Bathsheba Everdeen | Wed, 27 Nov 2019
I met someone about two months ago. Handsome, self-assured, charming and intelligent, he shared my interests and my passions. I was ecstatic to find out that we had both spent weeks pouring over old English classic novels to find the same life-altering moments in the text. We both spent our weekends watching boxing matches, and we both shared a love-hate relationship with nutrition and a strict (his more than mine) gym schedule. So, one day, when he asked me to lunch, I thought, ‘This is it, my person, someone I have all my loves and passions in common with! It’s wonderful!’
We got lunch a few times a week for the next few weeks, while he took his break at the job he worked. We chatted about travel, philosophy, art, literature, our passions, our work and our social habits. It was a dynamic which clicked unlike anything else I’d had the pleasure of experiencing before.
Suddenly, one day, he sat down and sighed. ‘Life’s a bit difficult at the moment. I just moved flat, and now I’m living with a friend of mine…’ I nodded. Moving is pretty trying. ‘And my girlfriend.’
Oh. So, I didn’t see that one coming…
Here is where the social conditioning kicks in. If you have any familiarity with romantic comedies, especially those cheesy Christmas films, or any sort of experience reading a classic English love triangle, then you will also be familiar with the one undying trope which we have all consumed: Man loves woman. Woman loves man. There is, however, an obstacle, and that obstacle is that either man or woman, at some point in the narrative, chooses someone that is wrong for them. Oh, dear.
This is where the trouble begins. Because this “wrong” person’s true function is to operate as the roadblock, the dramatic tension, the seed of doubt in the will-they-won’t-they mapped road to these two as soul-mates. It naturally follows, therefore, that if we are to root for our heroine and our hero, then this obstacle cannot be rooted for - we have to all be on the same page, of course. So, what to do but make the obstacle either two-dimensional, unfaithful, a liar, a cheat, a dastardly scoundrel or a bitch with a heart of ice? We hear ourselves crying to the screen, ‘“No, you’re not meant to be together! You should be with him, with her, not with each other!’
So, what happens? If this is Thomas Hardy or Charlotte Bronte, the villainous other woman or man is put to death, so our heroine and hero may finally unite. If it is a romantic comedy, then the stone-cold woman, or the inattentive man, are dumped, humiliated, taken out of the picture, left at the altar. You get the general picture. This is the message we unwittingly consume, and we tell ourselves that we are happy with this ending, because the love interest our main character initially chose was so blatantly immoral and wrong for them. The cad, the bitch, the scoundrel – they needed to go.
When I realised that this man I thought I connected so well with was taken, my immediate thought was not to let him go, leave, and call it a day. I hate to say it, but my immediate thought was that someone I connected so well with must surely be better off with me, and that he was with the wrong person. She didn’t enjoy the things that he enjoyed, didn’t understand his life philosophy, his hobbies, his habits, or his take on life and art and literature; I did. But this is not right. It never can be.
Life is rarely so one-dimensional as our love stories have made them out to be, and that woman or man, the one who has your interest, is not really with the wrong person. That person has a soul, they have a heart, they have a mind and they have trust that the person you might long for is faithful to them and loves them. That girl who lives with him, he made a promise to commit to her. She loves him and trusts that he will honour that promise. Imagine if it was you? Would you feel good, knowing that the one you love is actively being pursued by someone who has no regard for your heart and your life together?
Put yourself in their shoes. The dating scene is already such a treacherous and horrible landscape, littered with shards of a thousand broken hearts, flooded with tears, under a shroud of sleepless nights. You may already know how dark it is. Don’t add another person’s life to the pyre.