CAMPUS MAGAZINE: Drifting Apart
Date posted: April 1, 2009
What Women Want on a Freaky Friday and Vice Versa. This is the answer to all those couples who drift apart forgetting what brought them together in the first place. In those three movies a man got to be a woman, father and son switched places, and mother and daughter exchanged shoes. So many movies were built around the idea of people who were miles apart in their thinking and feelings until they walked the famous mile in the other person's shoes. Other movies highlighted those who chose to live in the past or wander into the future until they were magically sent back or forth in time to end up choosing their present over any other scenario. The presence of, or the lack of, empathy and contentment, is what glues people together or makes them drift apart.
In the simplest of words, Dr. Tess Coleman (Jamie Lee Curtis), in Freaky Friday, explained the meaning of empathy as she told her daughter: "I am going to make one final attempt to understand what goes on in your head." Empathy is about trying to understand, feel, and identify with your partner. The opposite of empathy is stubbornness – yes! It's that simple! Assuming that those two people chose to be together and are committed to their relationship, I could only think of stubbornness as the main hurdle in the path of an empathetic relationship. But why would anyone be stubborn?
People are stubborn because their pride gets in the way, because they are arrogant and self-conceited, because they are selfish, because they are immature, or because they do not care; I am too proud to acknowledge that I was wrong and that you were right, that your idea is better than mine, or that your way is better than my highway. I am too arrogant to admit that I am a human being who can make bad calls, erroneous decisions, or faulty judgments. I am too immature to apologize for hurting your feelings, for letting you down, or for being emotionally unavailable. I am just too selfish to open my eyes and see you instead of insisting on looking in a mirror that shows nothing but my proud reflection. I never cared enough to make it work.
In the movie, the woman in the Chinese restaurant saw the communication failure between the mother and her daughter. She decided to interfere and gave them fortune cookies. They both read their fortunes at the same time … it said: "A journey soon begins, its prize reflected in another's eyes. When what you see is what you lack, then selfless love will change you back." Then they switched places for one day and got to understand, appreciate, and care for one another. They both went on a journey of self discovery and empathy where they got to see the world from a new perspective that brought them closer. Once they saw what they failed to see before, once they learnt to love the other more than the self, they were transformed back into their old selves.
Other than lack of empathy, being trapped in the past or the future is another reason why people drift apart. "What if" … this is the beginning of the end. Once you begin asking the "what if" questions know that you began sailing away. What if I chose X instead of Y? What if I had a career? What if we had kids? What if we did not have kids? What if we lived in another country? What if I dated Z? What if I never met Z? What if we had a bigger home? What if she never gained weight? "What if" … this is the root of all evil! I remember a movie like Click where the man fast forwarded his whole life because of the "What if" dilemma. He missed out on his kids growing, on his intimate moments with his wife, on the last few years with his parents, on his youth, on the times when he gets to dream … he simple missed out on the present because he was so hung up on the future.
The Family Man is another movie where they guy got stuck in the past. He had a life, a career, a girlfriend, but he never got over the "what if" question of 13 years ago. What if he never travelled to Europe and stayed home with his sweetheart at the time? The whole movie shows you the "other side of the fence" dilemma. Look around you, look inside you, just look and think of the number of people you know who are waiting for the first love to come back to life, or for a new love that comes along with the same feelings and sparks of that first love. Do you ever wonder how your life would have been different had you took a different turn? Yeah … keep wondering! Isn't the past a comfortable familiar place to live? Isn't it nice to waste your waking moments thinking of scenarios of your own creation? How many times did we give our backs to the whole world and insisted on making an opening with our heads in a solid brick wall? How many times did we feel trapped because freedom scared us?
If you feel a growing gap between you and your partner, then think of those two clues: Empathy and missing out on the beauty of the present. Think of the things that were said but went unheard. Think of the moments that were worth celebrating but you let them slip away. Think of how you could build a bridge instead of tearing your love down. Remember that quote from A Walk to Remember: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."