This week I finally got round to watching “The Wedding Date” an enjoyable -if slight – romantic comedy.
The plot, for anyone not familiar with it, has reluctant singleton Debra Messing attending her step-sister’s wedding with a male “escort”, Dermot Mulroney, [who combines perfect eye-candy looks with gentlemanly charms and a comprehensive fee per service policy.
The Messing character needs to have Mulroney in tow because her ex, who inexplicably dumped her, is the best man.
The action is simple and predictable: girl meets boy, girl and boy connect at some profound yet unclear level, they fall into bed together, argue, break up and then end up back together, all smiles and tears while we the audience buy into the idea of them toddling off into the sunset of Happily Ever After.
This is indeed the stuff of “rom com” and romance, according to The Oxford English Reference dictionary, is about “an atmosphere or tendency characterized by a sense of remoteness from or idealization of everyday life”. Quite. Except that we don’t entirely suspend disbelief even when we are watching romantic comedies.
At some point, every one of us has longed for that fuzzy ultimate feel-good sense of being regarded as the perfect inhabitant of a perfect world by our perfect partner.
Whatever the problem is, love is the answer. Love is all you need, after all. So Mulroney is a male sex worker. Not a problem. He gets all the best lines, from the philosophical: “You get the relationships you want”, to ” I think I’d miss you even if we’d never met” and this line that would sit well in the mouth of any abuser: “I’d rather fight with you than make love with anyone else.”
Aaah! And yuk! Aaah because both leads are so good looking (and toned and well dressed) that they’re just bound to be happy together ever. Yuk because flimsy love stories still impact on our psyche at the subliminal level, teaching us that you can build strong relationships on hopelessly inadequate foundations.
Sooner or later, we all try it, are amazed when it doesn’t work and punish ourselves. Often before repeating the same process with the self-same outcome.
Michael Gerber’s “The E-Myth Revisited” – Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work And What To Do About It” urges business owners to develop strong visions for their companies.
How does that translate to women, and men, who want to be build successful relationships? Surprisingly well.
Since we are all, first and last, flawed human beings, our design flaws in any one area of life are likely to impact on other areas also. And so it is that Gerber’s comments about replacing assumptions (and aspirations and dreams) with clear-sighted strategies relate to our emotional world also.
“Most of us have had the experience of being disappointed by someone in whom we have put our trust… trust alone can only take us so far.
Trust alone can set us up to repeat those same disappointing experiences. (my italics)
Because true trust comes from knowing, not from blind faith.
And to know, one must understand.
And to understand, one must have an intimate awareness of what conditions are truly present. What people know and what they don’t. What people do and what they don’t. What people want and what they don’t. How people do what they do and how people don’t. Who people are and who they aren’t.”
It becomes possible to develop ‘an intimate awareness of what conditions are truly present’ when you are prepared to leave on hold the romantic justification: “Love is all you need” for as long as it takes to work through the various stages of relationship building – which Gerber defines as ‘Infancy’, ‘Adolescence’, ‘Beyond the Comfort Zone’ and ‘Maturity’.
“And how am I supposed to manage that, Clever Clogs?” you might be wondering. Once again, Gerber has a useful answer – if you are prepared to replace the term “relationship” with “business”.
Gerber talks at length about working on the business rather than in the business – a fascinating concept for anyone who has ever spent time trying to pick up the broken pieces of a relationship in the wake of a partner’s abusive outburst.
“Simply put, your job is to prepare yourself and your business for growth.
To educate yourself sufficiently so that, as your business grows, the business’s foundation and structures can carry the additional weight.
And as awesome a responsibility as that may seem to you, you have no other choice – if your business is to thrive, that is.” (my italics)
Having spoken with hundreds of abused women over the years, I can say with confidence that abusive men do not change their spots. They may use concealer when you first meet and fall for them, and their spots may proliferate over time, but still those spots are there from the start.
The Love-is-all-you-need approach will blind you to the spots. Working from the outset at establishing a foundation of reciprocal care, respect and equality will quickly enable you to see the face behind the concealer.
I’ve yet to encounter an abuser who can manage selflessness for longer than it takes to earn a few vital brownie points. And even then they don’t just do it, they make a 10 course banquet of it.
Nor do abusers ‘do’ solid foundations. Love is all they need. What they term love – over time increasingly a justification for all manner of bad behaviour- is most unlikely to be all you need.
That said, would I turn down the chance to parade Dermot Mulroney at a family function? No way. He would add a whole new dimension to a forthcoming bash at a Kosher Chinese restaurant in suburban London (truly!).
But I’d like to think that if he came out with a killer line like: “I’d rather fight with you etc.etc.”, I’d do the honourable thing and drag the sole of my hobnail boot along his shin. Hard. Because I’m not too sure where a line like that would fit with my compelling long-term vision of a possible relationship.
(C)2005 Annie Kaszina Joyful Coaching