Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Once and A Fine Romance

Once is the Academy Award 2008 Best Foreign Picture.

The film's featured song, Falling Slowly, won an Oscar, too. (It can drive you crazy, I'm telling you, once it gets in your head).

The film is a vehicle for Glen Hansard's music, and a good one, too. It also reminded me that we haven't talked much about cheating on this blog.

Warning: May contain spoilers.

A melodious, poetic, tragic rocker works a busy street corner for change in the city of Dublin. He sings the songs of other artists, thinking: No one will toss coins into my guitar case if I sing my own songs.

A fresh and optimistic female hears him one night. She boosts his confidence. She is also a musician, his perfect complement, a sensitive pianist with a good voice.

This is an endearing love affair, what Dorothy Fields would have called A Fine Romance* (with no kisses).

She's married, but separated, living with her mother. He's getting over a girl who cheated on him. His woman has gone off to London, perhaps a response to his pain, and he lives with his pop.

His response to his ex's cheating is very realistic, the kind of thing we see in therapy quite often.

We'll use the male gender for the sake of convenience.
I see four basic types of guy:

The guy who is so angry that he pounds his pillow or the wall (breaks his hand) or breaks bottles. He can't sleep, stays up all night writing songs and poems, watching movies or drinking. He'll have sexual problems if he doesn't work this out.

There's the guy who has grown used to this, losing his women, and expects as much. Some men are convinced that they're losers in relationships, having lost so often, and become depressed and stay this way. They seem "depressive" and often will take a year or two before beginning to date again. Maybe three or four. It gets annoying being hurt again and again.

There's the guy who gets back in the saddle and hits on every woman he can find. This guy may identify with the aggressor, hurt back before he'll commit to a relationship.

There's the guy who doesn't grieve, doesn't talk about it, just moves on.

There are other variations, whole other categories. It doesn't matter.

I like them all. But the guy I like the most has the guts to say to the woman who spurned him, Why don't we work on this? Be honest with me. Let's talk about this and let's make our relationship work. I can change, you can change.

Will she say Yes, sure, we can work on it? Reverse the genders, change the sexes. Will he say Yes. Why not? We can get through this? So many things to consider when we talk about infidelity. But honesty is the variable that makes the biggest difference.

How much does he or she want to know? How much can the cheater tell him and not regret it? This is a fine art, really, this type of honesty. Sometimes it's really enough to say, I did that. I cheated on you. And that's all you get to know. Sometimes even that doesn't have to be said, it can be communicated with a certain look, a shrug.

Then we can get to real couples work, begin to find out what is wrong. It's something that begins with something in her or something in him, something that needs discovery, light. There's something in there that allows that to happen, a new relationship, a triangle, some intimacy fear or narcissistic injury. It's not the femme fatale. It's not her lover's Gucci suit.

A person walks into a relationship with issues. We all have them. Most of us haven't any idea what in the world they are.


*In case you don't know the song, here's the first verse:

A fine romance, with no kisses!
A fine romance, my friend, this is!
We should be like a couple of hot tomatoes,
But you're as cold as yesterday's mashed potatoes.
A fine romance! You won't nestle!
A fine romance! You won't wrestle!
I might as well play bridge with my old maid aunts!
I haven't got a chance.
This is a fine romance.


Anonymous said...

"I like them all. But the guy I like the most says to the woman who spurned him, Why don't we work on this? Be honest with me. Let's talk about this and let's make our relationship work. I can change, you can change."

Isn't that co-dependent?

therapydoc said...

No, not at all. It's the goal, in fact. Check out co-dependency somewhere on the side-bar. If the link doesn't work, please let me know, okay? thanks

Anonymous said...

Hmm...I'm going to check this out!

And no, co-dependency is not coming together for solutions, it's the support of unhealthy behaviors for mutual control (generally one person is more responsible or in control, the other person goes with it because it's easy and perhaps they like being controlled because they misconstrue it as being taken care of) or the exclusion of outside influence in a relationship to such an extent where other people are cut off.

At least that's the way I've seen it (I am probably wrong, however).

I like to think of it instead of changing a person, changing behaviors. Behavior modification is really a matter of creating new habits and patterns. And sometimes this can change the person, should that person choose to change. I always hear "don't expect to change anyone," and I don't, but that doesn't mean that the person can't change a behavior, if that person is the KIND of person who wants to help you feel more confident in the relationship.

therapydoc said...

The part that's always interested me is the intimacy in the helping.

Your seeing codependency as it presents in control is very interesting. It's one of those psycho-babble words with multiple applications.

Has anyone even heard it in grad school? It wasn't on my syllabus as a T.A. for a treatment class in addictions.

Anonymous said...

I've always seen it in conjunction with enabling. That frequently people in a co-dependent relationship have no desire to change, since the relationship is in some ways functional for the couple, though dysfunctional for those outside.

A great example is Mic's former best friend. He has always been a guy who is lazy and likes the easy way out of things. He wanted to be a teacher solely because he wanted summers to do nothing but drink. He ended up marrying a woman who was a go-getter, and wanted to be the breadwinner. He stayed at home drinking all day while she worked overtime. And they both liked it that way. But she got to call the shots, and he liked that he never had to think. To the outside, though, that relationship certainly didn't help either of them learn more, progress or develop as a person, or even have good relationships with others. Mic gave up on the relationship because his friend was always doing what his wife wanted him to do (which was not spend time with Mic). Very sad.

therapydoc said...

Great example.

Insane Mama said...

I'm going to have to check that out..
The whole part about changing, it won't happen unless it is driven from the heart, no one changes for anyone except for themselves

Midwife with a Knife said...

Relationships are hard.

insane mama: but if you really love someone, you may change for them (or may try to), in order to keep them in your life... so, yeah, it's still for you, but it's also for them.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking of dating where ending the relationship would probably be healthier than working on it. In those cases it's the co-dependent ones who stick around and try to make things work and do most of the changing. Others may be sorry to see the relationship end but they intuitively know that they are worthy.

It's not that I believe couples shouldn't work on their issues, both individually and as a couple. I do!

Men rarely are willing to work through their wife's infidelity, but for those who have the courage and humility the payoff is huge, even if the couple separates. If they don't separate, they might be shocked to discover that they're more in love than they ever were before.

And I totally agree with your comment that knowing how much to say when you're being honest is really hard! That's where a good therapist is worth their weight in gold!

therapydoc said...

People change in either context. (We're always changing).

The ones that last are the ones we make for ourselves. That said, if we change for someone else we might come to like the change, then it becomes a change we choose for ourselves.

Confused yet?

SeaSpray said...

Sounds like a good movie.

Interesting post and comments.

Anonymous said...

My best friend's boyfriend cheated and she nearly drove herself and him crazy wanting to know all the gritty just didn't seem healthy. She was almost obcessed. I've never gotten that creepy fascination for the details that some people have.

shraddha said...

I love the song and I will definitely see the movie!

Also I love your blog! I love the way you have categorized topics on your side bar.When I have also blogged for very long, I will also do it your way!

therapydoc said...

The highest form of flattery, thanks.

Isle Dance said...

What a sweet song. I'm going to have to start watching films again. I miss them.

As for cheating, if both truly desire to understand the depth of it and grow closer at the same time, I do believe there is hope. However, I fear my heart would be so broken, I'm not sure I could recover. I would likely move on (again, gulp). But I'm not sure that's the healthiest answer for myself, either. I am guessing it would take a truly remarkable human being for me to stay and grow closer. But wouldn't that truly remarkable human being not have cheated in the first place?

YZF said...

Just a note: I believe it won Best Original Song, but not Best Foreign Film.

therapydoc said...

yikes. I'm in trouble now. thanks y.z.

Anonymous said...

I'm curious why the one you like the most is the guy/gal who gets spurned and then initiates the healing process. It just seems counterintuitive to me, that you want the person who has been betrayed to be the one to invite the cheater to the table.

therapydoc said...

Someone's awake. Great. It's not that I really like that person best. I just like any process in which people say, "Be straight with me. Please. I'm all grown up. I can take it. You're not a bad person. I love you. We can work through this. Don't run away."

And no, you can't always work through it, even with the truth. But the truth is the beginning.

It would be better if the person who cheats initiates the dialog (and I beg him/her to do that, believe me, in therapy).

The problem is the deception factor operates in such a way that it is hard for people who get into deception to quit decepting. They need atmosphere.

Margo said...

I was wondering if you'd like "Once"...wasn't it nice?

therapydoc said...

Yes. I could actually call it sweet.

Anonymous said...

How do you get over the pain of when you think as a couple you have worked through an infidelity -you went to therapy together, the betrayed spouse says for years everything is great, trust is rebuilt, forgiveness has occurred -the unfaithful one truly recommits to the marriage, does a lot of therapy etc. - but then the betrayed person years later just seemingly out of the blue decides the infidelity killed his love and it's over? No desire at that point to try therapy or truly work things out, just "my love died" and I'm leaving.

How does one not get totally caught up in "if only I had not had the affair, this all would not have happened?"

therapydoc said...

Yeah, that can happen, too. And it does seem unfair. We can talk, talk, talk about forgiveness, but when your spouse starts thinking of you naked with someone else, he or she can begin to feel something that ressembles anything but love.

I can't tell in this particular situation you talk about (and I can only speak hypothetically in any case) if you two had individual therapy as well, but that would be at the top of my list here following the disclosure of the affair.

Marital therapy is so much more than talking to one another and making promises. Of course confronting one another directly has to happen. But the spurned partner has to get over the injury of betrayal. To do that usually means at least a little individual therapy, if not a lot, and sometimes even consultation with clergy.

No such thing as a little affair.

Even when both people are cheating, it usually means both people are hurt. In America, at least.

I understand the Europeans are less Puritanical.

Isle Dance said...

This is helping me realize...

If the adulter expresses unending remorse and regret about every sordid detail :o) and feels horror at what they've done, it's a cinch to not only forgive, but to feel empathy for them and want to work to heal all.

Some of my European relatives (in the former East Germany) openly have girlfriends and their wife. The men openly discuss it with humor, but the pain on the face of each wife tells the truth. I cannot support that, because no matter their local culture, it's harmful behavior.

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