What I’m Reading: The Love and Relationships Edition

it's complicated.
It’s complicated. (Photo credit: Channing Johnson)

If you and I spend any one-on-one time together, we inevitably get around to some of my favorite topics — love, fidelity, identity and memory. I cover human connection (and how technology is changing it) as a beat, so over the past year I’ve been writing more on these themes, with posts questioning whether online dating is really helping us make better matches, etc.

I’ve also evangelized the best show on TV right now (since Mad Men isn’t back yet), The Americans on FX. It’s ostensibly a show about Russian spies living as sleeper agents in the U.S. But really it’s about love, fidelity and identity. And it stars one of my mad crushes, Matthew Rhys. (I love Matt’s! And Welshmen!)

Buried in that exposition was RECOMMENDATION #1: The Americans on FX. Watch it. Seriously. Season 3 debuts on Wednesday.

Okay, here are the rest of my recommendations on this theme:

#2 Why We Cheat (Slate Magazine)
The author of the book ‘Mating in Captivity’ sits down for a Q&A, in which she dispels some of our black-and-white thinking about stepping out on our partners. The nut graf: “Very often we don’t go elsewhere because we are looking for another person. We go elsewhere because we are looking for another self. It isn’t so much that we want to leave the person we are with as we want to leave the person we have become.”

#3 The Split-Screen Marriage (The New York Times)

Showtime’s Golden Globe-winning (but not necessarily deserving) program, The Affair, explores the notion of perception and memory in our intimate relationships. It tells half its story from the man’s point of view, then flips midway through each episode to the woman’s perspective. Even though they remember the same sequence of events (for the most part), the tone and details are completely different. This NYT piece gets at “the canyon of ignorance that cuts across every human relationship” and got me thinking about how we can treat one other better by seeking to know our partners more.

#4 Vonnegut on Marriage (dannyman.toldme.com)

An argument for the villages of yesteryear — extended families. As Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “When a couple has an argument nowadays, they may think it’s about money or power or sex or how to raise the kids or whatever. What they’re really saying to each other, though without realizing it, is this: “You are not enough people!”

#5 Searching for Sex (The New York Times)

This piece made me want everyone to get laid more. As I mentioned in a previous post, an economist dives into the big data we have on sex-related searches, whether it’s penis size or the number of times “sexless marriage” is searched instead of “loveless marriage.” The results show Americans are have WAY TOO LITTLE SEX and that they’re really hung up about body insecurities.

One of My Favorite Chuck Klosterman Hypotheticals: The Cheating One

The one time I met Chuck Klosterman I totally whiffed my pickup line.

For Christmas, Matty got me a set of Chuck Klosterman Hypothetical Cards. (If this sounds lame, he did get me other stuff, too, like a TripIt PRO account! I was most excited about that and promptly started updating my TripIt on Christmas morning.)

Anyway. There is one hypothetical on each card, and they involve situations like what you’d do if you came home to a trashed house and Shaquille O’Neal was in your shower, or whether you’d own up to the fact you accidentally got selected to be saved from a meteor crashing to earth. Stuff like that. Every time we’ve been in the car since I got the cards, we have chosen one hypothetical to talk through or argue about.

But the reason I enjoy Chuck Klosterman hypotheticals so much in the first place is because of this one — the one about cheating on your girlfriend:

“This question raises a larger point about everything we pretend to understand about relationships, and particularly what we assume we understand about monogamy (and when infidelity technically begins). So while your answer to this question might seem unambiguous, the criteria you use to reach the conclusion are generally more important than the answer itself.”

If you haven’t considered this one, read it through. Once you’re done, we can have a conversation about it sometime over food and beverages. Regarding whose side I’m on, I’ve consistently held my position and am happy to defend it. Then again, if you’re a friend of mine that goes drinking with me, you probably already know whose side I’m on.