"All happy couples are the same. Which is to say they are just boring."
Dana Adam Shapiro's new film "Monogamy" is more a study of breakups and divorce than it is of committed relationships. He became intrigued with the demise of relationships as he watched many of his contemporaries and close friends divorcing. He conducted over 50 interviews over two years that became the foundational research for his film, which added the intrigue of a private investigation to keep the plot moving.
Shapiro notes, "All the people I interviewed are sort of flawed antiheroes, which is the part that Theo [the main character] plays in the movie. They are not necessarily 'good people' -- they're simply people trying to be good." =More accurately, they are people who, after their relationship has ended, can bear witness to and articulate how badly they did. One interviewee said, "I never once thought about my wife or my marriage first until it was over." Another woman recounted not just the final affair that ended her marriage but the years of dishonesty and falsehood that led up to it.
Tolstoy's idea that all marriages work in the same way is ridiculous. Just as most breakups are different variations on the same theme and often stem from the failure of one or both partners to step up to their best selves, relationships that work and endure contain the same variations of opposite themes: both people in the relationship actively engaging in becoming their best selves and committing to bringing that to their relationship.
Just as divorce is not a story of bad luck, lasting relationships are not the result of good luck. The truth is that there is no other context in life that offers the potential to create either the best or the worst of us. Many people unwittingly become dedicated to the most negative aspect of their personalities and, to the degree that they develop little insight, take these traits out on their relationship. Certainly, the interpersonal drama that this antihero practices is enough to fill a lifetime of relationships. But just because it is common does not make it the story worth emulating.
Still, even with the cultural myths of the near impossibility of enduring relationships, we remain a people dedicated to searching for them. There is no other culture in the world that seeks out romantic relationships at the pace that we do or makes the choice to try again with such frequency.
Learning to love is a lifelong pursuit, and many of the people who leave relationships grow into the people they wish they had been when they started. Relationships and all their pitfalls are still the most important and life-changing circumstances that define our life. When it is all said and done, it is the only really meaningful markers we have to remember our lives. Who we loved, who loved us back and how we learned to be the best of ourselves is never a boring tale.
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