At what point does a relationship fail? Is there a point, in hindsight, where you can look back and see the kinks in the armor of what you thought was a strong foundation? Many of us can, but that doesn’t help with the fact that we didn’t save the relationship, and now, like many of the ancient wonders of the world, the relationship stands in ruins. What was once a great monument is now a lasting testament of what could have been, what went wrong and how it could possibly have been avoided.
Games to Play After Dark is such a book. Perhaps the darkest book written in recent years on the nature of what relationships can become from humble beginnings, the book sets itself as a standard for what can become of people that we have loved so dearly. Let me take a moment to clarify what I mean. This book should be read, it is more important than any nonfiction book on the subject of relationships because of the message that it brings to the table. What a lot of couples fail to realize is how much their selfishness and lack of understanding within a relationship can undermine its foundation. People tend to think that skeletons in the closet are dead and cannot harm anyone, while in some cases this is true; in the case with meaningful, loving relationships those skeletons become monsters, preying upon even the most stout of foundations until they are driven to the ground.
The book starts humbly enough with young love blossoming into a long-term relationship with kids, a mortgage and the settling into comfortable routines, but the roads that the characters follow lead to hopelessness. Do not let the dark nature of this book dissuade you, Sarah Borden has done a remarkable job of dealing with the intricacies of a maturing relationship and what consequences can lead to the choices we make within that relationship. I’ve recommended the book to many people who have told me that it was too dark and depressing to finish. To me I think that speaks more to how well the book is written then what people think. People are scared to imagine this could happen to them. That they may not being doing everything they can in their relationship.
When it comes to relationships people have a very hard time understanding or evaluating the truth. We have an inner dialogue that goes: “Should I tell him that, Would she care to hear about this part of my past, am I willing to share this with her”? These are questions that we may ask on a daily basis, but we usually whisk the answers under the carpet, quietly telling ourselves that it doesn’t matter, when it really does. What Borden has done here is remarkable: She has been able to put into words an accurate description of a deteriorating relationship and the visceral nature from which the rest of our lives are affected from that deleterious climate.
This review is not stated to be a panacea for what is wrong with a certain relationship, in the case of the characters you can point things out from an admires perspective, but that is one of the main points of the book: Of course you can see it in their relationship, but what are you missing in your own? What has been eating away at the life you’ve built together? The book shows that most relationships are built one brick at a time and torn apart the same way. The ironic part is that there comes a point where we don’t even realize we’re pulling bricks out of the foundation until it’s too late.
The book also presents the theme of fault. Whose fault is it that this is happening? Is it the way I was raised? Is it something she did or he said? Borden shows that the fault only lies with the parties involved and that it tends to be the fault of both people. This is not always the case, there is a point in the book where the wife has an affair with another man. People have told me that it is her fault because she broke and went outside the marriage. This is not true, the problems started long before the affair and the adultery was an ultimate symptom of what was going wrong all along, not the main problem. (This brings up an interesting side point: Which is worse, having a huge breakdown in the relationship from someone cheating or a slow, painful decadence of the relationship from the lack of things within it?) Scapegoats are easy to find when you need one for convenience.
Sarah Boren has done a masterful job of dissecting what a relationship can become. Don’t think of the book as dark or depressing, think of the book as a warning: In a way this is not fiction at all, thousands of couples are going through the exact things described in this book. We hope that the couples stories’ in real life our different. The ultimate lesson of the book is the ending, the fact that no matter where you are, you can wake up, realize what’s going on, and fix it. The ultimate lesson is it’s never too late to stop the deterioration, and ultimately, that is the hope that the book gives everyone of us.
“Be honest, brutally honest. That is what’s going to maintain relationships.”
~ Lauryn Hill