What advice do Somerset Maugham and Chris Rock have in common when it comes to relationships and marriage?

November 26, 2019
What advice do Somerset Maugham and Chris Rock have in common when it comes to relationships and marriage?
Alejandra Quiroz
Mango Green TeaHere Comes the Sun by Nina Simone

Dear Erica,

I’m worried my best-friend’s marriage is unhappy. I know she was madly in love with her last boyfriend and they had a terrible breakup, and she married her husband very soon after so I always wondered if he was a bit of a rebound. They’ve been married for nearly five years now, and I just don’t think there’s anywhere near as much passion as with her ex-boyfriend. Should I say something? Or will I upset her if I bring it up?

Confounded in Chiswick

Dear Confounded in Chiswick,

Your friend’s marriage sounds an awful lot like Isabel’s marriage to Gray in Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge. In the novel, Isabel, despite being madly in love with her childhood friend Larry, marries her rich neighbour Gray Maturin. When she ponders the demise of her relationship to Larry, her friend explains, “Your love for Larry and his for you were as simple in nature as the love of Romeo and Juliet. The writer goes on to explain that “passion thrives not on satisfaction, but on impediment.” It’s possible that your friend’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend was filled with passion for this very reason. It was exciting. It was unpredictable. It was unsustainable. Or as Chris Rock so eloquently points out in his comedy stand up, “Have you ever heard of a healthy relationship that is exciting?”

Now, I don’t know the ins and outs of your friend’s marriage. And neither do you. But it’s possible that even without a spark, she is happy and satisfied. When the narrator in Razor's Edge presses Isabel on her marriage, she admits that she doesn’t love Gray, but she is “very fond of him still.” She tells the narrator “I suppose I didn’t really love him, but one can get on all right without love.” She then goes on to add that most importantly, Gray “is wonderful in bed. We’ve been married for ten years and he’s as passionate a lover as he was at the beginning.”

So even though she doesn’t feel the intense love she had for Larry, Isabel is satisfied both emotionally and sexually in her marriage. Like Isabel, your friend might be more than willing to open up to you in the same way Isabel does with her friend in The Razor’s edge. As a good friend, she might enjoy confiding in you. But always keep an open mind when you judge someone else’s relationship. Just because there’s not the heady passion of first love, it doesn’t mean the couple are miserable and headed for divorce...though in Chris Rock’s case, it did seem to work out that way. But then again, if he’d had Gray Maturin in his bed, maybe his marriage would have worked out better...