"We weren't ourselves when we fell in love, and when we became ourselves - surprise! We were poison. We complete each other in the nastiest, ugliest possible way."
― Gillian Flynn, Gone Girl
One reason Gone Girl is #1 at the box office for the second week in a row is the stunningly captivating conversion from white-hot passion and mutual admiration to seething resentment and revenge obsession that occurs between Nick and Amy. While the extreme vengefulness depicted in this fictional tale is not standard fare in modern married life, each character's personality core and relationship style fit profiles that we see regularly in our marriage-focused practice: Love Addict and Love Avoidant. So what's true to life?
The way their relationship took off. It was fueled by her fantasy of his perfect love and by his seduction, both defenses against feeling vulnerable (not quite as romantic in that light is it?)
Amy's profoundly raw pain and her rageful, obsessive plotting is consistent with the withdrawal phase of Love Addiction. Many love addicts not only obsess about their partner, but, like Amy, also compulsively act out revenge fantasies (calling affair partners, vandalizing property, intruding in work settings, publicizing their partner's bad behavior, etc.).
Nick's intense resentment of Amy and his victim thinking are classic Love Avoidant characteristics used to justify treating his wife without respect and to act out on the side.
Amy is truly amazing as an accurate illustration of untreated Love Addiction. She was completely swept off her feet with Nick's seductive pursuit of her in their early days together. In the process, she idealized him in order to preserve the fantasy of him being the perfect man. As their relationship matured and the distance between them grew, she denied her reality that she was not getting enough of him to sustain feeling connected. Her denial shattered when she saw him kiss another woman and thus began her vindictive plot to destroy him. True to life? Yes, yes, yes and... yes.
Nick is a classic Love Avoidant.
He comes on hot and heavy, presenting himself as an exciting and highly interested Prince Charming. Amy becomes his drug (more specifically, the pursuit of her and her intense idealization of him), until he knows he has her. Then his fear of intimacy results in his charms wearing off, his walls going up and then seeking fresh intensity in the form of an affair.
They don't split up! Even after thoroughly proving that they are poison to each other, they still decide to stay together. Love Addicts and Avoidants have a notoriously hard time separating because re-engaging their relationship brings so much intensity. Together, they are a perfectly dysfunctional match, like interlocking gears turning each other, first in a sea of endorphins and finally drowning in their shared hatred. Sadly for the characters (and for many couples), they did not seek professional help despite obvious need. Of course, healing from their woundedness and re-writing their relationship with a vastly healthier script would not yield the same box office results (however satisfying to therapists everywhere!)