Is Everyone Else More In Love?

I just finished the book Gone Girl by Jillian Flynn, in which a husband is accused of killing his missing wife. As Flynn puts it, it’s about “a marriage gone terribly wrong.” I’d say so. The writing is sensationally haunting and it gave me the creeps with Flynn depicting this sweet and loving couple whose marriage somehow deteriorates into suspected murder. With each turn of the page I found myself eyeing my husband, Stephen, suspiciously. This once adoring couple could seemingly be any couple. Nick and Amy are about the same age as Stephen and I and have been married just as long.

My fears were amplified the other night while watching a 20/20 story about a wife who hires a hit man to kill her husband, so she alone could profit from the sale of their home. I felt the need to clear the air. I turned to Stephen.

“You can just have the house, okay? You don’t have to kill me for it, or anything.”

I looked around our home with its scuffed walls and cracked floors. No one would kill for this house. No one.

As the 20/20 story went on, it revealed a videotape of the wife hiring an undercover cop to kill her husband and then her fury at her husband’s refusal to hire her a lawyer once she was arrested for trying to kill him. I used this as a segue to endear myself.

“You know,” I said, “I still wouldn’t want you to go to jail, even if you tried to kill me, because that’s how much I love you.”

Stephen nodded, appreciatively. “Thanks. But I’m pretty sure if I was going to off you I wouldn’t botch it like this idiot. I would get it done.”

I was so angry. Stephen and I have shared our life together for more than twenty years now. We have pooled together our hopes, our dreams and our finances. If he was going to pay for a hit man, something that probably cost a lot of money, it was only fair that he consult me about such a large purchase. We are equal partners here.

Stephen agreed: if he is to hire a hit man, he is to run it by me first.     

I breathed a sigh of relief, content that our partnership and budget, for the time being, were in order.

“Wait,” Stephen said, “Same rule applies if you are going to hire a hit man too.”

Naturally. But I don’t believe in outsourcing. If you want something done right you have to do it yourself and all that, you know?

I don’t think Stephen would ever really kill me, he’s just not that motivated. I of course would never kill him either as I am hopelessly disorganized. I would probably want his help negotiating any murder-for-hire contract so as to ensure I am not being ripped off like when I take our car in, alone, for servicing.

I realize that were our neighbour to overhear our discussion, she may think us odd. Perhaps even inclined to contact the police or at the very least her real estate agent. But this is just how Stephen and I flirt: we play fight, joke about putting fatwahs out on each other. It’s weird. Couples are weird and Flynn’s book got me thinking just how strange an up close and personal cross-section of the intimate life of any couple can be. A couple’s own dynamic is so unique, so insular to the twosome themselves. 

We all think we know the workings of other people’s relationships: our family, our good friends, our neighbours. Seeing other couples holding hands or sharing a kiss when they think no one is looking, it is so easy to compare our own relationship to theirs. It’s so easy to come up with a list of all the ways our own relationships are deficient by comparison. Why doesn’t my husband kiss me like that? Watching another couple bicker, it’s so easy to feel superior. Sure, we argue, but listen to these two. We’re not that bad! I’m beginning to appreciate that we are all that bad. In or own relationships we are all that good and that bad at the same time. Reading this book I found myself congratulating Stephen and I on all the ways we were better than Nick and Amy. Stephen would never do something like that, I would balk. And I would never say something that hurtful to him! There are ways, though, in which a Nick and Amy would balk at us, ways in which they are more passionate with each other, flirt more conventionally.

Facebook, especially, makes these comparisons readily available. Torturing myself with picture after picture of happy couples doing happy couple things, I wonder if Stephen and I ever look that happy in pictures. I wonder if we have even taken a picture together at all since our wedding. And if we don’t have cutsie pictures of ourselves apple-picking together, does that mean we aren’t as in love? Or just that Stephen is allergic to apples? Likewise, when a woman in labour posts status updates about her dilation, centimeter by centimeter, I wonder why this couple is plugged into social media at such a pivotal moment and not into each other. That’s not fair of me. I have no idea what it’s like to be that wife or to bring a child into the world. Maybe this couple finds each other’s social media activity endearing. Maybe that’s how they express their love.     

If it’s difficult to understand a relationship from the inside out, then it is impossible to understand it from the outside looking in. I am going to try really hard to stop surveying other couples, pondering their relational attributes relative to my own. I am just going to look to Stephen, try and know him as best as I can, questioning only how I can make him laugh, how I can be the best possible wife to him. Thank goodness he hates Facebook updates as much as I do.