Last year, one of the many films I watched during COVID restrictions was Marriage Story. It is very well written, acted and directed. The beginning of the film, in particular, has had a lasting impact on me.
The movie begins with the husband narrating “What I love about Nicole…” (his wife). Some of the things he shares are, “She really listens when someone is talking,” “ She always knows the right thing to do about difficult family s**t,” “She’s always inexplicably brewing a cup of tea that she doesn’t drink,” “She is a mother who plays, really plays,” “She’s brave,” and “She’s competitive.” Nicole then has her turn and says about her husband Charlie: “He never lets other’s opinions keep him from what he wants to do,” “He eats like he’s trying to get it over with and like there won’t be enough food for everyone,” “He’s energy-conscious,” “He doesn’t look at the mirror too often,” “He loves being a dad,” and “He makes everyone feel included.”
Their lists are much longer than shared here and include traits and behaviours that one might find endearing, attractive and/or possibly maddening. I won’t give away their story as depicted in the movie, you’ll have to watch the film, but it doesn’t matter for our purposes here.
My partner Stephanie and I did this exercise and I highly recommend doing it with your spouse or partner. I found hearing her list fun, enlightening and slightly uncomfortable. For me, the more enjoyable part was compiling her list. Creating it helped me appreciate many of the things I already knew and also connected me with things that I had taken for granted, including and especially the things that sometimes drive me bananas. In the film Moonlight Mile, Susan Sarandon’s character, when discussing memories of her deceased daughter says, “I mean, this is the stuff! F**k the perfume, give me the warts!” I think what she is saying is it’s the ”little” and quirky things that we often remember the most about our loved ones who are no longer with us.
Ironically, this exercise may be especially needed now during these many months of sameness and spending so much time under the same roof. It can help us get reacquainted with our loved ones in full colour, the “perfume” and the “warts.” For some of us, spending lots of time with our families has been gratifying and enriching. For others, home life may be distressing and challenging. Whatever your situation, it can be helpful to focus on your loved ones with fresh eyes. This exercise may be one step on the path to us all getting through this.