A Life Sentence … of Love

by Davis B.

If nothing I’m about to describe sounds familiar, then congratulations. Honestly, congratulations. You’re either a really good and mentally healthy person, in a relationship with a really good and mentally healthy person, or — and this will mean that you don’t have many couple friends — both. If that’s the case, you’re welcome to keep reading; doing so will probably cause you to experience the feelings that really fit guys at the gym must have when they watch me try to do pull-ups. It’s fine.

Anyway, so you’re in a relationship, and in this relationship there’s some level of conflict between you and your partner. Your partner does X, which bothers you, and doesn’t do Y, which really bothers you. Your partner responds that she actually does do X, you just never notice because you have it in your mind that she doesn’t do X, and you ignore any facts that don’t support that narrative. Or she does do X, but not in exactly the way you want, so to you it doesn’t count. Or she admits that she doesn’t do X, but she does A, B, and C — and it’s basically impossible to find anyone who does A, B, and C as well or as often as she does — so why are you so hung up on X? Or she would be happy to start doing X the very moment — the second — you start doing G, which she’s asked you to do for years now. If you’re not going to do G, why should she do X? She even started doing X once, just to see if that would cause you to start doing G, and she did X for like a month straight, but no sign of G, so she stopped doing X. And as for Y, yes, it’s true, she doesn’t do it, but she sees nothing illegitimate about that, no reason to start doing it, other than your arbitrary preference. No one she’s ever dated has ever had a problem with her not doing Y — in fact, it was something several of her former partners found very endearing. Maybe, instead of her starting to do Y, you should just let it go.

And so you’re left to try to convince your partner that your version of events and your interpretation of these events is correct and that hers isn’t. Which is a lot of fun.

And if you argue long and hard enough, you start to feel like maybe you’re going a little crazy. How is it that this otherwise intelligent, rational person — a person who in many other ways sees the world as you do — doesn’t understand that people who are in a relationship respond to one another’s emails? Particularly the ones in which sentiments of love and affection are expressed? They just do. It’s not a preference, Stephanie! It’s an unwritten rule known and observed by all civilized people. But Stephanie doesn’t really think so — doesn’t being in love mean not being bound the stupid conventions that govern less significant and meaningful relationships? You’re not Steve in Accounts Receivable, for crying out loud, so why do you need a “Thanks for the email!” You know she reads your emails, and you know she loves when you send her expressive ones; she’s told you that a thousand times.

Round and round you go, the two of you. And that’s the problem. There are just two of you. Hung jury. 1–1. And you realize that if you were in a similar situation with someone who believes the earth is flat that the verdict on that matter would also be a hung jury, 1–1. And you realize that’s not a very good method for getting at truth or reality. You need a judge, or at the very least, an uneven number of jurors. You’d give a lot of money for an omnipotent, impartial observer to drop down from the sky, hear you both out, review footage of the events in question, and declare which version is correct and true (yours, duh).

That’s not going to happen, though, so you resort to the next best thing, which is to talk to your dad, or your roommate, or your co-worker, or Judy Greer, if you’re a character in a romantic comedy. And they, of course, side with you. That feels pretty good. Two against one, Stephanie! In your face! But it doesn’t feel as good as you had hoped it would. There’s a really small chance — highly improbable, but technically possible — that you didn’t present Stephanie’s side to Judy Greer in the best or fairest light. You might have even preceded her arguments by saying, “Der, I’m Stephanie derrrr doi doi derrrr,” an impression of Stephanie that always slays Judy Greer. You might have even omitted a fact or two that Stephanie would argue is critical to her case. And finally, you realize that your mom is not, in the strictest sense, impartial (even though she is right that people don’t warm to you quickly because they’re intimidated by you).

Which is where we come in. (By “we” I mean me and the readers and commenters of The Hairpin.)

If you’re in the situation I’ve described above, here’s your chance to obtain an impartial verdict. You and your partner should submit the following:

1. A brief statement of the facts (200 words) on which you can both agree. If you can’t agree on the facts, our verdict won’t be relevant to at least one of you, which sort of defeats the purpose.

2. A statement from you (200 words) advocating your case, telling us why, on this matter, you are right and your partner is wrong.

3. A statement from your partner (200 words) advocating his/her case, telling us why, on this matter, you are wrong and he/she is right.

I’ll print the above as well as my short little take on it, at which point we’ll let the commenters weigh in, both with comments and arguments as well as voting in a poll.

Is this a rip-off of The Marriage Ref? Yes, in that the idea is very similar, and no, in that it will be something you will actually, hopefully enjoy. (And for the record, I didn’t steal it from The Marriage Ref; I stole it from my brother, who had the idea for a blog we used to write on BEFORE The Marriage Ref. So in your face again, Stephanie.)

Please send submissions — parts one, two, and three — here. (Submissions may be edited for clarity.)

Davis B. has been happily married for three years and has never even had one fight with his wife! And he’s also too busy to watch TV. You can follow him on Twitter @davistbell.

Photo by Iakov Kalinin, via Shutterstock