Nick Hornby’s How to Be Good begins with a woman in a miserable marriage. She pours out her troubles to her brother, and doesn’t get as sympathetic a response as she expected. This brief exchange captures, I think, the agony and hurt of too many marriages—hurt that could be healed, and agony that is unnecessary:
“What would make a difference to you?” [her brother asks].
I know the answer to this one. I’ve thought about it, and I’m word perfect.
“I don’t want David to be David anymore.”
“Ah. Who do you want him to be, then?”
“Someone different. Someone who loves me properly, and makes me feel good, and appreciates me, and thinks I’m great.”
“He does think you’re great.”
I start to laugh…. I am not sure of many things at the moment, but I do know, with every atom of my being, that David does not think I am great…..
It’s true that I don’t want David to be David anymore. I want things to be structurally the same—I want him to have fathered my children, I want him to have been married to me for twenty years, I don’t even mind the weight and the bad back. I just don’t want that voice, that tone, that permanent scowl. I want him to like me, in fact. Is that really too much to ask of a husband?