So Erich Segal penned Love Story and it became a career turning point for Ryan O’ Neal (who played Oliver Barrett) and Ali MacGraw (who played Jenny Cavilleri). It opened, cleverly, on Valentine’s Day 1970. The movie was a powerful tearjerker about two college students who were absolutely crazy about each other. Let the word crazy not be lost on you.
Oliver and Jenny had been raised on “different sides of the tracks.” The couple married against his father’s (played by Ray Milland) will and Oliver was disowned from a fortune.
Soon they tried to conceive a child. They were having difficulty. Medical evaluation revealed Jenny had leukemia. She died soon thereafter.
It was a movie that grabbed at my heart strings but also that of millions of Americans. It was about the in-love phase of a powerful relationship. The in-love phase is that portion of time when both people have stars in their eyes peering through rose colored glasses. They didn’t get a chance to live “happily ever after” because there was no ever after.
In 1977, a movie was launched that was a bit more down to earth, filled with wonderful one liners. It was in essence a memoir of Woody Allen’s unsuccessful relationship with Diane Keaton. The movie. Annie Hall, delved with good humor into the mystery of relationships that develop beyond the in-love phase. It was awarded several of the highest Academy Awards available.
When we saw the movie in the theater, I was in the middle of the in–love phase with the love of my life, Kristine. She was a little taken aback by my laughter which was a buck short of a seizure. I found the movie sidesplitting.
The mystery is amplified in the last scene where the two break up and as Alvy (Woody Allen) walks away he does a voice over as follows:
After that it got pretty late. And we
both hadda go, but it was great seeing
Annie again, right? I realized what a
terrific person she was and-and how much
fun it was just knowing her and I-I
thought of that old joke, you know, this-
this-this guy goes to a psychiatrist and
says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy. He
thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the
doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn
him in?” And the guy says, “I would, but
I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s
pretty much how how I feel about
relationships. You know, they’re totally
irrational and crazy and absurd and …
but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it
because, uh, most of us need the eggs.
The Notebook, addressed in even the best of relationships how that might end with one spouse dissolving into the nothingness of a death from Alzheimer’s. It was a beautiful, memorable film.
My stories frequently walk you through events in detailed steps. Suffice it to say we share with the married or divorced reader to some degree the challenges, the ups and downs of a long term relationship. I believe conflicts are normal and that the challenge for us by the grace of God is to, “fight fair.”
These words of the contemporary, philosopher Alain-De-Botton, (in an On Being interview by Krista Tippett), speak to the challenge:
So I think the work of love is to try, when we can manage it — we can’t always — to go behind the front of this rather depressing, challenging behavior and try and ask where it might’ve come from. Love is doing that work to ask oneself, “Where’s this rather aggressive, pained, noncommunicative, unpleasant behavior come from?” If we can do that, we’re on the road to knowing a little bit about what love really is, I think.
Kristine and I, much of the time, make those attempts in the hands of God, praying and seeking the direction of the Holy Spirit (the counselor of the Trinity in the heart of the believer). It was my late mom who frequently noted, “No one said it would be easy, Robert”
De Botton as to our overall condition noted in that same interview:
Look, one of the first important truths is, you’re crazy. Not you, as it were; all of us, that all of us are deeply damaged people. The great enemy of love, good relationships, good friendships, is self-righteousness. If we start by accepting that of course we’re only just holding it together, and in many ways, really quite challenging people — I think if somebody thinks that they’re easy to live with, they’re by definition going to be pretty hard and don’t have much of an understanding of themselves.
The good Lord puts enormous value on the quality of humility throughout Scriptures. In the King James Version of the Bible in the Book of Proverbs, 16:18, it reads “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
We humans are prone to self-destructive behavior with or without pride. It is only a matter of degree. I once saw one of the most disciplined tennis players I ever watched at a book signing, Michael Chang. He had co-written with Mike Yorkey his autobiography, Holding Serve. He was the French Open champion as a teenager. He admitted as a world class athlete that every now and then he binged on unhealthy food. And, he is arguably the top of the human pyramid.
With all that’s working against us including the odds against a long term marriage, perspective helps. Over time I gathered that the good Lord places believers in holy matrimony to be sanctified. It is a long word that means to become more holy. That may give new meaning to Holy matrimony for some readers. Sure enough a far smarter man than me, Tim Keller, a highly regarded preacher and writer, rendered that same opinion in his book, The Meaning of Marriage.
More loving, of course, is a central core of more holy. Forgiveness is a central part of more loving. I understand, easier said than done.
Kristine and I have our struggles like every other couple. The thing to remember, particularly after years of marriage, is that every bit of it is worth it.
H. Robert Rubin, best-selling Amazon memoirist and author of Look Backward Angel, How Did I Get Through This? and Please Save the Third Dance for Me, all available on Amazon.