Do you lurk on r/relationships looking for the juiciest bits of drama? Or perhaps you prefer the curated experience offered by @redditships, which drops marriage, friendship, and romance disputes right into your Twitter feed? Reddit’s r/relationships has gained a reputation for gross, infuriating, and ostensibly real material. It makes for entertaining hate-reads or plain WTF moments. But you know where else you can find this sort of material? Books. Some relationships in literature are just r/relationships posts waiting to happen.
At least in theory, r/relationships is limited in its scope of amusing awfulness by reality. Literature—fiction, at least—has no such boundaries. Authors have been writing about terrible and perplexing relationships for centuries. Bad personal hygiene, women blaming themselves for their otherwise perfect male partners’ unreasonable demands, bizarre sexual behavior, questionable friendships, you name it.
So without further ado, here are some relationships in literature as they might be described by the characters in them. If those characters were to post on r/relationships, that is.
Note: None of the “posts” below have big plot spoilers, as I tried to create them from points before major climactic moments happened. They may include some details that could count as light spoilers, though, depending on what you consider a spoiler.
I [21 F] live with my husband [42 M] in a big spooky house. He and his dead wife’s [dead F] former maid [creepily ageless F] seem hung up on his dead wife. Not sure what’s going on here.
I [21 F] recently moved into my new husband’s [42 M] family home. His wife, R., drowned last year, so he was a new widower when I met him in Monte Carlo (he was on vacation and I was training for a job). The problem is that I’m not sure he’s over R. R.’s old maid, who I’ll call Mrs. D, definitely isn’t over her.
One day, I happened to stumble into R.’s old room. Mrs. D found me there. She insisted I look around. She showed me a nightdress of R.’s that she’d been wearing the night she died, which I guess hadn’t been washed since? And also some of her underwear? I wasn’t clear on whether all the underwear had or hadn’t been washed (my mind couldn’t help but go there)?
Anyhow, I know it’s not my husband’s fault if Mrs. D is weird—she was close to R., after all, and so it makes sense that he would keep her around. But I wonder if both he and she feel sad about R. being gone, and maybe resent me for being here? I’ve tried to talk to him about this, sort of hinting at it, but he just acts like I’m being silly. Also, he doesn’t really talk about R. Like, ever.
Maybe he’s right, though. What do you think? Am I just having trouble adjusting to a new way of life, or is this all creepy and inappropriate as shit?
Tl;dr I married a guy twice my age who lost his wife last year. He never talks about her and the lady who used to be her maid is harassing me, to the point of making me look at her (the wife’s) old underwear. WTF?
The Classic Behind the Post: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Rebecca is a tale of mind-bending suspense. Its creepy tone is apparent in the smallest and subtlest details as perceived by the narrator, a young woman who marries an older man shortly after the death of his wife. Still, it’s fun to imagine an, uh, less subtle rendering of this situation.
I’m [3 M] a monster and the guy who made me [22 M] refuses to build me a female companion or help me survive in the world. This seems unfair?
I’m [3 M] having a bit of a problem with my creator [22 M]. The main issue is that he created me, a monster, and he refuses to take responsibility for that. I’d like for him to at least make me a monster girlfriend. I think it’s only fair. But he uses the fact that I’ve murdered people against me. Which, yes, I have murdered people. Okay. I get that. But in my defense, I’ve been treated like an abomination against nature since birth.
It’s not that I can’t understand his hesitation in creating me a girlfriend. However, my feeling is that if he has qualms about that, he could at least offer an alternative solution. As it stands, the only option he’s given me is to live out my remaining days completely on my own. Am I being unreasonable in expecting some help from the man who brought me into this world?
Tl;dr My creator refuses to make me a girlfriend or give me any other kind of basic assistance, even though it’s because of him that I exist in the first place.
The Classic Behind the Post: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
No matter how you look at it, Frankenstein’s monster got a pretty raw deal. How would you like to be an experiment cooked up by an impulsive college kid, then left to your own devices?
Pretty sure my [27 F] fiancé [27 M] had sex with his male roommate [20-something M], but I feel responsible, and he doesn’t want to talk about it.
I [27 F] think that my fiancé [27 M], who I’ll call Dave, had an affair with another guy. Before getting engaged, we took some time apart, admittedly so I could have some time to sort through my feelings and decide how I felt about spending the rest of my life with him. I went to Spain by myself and Dave stayed in Paris. I already knew that he had some friends there, and I knew that some of his friends were gay—which is cool, you know, whatever.
Anyhow, I come back to Paris, having decided that I wanted to marry Dave. While we’re out, Dave runs into one of his gay friends in a bookstore who accuses him of having left his “baby” alone. Then this quite handsome and extremely distraught Italian guy walks into the store and starts SCREAMING at Dave. He asks Dave where he’s been and says he thought he was dead. Dave tries to calm him down, and later explains to me that this guy is his roommate. He said it hadn’t occurred to him to let him know that he was leaving to stay with me in my hotel. Like I was going to buy that.
Dave says he wants to get out of here now and be with me. But he’s in a shitty mood all the time. I’ve tried to talk to him, but he obviously doesn’t want to talk about IT. But I dunno, maybe this is my fault for leaving him alone? Maybe everyone’s boyfriend sleeps with a hot Italian guy when you go on a break? So maybe even if we’re getting married, I should look the other way?
Tl;dr I’m pretty sure my fiancé had an affair with his male roommate, but I left him alone for the summer by himself, and it seems like he wants to be with me now. Should I try to make him admit it or just let it go?
The Classic Behind the Post: Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
In this beautifully written novel that takes on romantic love, sexuality, and choices made under societal pressure, main character David’s relationship with his girlfriend Hella nearly falls into the realm of subplot. The book is much more focused on David’s intense relationship with Giovanni, and the reasons he has for trying to sabotage it—which Giovanni himself seems certain have nothing to do with Hella. Still, Baldwin makes room in the story for contemplating David’s treatment of Hella, and it’s difficult not to imagine her point of view.
My friend [M] keeps trying to get me [M] to try his favorite dish, but I don’t want to?
I [M] have this friend [M] who I’ll call Samuel. Up until recently I felt like Samuel and I were best buds. We generally got along great and had similar tastes in sports, beer, movies, etc. The problem is that recently Samuel has become obsessed with what we don’t have in common.
Specifically, Samuel is kind of a foodie and has this hangup about green eggs and ham. I’m not a picky eater, but I’ve never been adventurous when it comes to food, and I guess I don’t really have any desire to change that. But Samuel can’t believe that I’ve never had green eggs and ham, which is his favorite dish, and he keeps pressuring me to try it.
Whenever I say that I don’t want to, he comes up with a new way of asking me. He asked me if I could eat green eggs and ham on a boat. When I told him no, he switched to a different approach and asked about doing it with a goat. I told him I wouldn’t on a boat or with a goat. He immediately followed up asking me if I’d like them here or there. At this point, I started getting pretty irritated. I told him that I didn’t like them anywhere and stormed out.
To be honest, I sometimes don’t even like Samuel anymore. Other times, though, I wonder whether maybe I overreacted. But I don’t feel I really did anything wrong because I thought he was really violating my boundaries and refusing to take no for an answer. Am I wrong for feeling this way?
Tl;dr My buddy won’t stop pressuring me to try green eggs and ham. Am I wrong for wanting him to stop?
The Classic Behind the Post: Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
I realize that many may interpret Green Eggs and Ham as a lesson about being open-minded about things and people, and that’s a fine message to come away with. But you have to admit it’s a little weird how forceful Sam-I-Am is in pushing food on someone who keeps turning it down.
I [F 25] thought my friend [M 25] might be having a gay affair with this weird guy friend of his but now I’m not so sure? It’s probably fine, I dunno.
This man [M 25] who I [F 25] thought might eventually be my fiancé has essentially disappeared. Last year, D. and I were neighbors in a little Italian village. He was a painter, I was working on a book about art. Sounds like a perfect match, right? We were friends, but I thought we might be moving towards being more. He was always evasive when I tried to talk about how I felt about him. Maybe he was just trying not to hurt my feelings. But I always hoped he felt the same way.
Anyhow, in the fall, this weird guy, T., turns up in our village and starts trying to befriend D. T. seemed okay at first but I never really warmed to him. It seemed like he wanted to monopolize all of D.’s time, and D. seemed oblivious to that. I thought maybe T. was romantically interested in D., or maybe wanted his money, or both, I’m not sure. A little while before T. was supposed to head back to America, he and D. went on a trip, and D. never came back. T. came for his stuff later and said that D. was staying in Rome for a while to work on his art.
I still thought D. would be back. As it turns out, I haven’t seen him since. He wrote to me saying it would be better for both of us if he took some time away. But now I’ve heard that a mutual friend of ours has been murdered, and that D. was the last to see him? I tried to find him in Rome, but he had checked into a hotel and I couldn’t seem to catch him. When I called the hotel, T. answered the phone. He sounded like he was just dropping by. But I don’t know. It’s probably fine?
Tl;dr My friend who I’m sort of in love with disappeared with a weird guy who might be attracted to him and now my friend is involved in a murder case. Should I be worried?
The Classic Behind the Post: The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Here we have yet another woman unsure of her chosen man’s feelings about his male friend. When Tom Ripley arrives in Italy to convince Dickie Greenleaf to return to America because he’s being paid by Dickie’s father to do so, he finds an adversary in Marge Sherwood, who seems to be romantically interested in Dickie. Even after Tom gives up on bringing Dickie home and simply wants to win Dickie’s attention and affections for himself, Marge remains a formidable, if oblivious, rival.
I [M 20] and my fiancée [F 20] have to get married to honor my father’s dying wishes, but I’m not sure if she makes an ideal companion for me and my mother.
My [M 20] fiancée [F 20], who I’ll call S., and I are going to be married soon and I’m having doubts. The thing is, I don’t really have much of a choice because my dad recently died, and he expressed an explicit wish that I marry S. The issue is that she doesn’t seem to get along with my mother. When I say “doesn’t seem to get along” I don’t mean that they fight. It’s just that S. keeps a distance from Mother, in terms of her attitude.
Just to make sure I’m including all the facts, Mother isn’t my real mother. She’s my stepmother. But she and my father took great pains to make sure that I thought of her as my real mother, to the point of having her imitate my real mother’s mannerisms. I’m aware that this isn’t normal, but I know they had my best interests at heart. So try not to judge my situation, please—that’s not what this is about.
Anyhow, I just don’t know if this girl is right for my family. For example, Mother was dangling her feet in the stream on our property the other day and she said S. should try it, too. But S. acted like she was shy about showing us her feet. Is it just me, or does that just seem silly and prudish? I really feel like everything would be fine if she weren’t so uptight. What do you think I should do?
Tl;dr I need to marry this girl to honor my father’s wishes. But she (the girl) seems like kind of a prude, and I’m not sure if she gets along with my mother well enough. What should I do?
The Classic Behind the Post: “Bridge of Dreams” by Junichirō Tanizaki (Available in Seven Japanese Tales, Translated by Howard Hibbett)
This one gets full points for creepiness. Don’t read it if you don’t want to read about some highly inappropriate relationships by, well, most standards (I’ve toned things down a bit, as I imagine the narrator would). It’s an interesting examination of mortality, credibility, and the idealization of human beings, but it’s also just whoa. There’s a car crash element to its appeal.
Had your fill of drama and cringe? If not, consider adding some classic reading to your r/relationships habit.