One of my favorite wits, comedian, author and playwright Ben Elton, came up with the concept of The Reality Gap. Though intended as a comedic device, much truth is said in jest, and an understanding of this concept has served me well in life, especially when I applied it to one of the toughest things to get right in life: Love.
The Reality Gap occupies the territory between the lies we tell ourselves and others, and the way things actually are. To quote the good Doctor House, "Everyone lies." You therefore can't judge a potential mate by what they say, since it'll be peppered with their own misconceptions about themselves, what they think you want to hear, and what they think they need to tell you to get what they want. Actions can also be deceptive, so you need to look at something a little more set in stone as an indication of a potential partner's true self.
One such area of relative permanence is our homes; How we decorate them can serve as a visual indication of the reality gap hidden within. A living room is intended for public view and represents how we want to be seen by the world. Conversely, a bedroom is a more personal space, which is often seen by few, its décor representing more faithfully how we see ourselves. The gap between these two rooms represents the gap between how we see ourselves and what we want others to see, and thus it is a tangible metaphorical illustration of our inner reality gap.
A reality gap is not necessarily a bad thing though, since we all have our interior and exterior worlds, but the nature of these differences speaks volumes. Dating is an exercise in exploring this space, whether it be a crack or a chasm. When we first meet someone, we do the emotional equivalent of tidying the living room from top to bottom and putting a fresh vase of flowers on the coffee table before a guest arrives in order to give a good impression. As we get to know someone, our clutter is left exposed. Eventually, if the relationship is moving forward we move into the proverbial and literal bedroom, where, however much we may try to hide, more of our true selves is revealed.
After many years of unsuccessful dating, I began to apply my understanding of The Reality Gap. Rather than concentrating on what a date said, I'd look for the underlying intension. When possible, I'd apply my living room/bedroom litmus test, perhaps by poking my head around the door while paying a bathroom visit, or by taking a more direct approach and asking for a tour of a date's home (which many people like to give).
One man I dated failed the test miserably, having a sensible blue-grey Draylon couch in the living room, and silk sheets and a gold plated bed (14 carat - I kid you not!) in his boudoir, illustrating quite a reality gulf. Against my better instincts, on the advice of a friend who felt "everyone deserves a chance," I went out with him. Needles to say, the relationship was as brief as The Reality Gap was wide.
A little older and a lot wiser, the next man I went out with lived, worked and slept in one studio room, and showed a marked lack of any Reality Gap. What he said and I saw was definitely what I got. We've been together over a decade now, and have been married for eight of those years. Thus, like a washing machine in Consumer Reports, my theory is tried, tested and approved. I promised you a love story.