Last night, lacking energy because of a lingering cold, I lay in bed switching channels between two tried-and-true romantic comedies. Because I've seen parts of the movies You've Got Mail and When Harry Met Sally over and over again on the movie channels, finding them now is like running into an old friend. Both movies follow the developing romance of two people who get off to a very rocky start but eventually fall in love. Inevitably, these movies end when the couple finally realize that they are madly in love and are destined to be together. The touching moments occur when they excitedly discover new and wonderful things about each other, when they admit that they have felt an attraction all along, and when they pledge their undying love for one another. The happy endings of these formula movies still warm my heart and bring a tear to my eye, no matter how many times I've seen them.
But I would like to see a new kind of movie about love and relationships. This new genre of movie, rather than focusing on the excitement of new love, would be about the romance of committed love. But is "the romance of committed love" an oxymoron? Isn't committed love more about acceptance, trust and comfort than about excitement and romance? Would anyone be interested in a movie about that?
The contrast between new love and committed love is a bit like the contrast between a new house and one you've lived in for many years. A new house is clean and shiny, full of potential. Everything looks good and works well, but it's not broken in yet, it can feel disorienting, and you may not remember which drawer the cheese grater is in. In an older home, although you know that you have to whack the top right corner of the basement door to get it to close properly, you tolerate that idiosyncracy because it's the same door where you carefully marked your children's heights each year as they grew. A lived-in home has the comfort of history and familiarity that is impossible to feel in a new home. In the same way, a long-term committed relationship has a comfort and familiarity that does not exist in a new relationship.
So, my movie would not be about the mystery of discovery, but about the deep affection that grows from sharing in solving problems and overcoming obstacles through the years. It would be about the nurturing and support that long-term couples offer one another as a refuge from the traumas of life. The hero and heroine of my movie would look more like your neighbors than like movie stars, but they would have a kind of genuineness and sparkle in their interaction with each other that would make you feel like you were warming yourself by a crackling fire on a cold winter night. They would communicate honestly and directly with each other, sometimes using a special shorthand or secret language that only they share. They would express genuine interest in the details of each other's lives and brag shamelessly to strangers about one another's talents.
My movie would not lack excitement or adventure. The ups and downs of life, including events like flooding basements or the birth of a child, would provide edge-of-your-seat thrills. We would watch as these shared traumas and triumphs strengthen the bond shared by our couple. We would be amazed by the myriad ways our couple finds to show affection, make contact across a crowded room, or secretly communicate desire for one another, even in the presence of children.
The end of my movie would not be about "Happily Ever After", but rather about the contentment of "Mostly Happily Ever After With Some Inevitable Ups and Downs and Lots of Patience and Love to Get Through the Hard Times".
Would this movie sell at the box office? I'm not sure. Does it provide a realistic yet positive view of long-term committed relationships? I'd like to believe so. Does it reflect the quality of your relationship? I hope so.