Saturday, September 10, 2016

Bookish pet peeve: When characters make decisions for each other

I was going to say there are very few things that get under my skin when it comes to books, but that would be a lie. There are a several things that have the ability to get under my skin from time to time while I'm reading, but today I want to focus on just one: characters who make decisions for each other.

More specifically, I want to talk about characters in romantic relationships who make decisions for each other. Even more specifically I'm talking about those characters (and you know the ones I'm talking about) who decide for whatever reason that their love interest is better off without them and decide they're out, the other person's feelings be damned.

There are a lot of examples that come immediately to mind, but in order to avoid any potential spoilers, I'll start with one we're probably all familiar with:

Here we have Jack, a big, strong man who has made the decision for his woman that she will be leaving without him. Despite the fact that Rose would rather stay and die with Jack than go to safety without him, he forces her onto a lifeboat. But then, as is usually the second part to any such story, Rose finally makes up her mind that she's going to do what she wants, jumps off the lifeboat, and determines to live or die with him anyway.

This is a trope that's used A LOT. Way more than it should be because it is, frankly, irritating. It's irritating when the man makes the woman's decisions and it's irritating when the woman makes the man's decisions. It is almost always under the guise of, "It's better for you this way," and the character who it is apparently better for is rarely consulted. This is the kind of thing that instantly makes me question my feelings for the book I'm reading.

Here is another example from a popular YA series with names removed to avoid spoilers:

“It’s too dangerous, [loverboy], please.” I’m begging him, backing away, wiping furiously at the tears escaping down my face. “It’s better for you this way. It’s better for you to just stay away from me—”

“But that’s not what I want—you’re not asking me what I want—,” he says, following me as I dodge his advances. “I want to be with you and I don’t give a damn if it’s hard. I still want it. I still want you.”

Why is it considered a romantic gesture for one partner to decide what's best for the other without consulting them? It seems to me that if you love a person then you respect them enough to believe they're capable of deciding what's best for themselves, right? If you're in a relationship with a person you love then you generally make decisions about your future together.

I have lived for a few years not and have experienced a few relationships. I have had a few relationships end, but never once in my life have I felt that I was better equipped to decide what was best for my partner than he was. I get that this is supposed to be romantic, but I don't understand why it's supposed to be romantic. And maybe I'm the odd one out! Maybe everyone else on the planet gets all swoony when a man tells a woman what's best for her or vice versa.

Is it just me? Does this trope also annoy you? 
Do you think it's romantic when characters decide what's best for each other?
Can you think of other examples of this in books?
Let me know in the comments!