Should You Fall In Love With a Time Traveler?

In a vlog, Rowan Ellis complained about "The Creepy Implications of Time Travel Rom-Coms." (Feb 19, 2023)

She complained that the male protagonists use their Time Travel powers to manipulate and remove choice from the female love interests. The hero learns something about the heroine in one timeline, travels backwards in time, and relieves another timeline in which he uses that knowledge to impress her. Reiterated over several journeys, she experiences him as magically attuned to her needs, marvelously able to anticipate what she wants--and because he loves her so much, he gives it to her. 
I can see her point. I can. 

(And nothing in this post is a personal attack on the vlogger.)

But I have a different take. And I have an advantage that she doesn't... I'm married to a Time Traveler.

I want to tell you ladies: if you find a man who not only possess the supernatural power of rearranging space and time, but the willingness to use it to find out what pleases you, and then deliver it, all out of love for you... hold on to that man. 

That's what the hero does in the beautiful, literary science fiction movie About Time. This is a poignant movie, about more than just the love story. I highly recommend it.

I admit, the Science Fiction author in me has my own set of critiques about literary time travel pieces like this. I'm always wondering why people with this power aren't using it to stop genocides, nuclear wars, alien invasions.... but that isn't the point of such stories. They are about relationships. 

It's the relationships where the vlogger found fault. For instance, in About Time, the hero meets the heroine in one timeline, but then, after using his power to fix another problem, discovers he never met her. So he uses his time travel powers to find a way to meet her again--before she can start dating some other dude.

Somehow, him using his innate talent to find the love of his life, marry her and have children with her, is supposed to be terrible--even though the heroine clearly falls in love with him too.

Unfortunately, there's a certain class of critique, of both literature and life, that insists on seeing ANY thing a man does to win the love of a woman as "manipulative" or part of some power play in the ongoing war between the sexes. It seems as if according to some people, anything that leads to a happy ending is always wrong.

Why? Because a happy ending, or any ending with a man and woman marrying and having children, is wrong in and of itself. Sometimes this is merely implied; sometimes it's the premise. 

It's a nihilistic attitude. I'm not speaking here of the original vlog, necessarily, which I don't know that well, but of a general trend among literary critics.

It is this attitude that has left so many young people single, childless lonely and depressed. There. I said it. I'm just so sick of people hating on Romance as a concept... and then wondering why all their relationships fail. Look, your values matter. If you have convinced yourself that Happily Ever After never happens, how will you ever be happy? I've seen too many friends talk themselves out of happiness. 

It's easy to play the cynic, the critic, and the scoff. 

There's a trick I use with Fantasy which I learned from a Jungian historian of mythology, whose name, unfortunately, eludes me. She said, "When you look at a story with magic, take the magic away and ask what's happening."

Take the magic away from the time traveling character in About Time. What is his real talent? It's not to be a superspy who stops nuclear war. If he had any real talent for lying and deception and manipulation, ironically, maybe he'd be better at that

No, the true nature of the hero of this movie, of this kind of time traveler, is that of a highly intelligent and empathic man who uses his knowledge of human nature and how things unfold to court a woman and create a wonderful life with her. Much like my own husband, whom I can't prove is a time traveler, certainly has the talent to look into the future and anticipate accurately about human interactions. The fact that he uses his genius to try to help his family is not a fault but a virtue.

Do be careful if you fall in love with a time traveler. First of all, there's a difference between an empath and a sociopath. A time traveler, I suggest, is, in truth, an empath. But a few might be sociopaths or narcissists, evil geniuses. Be sure you know the difference.

The problem with an extreme empath, or time traveling hero, is not him "manipulating" his lady by anticipating what she wants. The problem is that he might be so much a people-pleaser that he neglects his own needs trying to fulfill hers. That's not healthy either. 

I'll give an example. On our first anniversary, my husband and I went to a fancy restaurant for a wonderful meal. We were both so full by desert we decided to split something. Now, secretly, we both wanted chocolate cake, but we were still newly wed enough to not be sure what the other one wanted. For some reason, I thought he wanted a fruit tart. He used his time travel power to see into the future and observe us eating a fruit tart, so he thought I wanted that too.

Like a the Gifts of the Magi story, we both tried to sacrifice our own preference for the other. And, as my time traveler had foreseen, we ended up with a fruit tart. Only then did we each discover that the other would have preferred cake!

We both felt quite silly. I learned an important lesson. No matter how much you love someone, you do him no favors by hiding your own needs, wants and preferences. Speak up for yourself, be kind but honest.

Also, an important lesson for all you time travelers. What will be is not necessarily what should be or what anyone wants it to be. And time traveling doesn't eliminate the need for you to talk honestly with your partner.

So, maybe I'm biased, but I defend the Time Travel Rom Com, as a genre, and especially in some of the books and movies it's produced, like The Time Traveler's Wife, About Time, and most recently, Everything, Everywhere, All At Once

There's nothing "creepy" about About Time. Certainly nothing macho or manipulative. Quite the opposite. The theme is that there is a limit to how much even "magic" powers can change things... without risking changes that are worse.

In other words, what makes this film so poignant is that the hero, ultimately, can't use time travel to make someone love him who doesn't, can't use it to help his sister with her addiction until she helps herself, can't use it to save his father from death. His power is still limited by his humanity.

It's a beautiful film and a beautiful love story, if you watch it with a heart open to life and love, not with a cynic's shield built like a wall around your soul.

Should you fall in love with a time traveler? Alas, mine is taken. I won't share. If you can't find your own to love, it's worth it to keep sifting through the timelines until you do...