Within modern day couples, a healthy relationship is made up of the right amount of time to be together and the appropriate time for each individual. Sinclair Ross’ short story The Painted Door, is about a wife that commits adultery due to the isolation she feels from her husband. The story begins with a farmer’s wife named Ann, who is left alone for the day while her husband John, leaves to visit his father in a massive blizzard. Ann is already more than upset with her boring marriage and the little time she currently spends with her husband. She can only dream of a more exciting and lively lifestyle. Throughout the miserable day, Steven, John’s good friend, visits the house to keep her company. As the day progresses, the disappointment Ann feels towards her husband, turns into a new found guilty pleasure for Steven. John is made up of many flaws while Steven is everything she ever imagined and thus she falls into infidelity. The boring lifestyle and constant sense of loneliness reinforce Ann’s decision to take part in acts of unfaithfulness and lust. This can be seen through her need for an exciting new change, the lack of communication within the relationship, and the self neglect of John.
Throughout Ann’s marriage, the constant routine in her day to day life increasingly justifies her need for a new experience. Being a farmer’s wife, Ann’s personal needs are never addressed and she shows her disappointment before John leaves to visit his father, “She shook her head without turning, Pay no attention to me. Seven years a farmer’s wife- its time I was used to staying home”(Ross, 1). Ann knows there is nothing she can do to get more out of John. She clearly shows her need for a change in routine and something to make her life more interesting. While Ann spends the day at home, she has more than enough time to dwell upon her boring life and can only wish that her husband would spend more time with her. Her craving for an exciting twist in her life is obvious within her thoughts,
Year after year their lives went on in the same little groove. He drove his horses, she milked the cows and hoed the potatoes. By dint of his drudgery he saved a few month’s wages, added a few dollars more each fall to his payments on the mortgage; but the only real difference that it all made was to deprive her of his companionship, to make him a little duller, older, uglier than he might otherwise have been. He never saw their lives objectively. (Ross, 2)
The constant repetition in their marriage makes Ann wish for some excitement but unfortunately John does not bother to making it his priority. His mind is always set on working and making money for the family. Clearly, their relationship revolves around their farm; leaving no room for each other and as a result, helping to justify her acts of infidelity.
Communication can be easily argued as the number one aspect within a strong and healthy relationship. It help builds trust and loyalty between both partners and unfortunately in Ann’s case, a lack of communication is proven to be another cause of her betrayal towards her husband. This is depicted through her thoughts while she is trying to figure out what to do at home,
I’ll get them a good supper and for coffee tonight after cards bake some of the little cakes with raisins he likes, its better with four but at least we can talk. That’s all I need- someone to talk to. John never talks…he doesn’t understand (Ross, 2)
Ann needs to vent her thoughts and emotions but John is never around to listen. The couple does not talk enough to fully understand what each of them needs to be happy and thus Ann is left miserable each day. John’s main objective in life is to make money for the family and buy whatever his wife desires but unfortunately this is not what Ann really wants. The miscommunication between the spouses can be seen through the narrator’s description of Ann’s needs; “It was something of life she wanted, not just a house and furniture; something of John, not pretty clothes when she would be too old to wear them. But John of course couldn’t understand” (Ross, 2). Communication is strongly lacking within the relationship and Ann is slowly losing patience. The love towards John is fading away but he makes no attempt in changing his views of their marriage. All the time they spend apart makes them lose the close relationship they once shared. In conclusion, the lack of communication of each other’s thoughts/emotions increasingly support Ann’s actions of unfaithfulness.
Lastly, Johns failure to prioritize his relationship and his inability to realize that there are more important aspects of life than just work, forces Ann into a difficult situation. Ann’s disloyalty is further justified by the fact that John can not find time to spend time on himself or even his wife. Ann points this out before he leaves the house and says, “Will you shave then, John now before you go?… He’ll be shaved though, that’s what I mean and I’d like you to spend a little time on yourself” (Ross, 1). Ann understands that John is busy and works hard but she still would like him to look good and seem happy with his own life. This is a turn off for Ann and it is easy to see why she would choose Steven, someone who takes good care and spends time on himself, over a man who lets himself go.
John’s number one priority is obviously his farm but he takes this thought further than Ann would like and this creates a huge negative effect on their relationship. John’s self neglect can be seen through Ann’s description of his daily routines, “When John got up at five to attend to the fire he wanted to stay up and go out to the stable. When he sat down to a meal he hurried his food and pushed his chair away again, from habit, from sheer work-instinct” (Ross, 2). There is never time that John sets aside for himself to enjoy life for even a quick second with his wonderful wife. He can not even sit down to enjoy a meal without having to hurry to do more work around the farm. After years of putting up with this Ann can never find a reason as to why she would want to spend time with someone who is unwilling to make time for their own self. To conclude, John’s lifestyle forces him turn a blind eye towards anything other than the farm, more importantly himself, and thus help to excuse Ann’s actions of betrayal.
After reading The Painted Door, it is clear that the isolation Ann experiences throughout her relationship justifies her reasons to commit acts of infidelity. Her boring lifestyle that revolves around the up-keep of the farm allow their marriage very little room to spend with each other and the time that they do have is not used to strengthen their companionship. The communication that is essential between partners is non existent and thus Ann’s personal needs are never fully understood nor met. Finally, her husband’s failure to find even a little time to spend on himself all contribute to the Ann’s final crucial decision of sleeping with another man. This story is a perfect example of how easy it is to mess up a relationship. The same amount of effort you put in to getting the person of your dreams should still be there even after many years of marriage.