I had been looking forward to this book since finishing Melissa Ford’s previous novel “Measure of Love”. “Apart at the Seams” looks at the same events from the perspective of Arianna, but easily stands alone if you haven’t read “Measure of Love”.
“Apart at the Seams” did not disappoint. It’s a book that explores the things people say – or leave unsaid – in relationships. I loved the believable interplay of the characters and how an idea or thought that seems to make perfect sense in one’s head doesn’t always translate to the thing another person hears. I also enjoyed getting to know Arianna better after the first two novels. I’ve always wondered what her story was, and it’s fascinating to see her come to life in these pages. I could relate to her difficulty balancing work and her personal life.
Three questions from the book, and my responses:
It feels as though Arianna would become irritated with Ethan for not doing things she needed him to do yet she often wouldn’t verbalize clearly what it was she wanted or needed. Why do you think asking for exactly what you need makes you feel so vulnerable?
Throughout the story, Arianna would make a lot of assumptions about Ethan, or look at his actions and ascribe a specific intent to them without clarifying further. I felt one of the problems Arianna had with verbalizing her wants or needs to Ethan was her perception that his values and priorities were so different from hers that he simply wouldn’t step up and meet those needs.
I think there are a couple of reasons asking for what you need is such a vulnerable state to be in. For starters, the person you’re asking can say no to something deeply important, and when that happens, the relationship changes. Sometimes it’s easier to just not ask and hope the need will be met. If the need isn’t met, then there’s an out: “But I didn’t say anything or actually ask”.
I’ve often perceived in my culture (American/Western) that there is an unspoken rule about asking lovers/spouses/romances or even close friends for what one needs openly. There’s an assumption that if the person really knows you, really loves you, they will meet those needs without being asked. That person will just somehow know what you need. Having to ask, straightforwardly, for what you want is taken to mean that the person doesn’t love/know you as well, and that’s a really scary thought in a serious relationship.
There’s also a taboo in society about being seen as “needy” or “high maintenance” if you ask for things openly. So not only could the need not be met, but there’s the additional possibility of being mocked in some way for just asking. With those deep needs where I’m truly opening myself to the other person, the possibility of that kind of rejection is terrifying. I thought this was perhaps why Arianna didn’t want to ask Ethan for what she needed, because she worried her needs would be rejected, or even possibly belittled – even in the most offhand or accidental way – with Ethan’s different values.
Throughout the story, Arianna slowly develops a non-romantic relationship with a man named Noah. Although the two are attracted to each other, they maintain the status as friends due to Arianna already being in a relationship with Ethan. Arianna, along with myself as the reader, compares Noah to her boyfriend Ethan and it’s obvious that Noah and Arianna have much more in common. They both share the same views about marriage as well as the importance on advancing their own careers. Is it possible to nurture and maintain a platonic relationship between a man and a woman despite the attraction the two share?
I think it’s completely possible, but I also think it’s key to identify the attraction up front and be honest with oneself about it.
When my then-boyfriend, now husband went to college, he had a roommate freshman and sophomore years. This guy – I’ll call him Samuel – was good looking, sensitive, a very smart English major who could quote and discuss poetry beautifully, play the violin, and was a genuinely nice, decent person. Most of the women I know who met him had at least a small crush on him – including me. It was that instant sort of pop or spark of attraction (at least on my part). We had a lot in common and he was definitely my type.
But I was in a relationship and when I felt that spark, I knew I had to make a decision whether or not to nurture it into a flame. Letting the spark grow into flames meant my romantic relationship with Arthur would be over – whether or not Samuel responded to my attraction in kind. I chose to acknowledge my feelings, and then chose to walk away from it and deliberately view Samuel in a platonic light. Over time, the spark went out, and Samuel was simply a friend. Arthur keeps in touch with him to this day, and Samuel’s married to a very lovely woman. We’re all happy.
What I think got Arianna into a difficult situation in the book was her refusal to acknowledge that she was attracted to Noah. Instead of being honest with herself and making a decision to either deliberately see Noah as a friend or pursue him as a lover, she’s in denial about her feelings. When problems surface with Ethan, that attraction to Noah becomes more pronounced and I felt like Arianna used that attraction to Noah as her “out” for not actually dealing with the problems in her relationship with Ethan.
Marriage is one of the main themes in the story. Do you think it is possible for a couple to share a long-term domestic relationship without actually being officially married? Why is our society so keen on the expectation of marriage in a romantic relationship despite the high divorce rates?
A long term domestic relationship without being married is definitely something I’ve seen plenty of people manage. There are lots of reasons for couples not to get married. I know some who had financial reasons. I also know some who just were happy with where their relationship was and didn’t want to change anything.
I think one of the attractions of actually getting married is that it not only has social significance, it also has legal status.
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