I’m extremely happy with her, and part of it has to do with the fact that she is at once completely familiar to me, so that I can be myself and she knows me very well and I trust her completely, but at the same time she is also a complete mystery to me in some ways. And there are times when we are lying in bed and I look over and sort of have a start. Because I realize here is this other person who is separate and different and has different memories and backgrounds and thoughts and feelings. It’s that tension between familiarity and mystery that makes for something strong, because, even as you build a life of trust and comfort and mutual support, you retain some sense of surprise or wonder about the other person.
—Barack Obama, discussing his marriage to Michelle, 1996
Romance, to be unromantic about it, is a matter of information gained over time. Dating, to be slightly more romantic about it, is a matter of ongoing discovery. Over the days and weeks and months, the black-and-white contours of initial attraction—he's funny, she's pretty, they're both ENFJ—get colored in, and the little things that will become the everything—the likes, the dislikes, the thoughts about the word "slacks"—take on their shades. If months become years, sure, the hair may become a little thinner, the thighs a little thicker, the E a little more I. But if you keep liking what you find in that other person, the idea goes—if the good discoveries, over time, keep outweighing the bad—you move forward, together. You meet friends. They become your friends. You meet family. They become your family. You keep learning. You keep filling in the blanks.
Marriage is, on top of everything else, two people saying they want to keep discovering each other, over time.
Which makes it, on top of everything else, an enormous leap of faith. People are unpredictable. They are also changeable. And that tension—familiarity and mystery, bound together—helps explain the profound creepiness of Gone Girl, one of the most profoundly creepy feature films of recent memory. Many of the reviews of the movie, on the occasion of its premiere this weekend, have called the film misogynist or feminist or both at the same time. But while you can read David Fincher's latest film as a kind of third-wave-riding Rashomon—and while, yes, any movie about a person who is both female and murderous will always, on some level, invoke the vagina dentata—Gone Girl isn't just a consideration of man-versus-woman. It's also a consideration of man and woman. A consideration of partner and partner, over time. Gone Girl is more, and maybe most, interesting as a look at what happens when the Kierkegaardian element of marriage—that leap of faith into another person—ends up going terribly, terribly wrong.