Study Guide

You Should Have Known Marriage and Relationships

By Jean Hanff Korelitz

Marriage and Relationships

"The difficulty is when people count on that ‘you just know,' and they dismiss people they don't respond to right away. I actually think there are lots of good matches for each person, and they cross our paths all the time, but we're so wedded to the idea of love at first sight that we can miss the really great people who don't come with a thunderbolt attached." (1.26)

Immediately after Grace says this to the Vogue photographer in Chapter 1, she reflects on how she fell in love with Jonathan at first sight, but she thinks she's above her own rules because her life is all going according to plan. We wonder if she'd like to revisit that.

"I mean, what is it about us? We'll try on twenty pairs of shoes before we make a purchase. We'll read reviews by total strangers before we choose someone to install our captering. But we turn off our bulls*** detector and toss out our own natural impressions because we find someone attractive, or because he seems interested in us." (1.16)

Setting aside the fact that Grace's B.S. detector has obviously been on the fritz for quite some time, her point does make logical sense. Of course, logic and love don't necessarily go together, and choosing potential soulmates like a new pair of Converse sneakers (sole-mates?) isn't very romantic.

But it was about the participation, she had said tersely. He knew that. And they didn't have enough money to mitigate her nonparticipation. He knew that, too. And all of it had come up before, of course. In a long marriage, everything has come up before: circulating currents of familiarity, both warm and cool. Of course they couldn't agree on everything. (4.73)

For a woman who's so adamant that recurring fights in a relationship are signs of underlying issues you should have noticed at the beginning, Grace is sure eager to reason away how uninterested Jonathan is in her life.

"So I know you've been married for ages and you have this book coming out about how not to marry a psycho or something. And here I sit, your, like, target moronic reader." "Oh no," she said evenly. "My target reader isn't a moron. She's just someone who isn't through learning." (9.168)

At this point, Grace has absolutely zero clue how much learning is in store for her throughout the rest of the book, but hopefully this quote from her pre-disaster self will ease the pain a little.

"Mrs. Sachs," said Mendoza, when he came and sat beside her on her own couch, "I think you want to help us...I guess, because I think at this point you're more angry at him than you are at us. And just between us, you're right to be" (15.265-266).

"Anger" may not be the right word for the strange blend of denial/horror/shattered pride that Grace feels regarding her husband, but this exchange with Detective Mendoza is the first time anyone's called her out on misdirecting her rage at everyone but him. Is it possible Jonathan's pedestal is ready to topple?

How many roads had there been, diverged in that endless dormitory basement, and why had it been such a simple matter to choose the one she had chosen, and did it make a difference whether that road was less traveled or more? (17.293)

Even in the middle of an existential crisis, Grace takes a moment to reference Robert Frost. While marrying a psychopath is (hopefully) a road less traveled, overlooking flaws in a new relationship is fairly common...as Grace herself knows all too well.

"We weren't happy," her father said suddenly, with the kind of gulping, shallow breath that caught up with you after tears. "I wasn't. I know Marjorie wasn't. I tried to be. First I tried with her, and then I tried without her. I think I would have tried anything."

"But…" Grace heard herself say, "I never saw that. Never," she insisted, as if he were wrong about his own life and she, the child, had a better grasp of things. (18.315)

This exchange could also represent Grace's inability to assess the situations closest to her correctly, but right now we're focused on Frederich and Marjorie: Their story of "putting on a happy face" but suffering in silence was all too common for their generation. Unfortunately, Grace based her expectations for relationships on their facade—and ended up with a facade of her own.

"I let your husband, who upset me and worried me in a very profound way from the moment I met him, separate me from my very close, very beloved friend, and I didn't put up nearly enough of a fight, or—as far as I can remember—even let you know exactly how grave my concerns about him were." (19.341)

When Grace and Jonathan started dating, they spent so much time together that Vita—who actually understood Jonathan's psyche more than Grace did—was pushed out of her BFF's life.

"I made a Great Mistake. I have no business telling anyone else what to do with their life. I can't imagine how I ever had the arrogance." (19.346)

Confession: We low-key agreed with Grace's self-assessment when we read it, but Vita counters that nobody should be defined by their mistakes. Shmoop awards one begrudging point to Vita.

That she had arrived at [Leo's] house as a neighbor and left—for the moment—as a person he "really really" liked meant that some Rubicon had clearly been reached, if not crossed. But it had been so...well, "gentle" was the word that came to her first. She thought—yet again—of the night she had met Jonathan and how that instantaneous and mutual I'll have that one had seemed like proof of the rightness of it all. It wasn't, obviously. (23.416)

It's only been a few months since Jonathan's disappearance, but Grace has done enough reflecting on where things went wrong between them. Looking for something that feels like the polar opposite of her relationship with him isn't a rebound; it's just common sense. Grace + Leo sitting in a tree...

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