On Hollywood, Love and Marriage

What Hollywood Teaches Us About Marriage

Every Friday my syndicated column appears in a bunch of newspapers in southeastern Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week, I’ve been talking a ton about marriage and movies on the blog, so I thought I’d summarize in my column. (And if you missed my post on the 50 best romantic chick flicks, you really need to see it!):

I love a good chick flick. Sure, I’ll watch Band of Brothers or Die Hard with my husband, but when he cuddles up and sits through Pride and Prejudice, I melt.

Unfortunately finding a decent movie is often an exercise in futility. Most new releases gross me out. There’s too much horror or blood, and throw in a zombie or two and it’s supposed to be a blockbuster.

Nevertheless, dig deep and you’ll find some gems. And increasingly lately I’ve been discovering that gems in the chick flick genre have less to do with falling in love and more to do with keeping a marriage strong. Hollywood does marriage better than it does dating.

Take the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love, which I thought I’d detest for the first 45 minutes, because it revolves around a younger, cooler guy (Ryan Gosling) teaching an older, just dumped guy (Steve Carell) how to attract multiple women. It seemed so shallow. But the ending is supremely satisfying (and comes with a twist we never saw coming). Both Gosling’s character and Carell’s ex-wife realize that commitment and stability are actually far sexier than living an empty life, a lesson that Carell knew all along.

Or take Hope Springs and Date Night, two movies portraying married couples who have fallen into a rut. The reality of the way the couples relate to each other is just too perfect, and the central message–that commitment matters, and that having someone to walk through life with matters–is beautiful. In fact, most movies that focus on marriage, from It’s Complicated to Couples Retreat to Shall We Dance say the same thing: those flighty feelings of infatuation eventually fade, and life settles into a routine. Will you then commit and keep working at your marriage, or will you drift and lose one of the greatest potential sources of happiness in your life?

Yet if Hollywood believes that the best marriages are those between two people who are committed to work at it–a very intentional approach–why do they portray love as something over which we have no control? A couple is thrown together and they “fall in love”. They complete each other. And these feelings alone should make them want to marry.

Most of my professional life revolves around marriage, as I blog and write books and speak. In the mountains of emails from desperate women I receive every week, one of the most common themes I see is this: My now-husband cheated on me while we were engaged, but we got married anyway. Recently I caught him having an affair. Or: My husband lived with his parents until we moved in together, and now we’re married. I hold down two jobs, and he barely works part-time. But he refuses to do any housework.

Reading these I find myself so frustrated, because the warning signs were there. Why would you marry a total couch potato? Why marry a lying cheater? Because you love him, of course! And love will magically transform him. We can’t ignore those feelings, right?

Except that scientists say those feelings last, at most, eighteen months. And then you hit that rut, and you’re in trouble. In dating romances, Hollywood gives us this idea that it’s feelings that sustain a marriage, not the character of the two people involved. Yet if all your friends and family think he’s a lout or are sure she’s flighty, you should likely listen to that–no matter what you’re feeling.

Maybe we need to start applying the same principles to dating as we do to marriage. It’s character that counts, not just feelings. That’s a lesson Jane Austen tried to teach us long ago, and perhaps we could all do with a little more Austen and a little less Zombie.

Don’t miss a Reality Check! Sign up to receive it FREE in your inbox every week!

The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex

Marriage isn't supposed to be blah!


Sex is supposed to be stupendous--physically, emotionally, AND spiritually. If it's not, get The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex--and find out what you've been missing.

Wifey Wednesday: My Husband Never Wants to Spend Time with Me

My Husband Never Wants to Spend Time with Me: Thoughts on how to build your friendshipIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

I recently received an email that said this:

My husband likes to hang out with “the guys” after work, and he’s rarely home. I’m lonely. Is that normal?

That’s tough, isn’t it? So let me give a few quick thoughts.

First, it is absolutely fine for men to hang out with friends.

They do need male bonding. That being said, everything should be in balance, and if he’s consistently with his friends, and he’s never with you, that’s not healthy for your relationship.

However, nagging rarely helps anything. If you complain about it, then he will feel like he’s being attacked, or that you’re pressuring him, and that could cause him to withdraw further.

Instead, ask yourself: Do WE have a good friendship?

So instead, let’s just think about the dynamics of your relationship. Often when people marry, they marry because they love each other and they want to be together. But they don’t necessarily have a really good friendship. They don’t necessarily have things that they enjoy doing together (other than sex). So, once you’re married, it’s easy to start to drift apart because you didn’t have regular things that you did together.

Guys, when they don’t have something specific planned, will then often say, “I’ll hang out with the guys, because nothing else is on at home tonight.”

So what I would recommend is that you sit down with your husband and ask what sorts of things he enjoys doing that you can do with him. Does he like to fish? Then start fishing with him (even if you don’t like to fish!). Does he like taking bike rides? Then start riding bikes together. Does he like watching sporting events? Then try going to some. Or take up a new hobby, like tennis together.

Find something that you can do, rather than just hang out at home.

If you have something specific planned, he’s more likely to come home. And if it’s something that he enjoys, all the better! Find ways to laugh together, instead of nagging him to just be home. Many men don’t want to “just be home”. They need a reason, like something that they are going to do together. Of course, that’s tricky if you have little kids, but see if you can find things to do as a family, or swap baby-sitting with another couple, so you can have some one-on-one time.

But instead of saying, “let’s do something tonight”, try saying, “let’s take a walk”, or “let’s paint the deck”, or “let’s play a game of tennis.” Be specific.

Also remember that men tend to communicate side by side, rather than face to face.

They like talking while they’re doing something. They don’t tend to like just sitting around and talking face to face, the way we women do. So the more you can find things to do, the more you’ll likely communicate. And if you start laughing and finding things to do together, he’ll probably want to be with you more.

So rather than tell him that you want him home more, or that you want him to do something that you want to do, try to find things that he enjoys doing that you can do with him, even if you have to stretch yourself or go outside of your comfort zone. The best thing that you can do for your relationship is just to learn to be friends again, so try that out!

Wifey Wednesday: Christian marriage postsWhat do you all think? Anyone have any better advice or other thoughts on what to do if your husband never wants to spend time with you?

Now it’s your turn! Do you have some marriage advice to share with us? Link up the URL of your marriage post in the linky below!