Study Guide

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love Marriage

By Raymond Carver


"Terri and I weren't married then, and my first wife had the house and the kids, the dog, and Terri and I were living in this apartment here." (27)

Yep. Marriage can sometimes lead to divorce. In Mel's case, it was an ugly divorce, and it reveals to us the darker side of marriages. Since Mel has kids with his ex, and is responsible for supporting her, he's more than a little stuck. We can also see how that marriage is putting a strain on his current one.

Laura is a legal secretary. We'd met in a professional capacity. Before we knew it, it was a courtship. She was thirty-five, three years younger than I am. In addition to being in love with her, we like each other and enjoy one another's company. She's easy to be with. (30)

From this aside to the reader by narrator Nick, we get the idea that at least so far Nick and Laura's marriage is uncomplicated and drama free, in contrast to Terri and Mel's marriage. It's also a bit funny—because the fact that Nick enjoys Laura's company in addition to the fact that he loves her tells us that those two things aren't necessarily the same. Maybe it's possible to love someone and not be able to stand them.

"You guys,' Terri said. "Stop that now. You're making me sick. You're still on the honeymoon for God's sake. […] How long has it been? A year? Longer than a year?"

"Going on a year and a half," Laura said, flushed and smiling. (45-46)

Is Terri just kidding around here, or is there some truth to her statement? Laura definitely doesn't seem phased by it. Her smiling flush shows that she feels confident in her marriage no matter how skeptical Terri might seem.

"There was a time when I thought I loved my first wife more than life itself. But now I hate her guts, I do. How do you explain that? What happened to that love?" (56)

Okay, this raises one big question: did Mel actually love Marjorie? Can you grow to hate someone whom you once loved? Or was it never love in the first place? And how does one wind up in a loveless marriage?

Terri and I have been together five years, married for four. And the terrible thing is […] but the good thing too […] is that if something happened to one of us—excuse me for saying this—the other person, would grieve for a while, […] [and then] go out and love again, have someone else soon enough. (56)

He may not be a romantic, but you have to give Mel some props for his honesty. He fully admits that he could move on if he lost Terri. But here's the weird part: Mel's statement conflicts with his example of the elderly man who became depressed when he couldn't turn his head to see his wife in the hospital bed next to him. See, the elderly man could only love his wife, and he couldn't find someone else and be happy if his wife died. And Mel holds their story up as an example of true love. So if he and Terri don't have what this old couple has, does that mean that he doesn't truly love Terri? Or is he just being practical?

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