Let me start by explaining how this happened: My boyfriend, let’s call him “Dave,” and I are in a long-distance relationship. Therefore, we have to come up with activities that we can do together without actually being together.
Last month, he suggested we read a book. After discussing possible genres, then arguing over what constitutes a “good” mystery novel, I only half-jokingly suggested “50 Shades of Grey.” After all, it was just in time for Valentine’s Day and I had been seeing the seductive trailers for the film “50 Shades of Grey,” based on the 2011 novel. I was admittedly more than a little curious.
To my surprise, Dave agreed, after a few seconds of hesitation. And here we are, more than 500 pages of mediocre plot and cringe-inducing porn later, and I must say that our relationship is better for it. Here’s why:
Experts will tell you how important communication is for a healthy relationship, and while E.L. James’s novel isn’t the best piece of literature around, it’s a classic example of a relationship gone sour because of poor communication.
As we read the book, Dave and I could objectively discuss where the main characters went wrong, who was to blame, and ultimately what they could have done to avoid the miserable situations they find themselves in by the end.
Over the course of our five-year relationship, Dave and I have had our fair share of arguments. Many of them spawned from miscommunication by one or both of us. And if you and your partner have ever fought because of some kind of miscommunication, then you know how difficult it is to see any side but your own.
Reading “50 Shades of Grey” gave Dave and me the unique chance to see each other’s perspective on how couples should communicate.
More importantly, we were detached from the characters, thanks to their bizarre qualities and poor character development. This detachment meant that if we disagreed how one character acted or miscommunicated we could calmly discuss our opinions without getting into a heated dispute where someone’s pride was left beaten on the floor.
During one memorable conversation we even managed to resolve a major misunderstanding we had early in our relationship.
For example, about two-thirds into the story, the two main characters, Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey, have an in-depth discussion on Steele’s feelings about their relationship, which at that point has escalated from just sex to semi-serious. The discussion, however, is conducted through a series of back-and-forth emails.
Dave strongly felt a conversation like that should take place in person and did not understand why the author had it happen any other way. While I agree a topic that important should be discussed in person, the emails were a perfect example of Steele’s inability to express herself when she’s with Grey.
As it turns out, I sent a few angry emails to Dave during our first year together because I, too, used to struggle with communicating my emotions. (I eventually stopped when I learned those emails ruined his entire day.)
As we discussed the example in the book, I mentioned my angry emails as a way to defend both the author’s choice and Steele’s actions. To my surprise, Dave had thought that I was sending those emails to be a killjoy. To his surprise, I’d sent those emails to communicate.
Needless to say, I was reminded of the importance of clear communication in a relationship and it’s all thanks to a very unexpected source. Thanks, E.L. James.
NOW WATCH: Learn what all the fuss is about — here’s the regular guy’s guide to ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’
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