Emma wonders why her honeymoon period isn’t bringing her happiness, and concludes that her home is simply the wrong setting for love. Love, she believes, can only unfold in lavish, romantic settings, in faraway exotic places. Love requires fine foods and beautiful clothes. Charles has no idea of Emma’s dissatisfaction, and she begins to resent him. She believes that he is not sufficiently masculine, learned, energetic; he has nothing interesting to say, and no way to excite and entertain her. His main quality, to her, is an annoying contentment.
Emma is interested in the world around her only to the extent that it affects her emotionally, and she is only affected emotionally by a world that resembles that of the silly, bad novels. Since her house doesn’t bring her the right kind of joy, she dislikes it; because Charles fails to thrill her, he is nothing to her. She is not interested in who he is, only in what he can do for her: a selfishness that verges on solipsism.
Charles, on his end, is endlessly amazed and awed by all of Emma’s small habits and accomplishments. He delights in her amateurish piano-playing and sketching, and takes pride in her elegant housekeeping. Charles’ mother, the elder Madame Bovary, sometimes comes to visit, and Charles’ love for Emma makes her feel desolate and abandoned. She scolds Emma for being extravagant and wasteful. Charles, who loves both women, cannot bring himself to take a side.
Charles, on the other hand, is not at all interested in what Emma can do for him. He is interested in Emma as a separate, unique being. He does not measure her against any abstract standard – a standard of wifehood, or artistic accomplishment. He perceives her just as she is, as best he can. He is a realist, though also not a strong personality.
Emma tries to rouse herself to passion with poetry and moonlight, but she remains indifferent to Charles. Their lovemaking becomes a boring habit. Emma often goes wandering through fields with her greyhound Djali, thinking vaguely about her life. Finally, her unhappiness crystallizes into a single regret: “Oh, why, dear God, did I marry him?” If she had waited, she thinks, she might have married a handsome nobleman who would have given her an exciting life. She knows that many men have found her attractive. She has one thing to look forward to: a ball at La Vaubyessard, held by the Marquis d’Andervilliers. The Marquis had asked Charles for some cuttings of a cherry tree, noticed his pretty wife, and sent them an invitation.
At first, Emma genuinely wants to love Charles. It does not occur to her that loving Charles would mean… loving Charles – finding aspects of his personality or appearance that she admires, for example, as he does with her. She believes firmly that love is a certain feeling in a certain setting, as described in the books (one might add, here, that if her reading had been broader, her definition would have been broader as well). But when Emma recreates the setting and the behaviors of love, it does not cause her to feel love. She is confusing cause and effect.