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

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

Saving the Relationship or Not? Reasons Why Couples Enter Treatment

So the marriage begins and the two people in it might realize that they are not as committed as they thought, or they realize the other person doesn’t love them as much as they thought, or they become bored living with the same person day after day, or kids come into the picture and that creates chaos, or the dynamics of family create a negative impact on one or both partners or all of the above. The honeymoon is over, the thank you notes have been sent, real life happens with a vengeance and this can be a wake up call.

I have read many times that real love begins when infatuation ends. This is the real life mentioned above. But, for so many couples, when real life sets in and the hard work of marriage begins, it becomes evident to one or both that they can no longer avoid or hide from problems between them. Some of the problems include difficulty with communication, not being able to disagree like grownups, not getting past resentment, not letting go of expectations, not bringing family of origin issues into the marital relationship and a host of others.

The film The Story of Us with Bruce Willis and Michele Pfeiffer illustrates a number of the above points. Willis and Pfeiffer are a married couple with teenage children who choose to try separation when their children are at sleep-away summer camp. When they separate, they continue to communicate with each other and their conversations are spent reflecting on the tale of their married years together. In one scene, they discuss a couple’s therapist who talked about not bringing family of origin issues into their marriage, specifically into their intimate life. In the next scene, Willis and Pfeiffer are shown in bed and next to each of them are two actors who play their parents. This scene makes a good point because so many couples are caught up in a power struggle of sorts, believing that how their parents did something was the only “right” way for it to be done. Simple things like how to load the dishwasher or how to fold the towels can become huge hot button issues.

Two other films demonstrate how easy it is to get caught up in negative patterns of communication, and also show how difficult it can be for couples to connect after the romance has waned and real life sets in. In The Break Up starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn there is a scene where the two are throwing a dinner party. Afterwards, Aniston asks Vaughn to help clean up and his response is that he wants to do it later. The situation erupts into an argument during which Aniston says, “I want you to want to the dishes.”
This illustrates the expectations each person has of the other and how those expectations lead to resentment, then to anger and then to arguments. But, in the beginning of the film, the tale of this couple is told through photos of their early courtship, and they seem so connected and happy with each other, or more accurately with who each other is. So how did they go from being in love to being enraged?

The film About Last Night with Demi Moore and Rob Lowe is another example of a couple who fall in love, move in together quickly and then experience the growing pains of how living together ups the ante of the relationship. At one point Moore says to Lowe “I thought it was supposed to be how it was with my parents.” There we go, back to those expectations based on the marriages of our parents.
For the reasons above and many more, when things unravel, one or the other member of the couple might call and ask for therapy to try to improve the marital relationship and/or to save it.

Stay tuned for Part III, The Homework of Movie Messages.