Once upon a time, a handsome prince met a beautiful princess and wanted to make her his wife. For their first outing, he took her to a huge tournament held in his honour so she could watch him be given a special award for generally being A Solid Dude. Then he decided to test to see if she was worthy of him; he took her to a big royal ball full of people the princess didn’t know to test if she was up to the Very Important Job of being a prince’s wife. Turned out, he decided, she had adequate social skills – she was doing an acceptable job. So they wed and lived together suitably ever after.
Ooh, so romantic, no? Well, no. I can’t see Disney making a film out of it anytime soon. But this is basically the story that Ed Sheeran told about his first few dates with his girlfriend, Cherry. For their first date, he took her to see him accept an award at an American Institute for Stuttering gala, and for their second he took her to a party and left her alone for a few hours to “test” her and see if she’d be an acceptable girlfriend for someone as mega famous and popular as he is. In his own words: “One of the main points of being in a relationship with me, you have to be really sociable and good at talking to people, because I will be dragged away loads at parties and events. And Cherry’s perfect at it. She makes friends with everyone.”
Cherry is a person, not an iPad. She’s not designed to make his life easier
My first instinct is to rage. Rage at the smugness, rage at the way he treated their date like a job interview, rage at the lack of respect he showed her by ditching her and “testing” her like she was a pair of shoes he was trying to see if they’d pinch before he bought them, and rage at a view of relationships where loving someone is secondary to them fitting perfectly into your life without you having to make a single change to accommodate them. Cherry is a person, not an iPad. She’s not designed to make his life easier, and it’s infuriating that he treated her as such.
But then, I started to wonder. With over a third of marriages ending in divorce, maybe Ed’s approach is the right one. Maybe we should be rigorously testing our partners to make sure they fit into our lives. Maybe, before I let him put a ring on it, I should have set my husband an obstacle course of sorts where he had to fetch me my complicated Starbucks order, iron my most complicated blouse and successfully comfort me when I was pre-menstrual and crying hysterically in an ASDA car park because it was raining. In return, maybe he should have ensured that I can choose a film he doesn’t hate to watch with a takeaway pizza and put up with someone bowing out of any and all social situations after 45 minutes.
Maybe we should keep looking to build our relationships on love and mutual respect, rather than how easily they slot into our lives, eh?
Hey, maybe this is the future! This would stop all that pesky compromise and having to respect someone enough to be willing to listen to them and understand their needs. There could be a reality TV show presented by Ant and Dec where potential couples have to compete to finish their respective compatibility obstacle courses in the quickest time, with the winner getting a free wedding. Eventually, the government could intervene and, rather than us deciding who to date, they’d just match couples up according to who would have the best chance of relationship survival.
Or not. Maybe, instead of being like Ed and thinking that a girlfriend is “perfect” if she can be left alone at a party without intruding on Ed’s life and career, we can keep thinking someone is perfect if they make our hearts soar, if we smile whenever we think about them and if they’re happy to take the bins out for us even if it’s usually our job, because we’re not feeling well that night. Maybe we should keep looking to build our relationships on love and mutual respect, rather than how easily they slot into our lives, eh? And think of our lovers as humans, rather than accessories. Just a thought.