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Creativity and Couples Part I: Using Movie Messages in Marital Treatment

Westside Behavioral Care / Counseling and Therapy  / Creativity and Couples Part I: Using Movie Messages in Marital Treatment
Creativity and Couples Part I: Using Movie Messages in Marital Treatment

Part One: Does the Institution of Marriage Stand a Chance in Today’s World?

I believe in marriage, as an institution, as a concept, as a lifestyle choice. I think lasting lifelong marriage between two people is possible, even in this time where one of two marriages ends in divorce. Not great odds, to be sure. But as long as there are humans on the planet, there will be people with the biological drive to connect emotionally and intimately and want to share that connection in the same household. And for many of those humans, that means marriage, with all of its messiness and drudgery, the routine, the boredom, and the taking for granted of each other.

Let’s stop for a minute and remember that the wedding is not the marriage. It’s easy to make a great party for a day, and to wear the pretty dress and the fancy tux and get the presents and eat the cake and dance with friends and family and have that celebration. That’s just the beginning. I haven’t met a couple yet that didn’t have detailed memories of their wedding day. Not that those detailed memories are always positive. But all the same, every married individual I’ve encountered has stories to share about the wedding day. That’s a significant milestone marker and easy to document, catalogue and review. It’s in the day-to-day, in and out, hard work of marriage where the details get much more fuzzy and less specific. It’s where couples get bogged down in maladaptive coping strategies, difficulty with communication, built up resentments based on failed expectations and disappointment, lack of similar goals, and the overall letdown that is the real life, real world of a shared life with the same person.

So why do it in the first place? Why get married at all? Here’s where the movie messages begin. In the film “Shall We Dance?” Susan Sarandon’s character explains, “We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean what does any one life mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things….all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness.”

The above quote is a positive interpretation of how people feel about being married. And it comes from a place of strength, positive self-esteem and peace within themselves. But many times this is not the reason people want to be married. The idea drummed into us by family, religious organizations, and societal messages in general is that to be unmarried is to be ‘alone’ and to be ‘wrong’ in some way. For many people, to be alone is a concept too difficult to face. For this reason, many people get into a state of desperation that they must find someone to marry otherwise there will be some kind of negative impact on their lives. When this happens, self-esteem flies out the window and rather than entering into this important relationship from a place of strength, abundance, calm and peace within themselves, we have folks rushing to connect with other in haste and out of fear.

This is shown in the film “The Mirror Has Two Faces” with Jeff Bridges and Barbra Streisand, who enter into a marriage based on Jeff Bridges’ notion that they
should have a marriage based on friendship and common understanding and interests, because he has found that to be passionately and romantically involved with someone never works out for him. Barbra Streisand agrees to this arrangement because she has feelings for Jeff Bridges but also because she is coming from a place of low self-esteem, loneliness and neediness. Ironically, Barbra Streisand’s character is a college professor who lectures about love, passion, and all of the positive things that romantic love can provide.

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