Yesterday, Extra published an interview with professional attractive person and new mother Eva Mendes where she took umbrage toward people wearing the slouchiest of wardrobe staples: sweatpants. “No, no, no! You can’t do sweatpants,” she said. “Ladies, number one cause of divorce in America? Sweatpants! No, can’t do that.” You know what, she’s right!
Now, of course, Eva Mendes was joking, and our culture of knee-jerk outrage went into a tizzy claiming that people can wear whatever they want at home alone or that sometimes busy moms just need to wear something simple. I don’t disagree with those points either, but they seem to be intentionally misunderstanding what Mendes has to say.
I will be the first person to defend any person’s right to do and wear whatever they want in their own home, even if they want to parade around in their birthday suit while watching old episodes of Nashville on the DVR. Hey, it’s your life, buddy. The difference is when you share your life and your home with someone else. My boyfriend, a man who spends more on clothes than some people do on rent, gets in the door after work and strips off his immaculately conceived outfit and puts on a pair of navy blue Adidas basketball shorts, what he likes to call “comfy pants.” I can’t stand it, and I see how it could lead to divorce.
The problem with Mendes’s quote is that it was a joke and is not intended to be taken literally. I’m not going to divorce my boyfriend because, well, we’re not married (neither are Mendes and her super fine babydaddy Ryan Gosling), but I’m also not going to break up with him over the “comfy pants.” But while the sweatpants in my case are quite literal, the spirit of the comment is not quite literal.
When I heard what Mendes had to say, what I heard was not “sweatpants” and “divorce” but something more along the lines of, “If you let yourself slide in your relationship, it’s going to spell trouble.” The sweatpants could be anything. The “sweatpants” are a guy who doesn’t bother ironing his shirt anymore before date night. The “sweatpants” are no longer making the bed even though your partner prefers hospital corners. The “sweatpants” are not waiting for your spouse to catch up on House of Cards so that you can finish staring at Robin Wright’s perfect hair together. The “sweatpants” are not bringing flowers home or not having sex regularly or gaining 20 pounds or peeing with the door open or buying your partner a present just because.
The sweatpants are familiarity and the contempt that they breed. Familiarity is one of the great things about being in a long-term relationship, the possibility to be so comfortable around another person that you can just be yourself. But it’s also dangerous territory. The problem is when your real self is sometimes a little bit less desirable than the ideal version of you that your partner saw in your first few months of courtship, when the emotion was high and those intoxicating love hormones in your brain were freely flowing. That’s why, sometimes, we have to give up our comfort and do something a little special for our significant other.
That’s what Mendes was talking about, giving up on her sweatpants sometimes to show that she’s making an effort for Ryan Gosling. (After all, who wouldn’t make a bit of an effort for Ryan Gosling?) And it is a very easy way to derive pleasure in your relationship. My favorite days are when I come home from work and my boyfriend is sitting on the couch still in his suit and tie looking just like the handsome man who picked me up for our first date. Not only does he look better in real clothes (sorry, Adidas) but it also shows that he’s putting my opinion first and that he cares enough to be a little bit uncomfortable for an extra hour or two.
If my boyfriend stopped doing things like that, well, then it might be time to consider a breakup. Relationships are about two people and knowing when you need to put someone else’s needs and preferences above yours. The sweatpants aren’t a real thing, but they are a symptom of a larger complacency that can be toxic to a lifetime of happiness. The sweatpants, whatever they are, should be taken very seriously.
Mendes later apologized both to her sweatpants and anyone who took offense on Instagram, saying she knows that they aren’t the number one cause of divorce, orange Crocs are. Gosling also piped up to defend his partner, tweeting that it was a joke and that he was wearing sweatpants while typing. This is a symptom of a healthy relationship, having each other’s back when the other is facing adversity. But we already knew these two had a strong bond, because Mendes truly understands that sometimes you have to put a little bit of work into keep the spark alive, even if that means keeping your pants on for a little bit longer than you would like.
Read next: Eva Mendes Takes a Stand Against the Tyranny of Sweatpants
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