) question of why it is that her husband knows about it but doesn’t leave the marriage: what sort of person, he asked, stays in a relationship in which they know they are loved less?
According to my teacher, people like him and me. There are lots of us out there, he said, who would rather love than be loved. He brought up that W.H. Auden line: “If equal affection cannot be, let the more loving one be me.” (And then he made me blush–not a difficult feat, mind you–by calling me out as I furiously scribbled it down. “An open book, that one,” he sighed–joking, but not.)
One of my not-so-great talents in life is that I am extremely gullible. It’s probably not very wise of me to advertise this trait on the internet, but for the sake of this post I must share that most things people tell me, I believe. How I managed to work in journalism for several years I cannot and will not explain.
I was reminded of this tendency today by my friend and colleague J, as I told her and A about my new low, as of this morning, in gym reading material: Star magazine.
“Isn’t that the one that has stuff about space aliens and UFO’s taking over Hollywood?” she asked.
“That’s what I thought, too!” I replied, going on to explain that despite these associations, Star actually struck me as no more absurd than US Weekly, my usual grocery line tabloid of choice. And with an equally, if not more extensive selection of celebrity photos in the “stars! they’re just like us!” vein–which I think we can all agree is the highlight of US Weekly indulgence. (I mean, come on: who doesn’t like a picture of Reese Witherspoon pushing a grocery cart?)
I then told the two of them about the reason I’d brought up the magazine in the first place: a feature about Sandra Bullock and Jesse James. Old news, I know. (Not as old, however, as the copy of Gourmet that I picked up at the gym a few weeks ago–from 2002. Newsflash: if anyone has some extra cash burning a hole in their proverbial pocket, UNM could use it.)