Wednesday, May 11, 2016


"Your current relationship; if single, discuss that too"

Nope. Not gonna do it. He doesn’t like it when I write about us. Instead, I’ll tell you about relationships, both fictional and real, that I am amazed by, amused by, or inspired by.

I favor relationships in which there is a balance of power. I have never seen a thriving, healthy relationship in which this was lacking. When one person has no power or significantly less power, they’re almost always unhappy in the relationship. They may stay with it, but the unhappiness shows, no matter how hard they try to hide it.

I know religious couples who insist that they’ve chosen a dominant husband dynamic because the Bible told them to do it that way. I see that playing out three ways:
  • The husband is aggressive and selfish. The wife and children are miserable and are helpless to make any sort of change. I see this in varying degrees. In some cases, the husband is a bit oblivious and the wife is passively resigned to her fate. Either way, ugh.
  • The husband is meek and is following the wife’s lead. Both agree to pretend he’s in charge. It’s obvious to all but the most unobservant that the wife is in charge. And the husband is secretly miserable. 
  • The husband is careful to consider the needs and desires of all family members and would never move forward knowing his decision would leave his wife bitter or miserable. The wife speaks clearly about her needs and desires and truly supports her husband in every decision he makes because she knows her happiness is of critical importance to her husband. Husband and wife are actually partners.

Regardless of religious beliefs, I think strong partners are those who are a close match in intelligence, wit, and heart. It helps if they have similar morals and ideas about behavior. But mostly I think they need to have a strong desire to work towards mutual happiness. Jealousy and bitterness are a death knell to happiness, so trust and trustworthiness are absolutely necessary if a couple is going to thrive.

So, here are the healthiest relationships I’ve observed:
  • My cousin Becky and her husband, Bob. I first became aware of the beauty of their partnership when I watched them parent together. They are, to me, the most evenly yoked couple I’ve ever seen. They each invest energy in making sure the other is thriving. I’m sure they’ve had challenges along the way. But I believe their commitment to each other is absolute.
  • My friends, John & Claudia. They each had previous unsuccessful marriages. They spent a lot of time working through their own issues. I attended their wedding when I was very young – 19 or 20. They walked down the aisle together, holding hands. I loved the symbolism of that bold choice. This was 1977, I think. Then they had written their own vows, which were full of raw truth. I was so impressed with their partnership. 
  • My father and stepmother. I’ve spent a lot of time with these two. Their partnership is solid. It’s built on the expectation that each will speak up – clearly and unashamedly – about their own thoughts and desires. Each takes ownership of their own feelings. Each is quick to apologize for any wrong-doing. Each supports the other without reservation.

Fictional relationships I’ve loved, healthy or not:

"Sister" Husband and Mr. Sprock in Where the Heart Is. They’re not married, but they’re clearly strong partners. “Dear Lord, we ask that you bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies. And we ask forgiveness, Lord, for the fornication that Mr. Sprock and me committed this morning on this very table.” These two have settled into life and are relaxed and happy.

Armand Goldman (Robin Williams) and Albert (Nathan Lane) in The Birdcage. Each partner is a mess, but they love and support each other through thick and thin.
Albert: “Oh yes, another jibe, another joke at my expense. You were probably laughing at me with Katherine, too. Well, why not? I'm not young, I'm not new, and everyone laughs at me. I'm quite aware of how ridiculous I am. I've been thinking that the only solution is to go where no one is ridiculous and everyone is equal.” Armand: “What a pain in the ass you are. And it's true: you're not young, you're not new, and you do make people laugh. And me? I'm still with you because you make me laugh.”

Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford) and Karen Blixen (Meryl Street) in Out of Africa. These two handled some difficult circumstances. Each character was fierce and their romance was once-in-a-lifetime passionate. Had he not died, I think they might have grown old together.

Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) and C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) in The Philadelphia Story. Humor is important in any relationship. This quirky pair proves it. 

Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) in Brokeback Mountain. I had to have one ill-fated couple. They could have been an amazing couple, had they found each other under different circumstances. 

Shoot. That makes me think of my other favorite ill-fated couple - Francesca Johnson and Robert Kincaid in Bridges of Madison County. Again, under different circumstances, they would have grown old together. Francesca's hand on the door handle as she contemplates running away with Robert, is one of the most emotional movie moments I've ever seen.

John Dunbar and Stands With a Fist in Dances With Wolves. Watching their love story from their first meeting to the film’s final frames is a wonderful experience. I confess I’ve watched this movie dozens of times. It never gets old. 

My favorite movie couple will always be Norman and Ethel Thayer (Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn) in On Golden Pond. They are completely devoted to each other and each is terrified of losing the other. But it’s their sweet humor that tells me of their love. 
Norman: “There’s someone at the door.” Ethel: “It’s me, you old poop!” I love Ethel and Norman.

Well, that’s it. As soon as I publish this, I’ll think of ten more movie couples. And at least one real life couple. I’d love to hear from you. What fictional or real life couples did you think of while you were reading this?

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