Triangles Can Be Pitfalls

 

 

 

Recently on a ladies night out with two women friends, I saw the movie Enough Said. I had wanted to see it earlier but my sweetheart dismissed it as a chick flick. (In case you’re wondering, a chick flick is about relationships. A guy flick has explosions and car chases.) So I decided to see it with some chicks! I loved it. It made me laugh. It made me cry. It raised some interesting questions.

 

Spoiler alert: I’m about to give the entire plot so stop reading if you haven’t seen it yet but intend to and return here after you see it.

 

Enough Said is about Eva, a divorced massage therapist about to send her only child to college. She meets Albert at a party. He is also divorced and also about to send his only child to college. They enjoy talking at the party and soon start dating. They really like each other.

 

At the same party, she meets Marianne who becomes her massage client. They talk about their lives, their ex-husbands, and get to be friends. Marianne bad mouths her ex a lot. Eventually, Eva realizes that Marianne’s ex and Albert are one and the same person. She freezes and feels torn and doesn’t know what to do. She keeps dating Albert and giving massages to Marianne as she tries to wrap her mind around the situation. But Marianne’s criticisms of Albert sow seeds of doubt in Eva about their budding relationship.

 

Eventually Marianne and Albert’s daughter, Tess, bring all three together when Eva is at Marianne’s house to give a massage and Albert comes to pick up Tess. Talk about a tense moment! Albert leaves Eva and won’t return her phone calls. Finally Eva shows up on his doorstep and they talk. Eva admits she’d felt torn and not sure what to do. She confesses she was protecting herself as they’d both been divorced and “you know how things can get messed up.” Albert declares she broke his heart and he was too old for that stuff. So they part ways.

 

But they can’t forget each other. Later it turns out they each drive by the other’s house from time to time. One day Eva stops. Albert sees her in her car and comes outside. They end up sitting on his front step and laughing together—there’s obviously a nice connection between them. The movie ends there with the hope—at least for me–that they may try again.

 

Years ago I read an article in Ms. Magazine suggesting it would be helpful if a woman could talk to her sweetheart’s ex-wife. Sort of find out how he is and thereby avoid all those problems if you knew about them ahead of time. Avoid marrying a jerk or something like that. This movie sure blows a hole in that idea. Albert eventually does many of the things with Eva that Marianne complained about. The difference is all in the attitude—those same behaviors can be irritating or endearing.

 

Which brings me to the basic question we all face—are you going to be a loving person or a judgmental person? Even with an ex-spouse whom you once loved and who caused you enough pain to end the marriage, can you forgive and move on? Not hold bitterness and animosity but be able to relate cooperatively as co-parents? Put the needs of your children first?

 

In the movie Eva and her ex-husband Peter go together with their daughter to the airport to send her off to college, tearfully giving those last hugs, then walk off together arm in arm. As Eva wipes her tears away, Peter says: “We made a good person.” That tender moment brought tears to my eyes.

 

Marianne and Albert are still fighting over who gets to take their daughter to college. Marianne refuses to talk to him and seems to demonize him.

 

I found this movie completely believable. It could so easily happen.

 

I have never met my sweetheart’s ex-wife. She lives across the country. But I can’t help but wonder what would have happened had I met her, gotten to be friends with her, and heard her complain about him? I know women can run the racquet that “all men are bastards.” During the early years of the women’s movement, it was a popular past-time. It was surely a part of consciousness raising groups. I’ve run that racquet myself Thirty-five years ago, a year in group therapy with both male and female participants helped me to see men with more compassion. Then I gave birth to a boy child I adored. That really cured me. We are all just human beings doing the best we can.

 

My sweetheart does things that frustrate me—some things he can change and some he can’t. But I have decided to love him and put up with those things because in the big picture, he’s a sweet, kind and generous man who takes good care of me and I know puts up with a lot from me.

 

As an Imago Relationship Therapist, I have learned that those same traits you find so attractive in your beloved during the romantic stage can make you gag during the power struggle stage. The man of your dreams can sometimes seem like the man of your nightmares. Once you come down from the high of romantic love, you discover your differences, you have disagreements, you get frustrated more than you ever thought you would. You need to become skillful in handling those frustrations. You need to remember, as Harville Hendrix says, that conflict means something new is trying to be born. One of the hardest things we ever do as human beings is recognize our partner’s reality as different and equally valid. (You mean, you don’t like blueberries? OK, more for me.) And if you don’t understand that all this is inevitable, you can pile up divorces faster than you can yell: “You drive me nuts! I wish I’d never met you!”

 

As Albert puts it when he and Eva finally talk, Marianne poisoned Eva against him. And Eva let her. “How about protecting our relationship?” he asks her.

 

Like the popular saying “Be the change you want to see in the world,” you need to be the person you’d like to see in your relationship. Once you get really close to someone else, all those left-over needs and wounds from the past come to the surface. You can fight over them or you can create a safe space between you to heal them. Learn to become deeply acquainted with your own wounds from the past and those of your partner. Learn to ask your mate for the kind of love you really need. Learn, not the golden rule, but the platinum rule. Instead of do unto others as you would have them do unto you, do unto others as they would have you do unto them. Learn to love him the way he needs to be loved. So you can learn to become a more loving person. Which is what I think it’s all about anyway

 

 

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