Against Romance: An Un-valentine - The New York Times
For more than half of our lives, though, we have stayed together. We went to graduate school in the United States, and traveled all over the world. Eventually, we even had children. Our daughter was born in Taiwan, where Gil was completing his Ph.D. research while I was teaching English and writing freelance. Our son was born two years later in the United States, where Gil got a job as a professor.
If in all the years we’ve been together, I haven’t seriously considered separating, it’s because even at times when things between us seemed wrong, I couldn’t bear the thought that in ending our relationship, I would lose Gil.
Of the two of us, I’m the more capricious. I’m a flirt, easily distracted by a meaningful glance or the touch of a good-looking man. Gil prefers to spend his mental energy on academic problems rather than frivolous romantic fantasies. I’ve often developed crushes, which Gil tends to take in stride because he mostly just finds them pointless. When I confessed to an infatuation with someone I didn’t seriously want to be with, his response sobered me up: “Then why are you wasting your time?” he asked.
He really doesn’t understand the appeal of romance. I’m a sentimental romantic at heart, but because of him I’ve learned to appreciate that there are many other pursuits — raising children, caring for the world, writing, travel, adventure — that are more rewarding than romance. As exciting and intoxicating romance is, it doesn’t need to dictate our lives.
But there are times — especially after I have watched certain romantic movies — when I panic and think my life is all wrong because our last candlelight dinner consisted of cold leftovers during an electrical blackout, and nowadays, when Gil and I are awake in bed, it’s most likely that we are reading. When I look at ourselves through a romantic lens, I see a pathetically passionless couple, held together by habit and inertia, and I start fantasizing about eloping with a more ardent lover.
Of course, after more than 25 years in a relationship, the fire of passion has dimmed to a glow of familiarity, and now that we have children our interactions are often limited to the coordination of schedules and squabbles about the fair distribution of responsibilities. We can fight in shorthand because we’re so well acquainted with each other’s grievances that we don’t need to go through the whole argument anymore.
But when, during my moments of marital doubt, I look at other men as potential lovers, I realize there aren’t many with whom, after 25 years, I’d still get along as well as with Gil. Maybe it’s just because we’ve grown intertwined, like two trees that need each other for support.