When I was a little girl, I thought that love was all romantic dates and grand gestures. Now that I’m wiser, I know that real love is more complicated. It involves acknowledging differences of opinion, compromise, and sacrifice. And after years of marriage, I’ve finally learned that love is hard work that’s beneath me.
Like most relationships, my romance with Darryl started off like a fairy tale. But the initial flowers, good morning phone calls, and great sex gave way to chore charts, nitpicky in-laws, and long conversations about where we’d spend our mutual time and money. Looking back at those early years of our youth makes me realize I could have been fluent in Spanish by now if I’d focused my energies on that instead. That’s all love is, really: challenging work I feel like I shouldn’t have to do.
During tough times, Darryl has looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you willing to fight for this marriage?” And it’s like, I guess so? Does it have to be me? Darryl’s definitely the more hands-on one in the relationship and I’m really trying to have as smooth a ride as possible. I’m not saying I’m too good to work on this marriage, but it would be great if we could just hire someone.
If you’re worried you won’t ever be able to make a long, monogamous relationship work, I assure you that you can as long as you’re willing to put in lots of demeaning labor. Though you might want to just consider volunteering at a children’s hospital instead. But if you’d prefer to argue with someone about whether to watch The Revenant or Carol before you both decide to watch your own preference in separate rooms, to each her own. I just don’t know if I’m willing to sink that low for so-called “love.”
These days, whenever I see a young couple in their honeymoon phase, I question if they know all the time they are about to spend maintaining their initial spark, time that could be spent doing something much more luxurious like having a whole bed to yourself or fucking a new person you’re not bored of. As I watch them walk hand in hand, I wonder if they’re aware of how many Zadie Smith books there are to read out there.
While you might be wondering if I’m considering divorce, I’m not ready to give up after all these years I’ve made Darryl work so hard for. What would all the hours spent listening to him tell me what he’s learned in therapy (I won’t go!) be worth if I didn’t see this thing through? Now I’m just waiting for one of two possible outcomes: watching my life partner die or hopefully dying first because the job of planning a funeral sounds like a ton of work that I’m just not sure I have in me.