One thing has been true from the first day I met my girlfriend: she loves books more than anyone I know. As for me, I’m the film lover of the pair.
Our shared love of storytelling, albeit in different mediums, immediately became a focal point of our relationship, first when we were friends and now as romantic partners. Sharing stories with each other remains a pillar of our bond.
Now as a long-distance couple — she’s in Japan, I’m in the US — this connection has become even more important.
We have at least one date night a week on Skype and other days we text and have shorter phone calls. While we’re always talking about our lives and what we’re doing from day to day, another big part of the conversations we have are about the stories we’re consuming, whether it’s books or movies or theater.
Stories, and especially books, have strengthened our relationship in immeasurable ways.
Stories connect us
Even before we started dating, when we were friends for years beforehand, we shared our mutual love of stories with one another. It’s a thread that’s common among all kinds of relationships, romantic or otherwise.
Asking about a person’s favorite book, movie, or TV show, is an easy way to start getting to know them. Our tastes say a lot about us and stories are universal threads, transcending generations and continents and creeds.
What progressed this conversation for us was the realization that our love of storytelling ran deep, embedded into our bones and very beings. I grew up with media-savvy parents (they met at a Star Trek convention, after all) and books for her became just as much of a companion as her own sister.
We first bonded over Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. Now, with numerous series exploring various mythologies, and genuinely wonderful representation, queer and otherwise, Riordan’s work is still something we love to enjoy together. Seriously, his representation of Alex Fierro, a genderqueer character in his Norse series, Magnus Chase, is wonderful.
Discovering new voices
Our relationship has also developed into sharing new stories with one another, and exploring familiar ones in new ways.
Recently, we re-read Shakespeare’s Hamlet together, complete with reading aloud every line over Skype. Our own queer and feminist interpretations of the text — from Ophelia’s arc to Hamlet and Horatio’s love for one another — allowed us to explore a play we both knew well in a fresh way.
She also introduces me to books I may never have discovered without her.
One such series is Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat. The trilogy focuses on the political turmoil of two kingdoms and the relationship of two princes.
It’s a series that challenged me at the start, and my own sense of morals. I trusted her judgment, though, and kept reading. By the time I finished reading the third and final book, I was crying and felt like my perceptions were irrevocably changed. It sounds so very hyperbolic, I know, but I wasn’t joking when I wrote my love of stories runs deep.
Neil Gaiman is one of my favorite authors, and the author who always inspires me most to read. When I saw him speak in person, the first person I called, eyes full of tears and heart full of hope, was my girlfriend, just so I could gush to her about the experience and sheer power of books. I knew she would be the one to understand fully and completely.
We both especially like Gaiman’s short story collections, and sharing our favorite ones with each other. Knowing my love of Gaiman, and my taste in general, she also introduced me to authors who influenced Gaiman and vice versa, like Angela Carter and Diana Wynne Jones, who have only expanded my horizons.
It’s also about compromise
Sharing books together, and listening to my girlfriend’s love of literature, has also taught me about compromise.
All relationships need compromise and communication and honesty. It doesn’t matter if it’s romantic, platonic, familiar, in the same town, long-distance, or otherwise. A relationship cannot truly succeed and flourish without these elements.
Movies, by their nature, are easier to digest than books (and I’m speaking generally here). They’re shorter (unless you’re watching a Terrence Malick film or Bondarchuk’s War and Peace), which makes them especially ideal for things like Skype dates.
But movies are My Thing, and as much as my girlfriend enjoys them, they’re not Her Thing.
I like reading — a lot — but they’re a bigger commitment and I have books of my own I want to read. So we sat down as a couple and talked. We talked about our own needs and wants, and feeling like her interests were being neglected, and how to compromise with an overabundance of shories to share.
We scheduled books we want to read together, while also acknowledging our own individual pursuits of books to consume. It became a lesson in communication, as well as acknowledging a partner’s needs and striving to meet them. Communication is an oft-cited trait of successful relationship. Until it’s put into practice, though, it’s easy to take for granted or underestimate.
Our talk was productive and healthy and only added to the fortitude of our bond.
And now we can’t stop reading together and discussing the books on our never-ending to-read list.