I’m pondering on what the meaning of love is- and how we think of it as a society. This past week, I watched two movies that were designed to get us thinking about love, from two different generations. “Moonstruck” and “Valentine’s Day” were created more than twenty years apart, yet still have the same message- your life is simply better when you are in a meaningful, passionate love relationship with a partner. True Love is the goal- all consuming, never ending, absolute in its context. In both movies, the viewer is left with the idea that without love, life is a series of grays in a world of rainbow spectrums.
The message in both movies focuses on “right”- we need to find the “right” partner and not settle for anything less, it needs to feel “right” in order for it to be true love, the timing has to be “right” for the relationship to flourish, it’s the “right” thing to do to forgive transgressions and disappointments of our partner’s. Other people know what’s “right” for us, instead of listening to our own counsel. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good romantic comedy, but I wonder how we are internalizing the messages being received.
Moonstruck was filmed in 1987- for those of you that haven’t seen it; the plot depicts an Italian American Family in New York City. The theme of a strong family with values and beliefs, who rely on each other for strength and comfort, is central to the message. Elderly relatives are not hidden and forgotten, but an integral part of the family life. Truth and honesty is expected and respected, and the value of love is apparent throughout the movie. The characters truly seem to be conflicted with their misbehaviors, and set about making it right in order to continue within their own love relationships. One main character is having an affair on his wife of 50 years, but keenly feels the lack of love in the affair relationship.
In contrast, Valentine’s Day was filmed this year, but still shows many of the same themes. Those who are honest and truthful both with their feelings and in dealing with their partners continue to receive love in the end, as opposed to the characters that do not. Some characters ask for forgiveness for past misbehaviors, and it is freely granted by their partner in the name of keeping their love alive. As one character says, “Loving someone is about accepting the whole person, not just the good parts”.
From the therapist’s chair, these themes are evident in theory but not necessarily in practice. We all know that lasting, committed love is not just about passionate sex and the intoxicating feelings that we experience in the beginning stages of a relationship. Yet somewhere down the line of the relationship, after the dating and courtship, after the wedding and honeymoon, after the first children have been born, after we are stable and happy in our careers, we seem to forget that idea. In doing what is right for ourselves, our families and our loved ones, we forget what the initial attraction to our partner was about. Maybe we need to watch a few more romantic comedies to make us remember.