Forget Paris (1995)

Unlike to common romance movies that usually end with “happily ever after” scene where the courtship stage is the ultimate focus of the storyline, it’s all about the chemistry, the guy finally meets the right girl at the right place, got married and finally ends with snippets of their life after they got married (honeymoon, new house, babies); Forget Paris is a story about what happened after “happily-ever-after” when lust is over and reality began to kick-in a marriage. We all know well enough that life after marriage is not always a smooth sailing journey just by looking at our parents. They do argue, and disagreements do arise now and then, and things can turn out pretty ugly at times. We would be in denial to think that things would be different when it’s our turn. Essentially, marriage is an union where two persons commit to live together for a long period of time, or perhaps a lifetime. In order to live together, both parties would have to compromise, adjusts and make changes to live with the another person from the smallest issue such as personal habits (how we squeeze toothpaste: top or bottom) to bigger issues like career goals (Mickey wants to pursue his passion as a referee while Ellen wants him to settle down and a job that don’t require him to travel frequently). When either party is unable to accommodate another partner’s behavior or decision, disagreement arises. Therefore, it is not uncommon for couples to argue and have disagreements in their marriage.

In end of the film, both Ellen and Mickey are ready to compromise their careers to remain together but that does not guarantee eternal marriage happiness when future disputes arise. Although disputes are unavoidable in marriages, the success in happy marriage according to Dr. John Gottman, lies on how couples handle their arguments. Based on his longitudinal study on 484 couples over the course of 10 years, Gottman claims that he can 94% accurately predict the success or failure of a marriage by just having a brief session of interview with the couple (Gottman, 1994). He found that happy marriages tend to argue constructively. In contrast, he identified that there are four key conflict style (criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling) on what he called the four horsemen of apocalypse that lead to long-term relationship problems. These form conflict come in the form of personal attacks, ambiguous, directed on personality rather than specific behavior may leave no room for discussion and finally one partner shuts down to the criticism that causes another to become even furious. And soon before the couple realizes, they are already on a downward hill of dysfunctional communication and unhappy marriage. Gottman concludes that it is not incompatibility that ruptures a marriage but the methods used in solving these incompatibilities.

Because the film does not depict a definite ending for Mickey and Ellen’s relationship,  I will comment on how can they both could keep a happy marriage by making chages on their communication styles based on their earlier disputes as portrayed in the earlier scenes.

  1. Criticism

This form of conflict involves blaming another person as a whole for what have occurred. On other words, instead of addressing a particular behavior or event that lead to the problem so that a person is able to learn from their mistakes, criticism comes in the form of personal attacks that are global. In the film, when Mickey decided to return to work and tried to rationalize, he blamed his unhappiness was largely due to his wife’s insensitiveness about his feelings. Little effort has been put forth to explain on how unsatisfying his present job was, and discussion on other alternatives.

  1. Defensiveness

When criticisms have intruded one’s personal self-esteem, it is natural for the person to put up their guards and reacted defensively. The person will either resort to counterattacking, making up excuses or deny responsibility that will make the argument worse. In the movie, Ellen strikes back when Mickey complained that she was inattentive towards his sexual urges and has been rejecting his attempt. Ellen was too focused on disproving her husband’s accusation stead of acknowledging, and working to remedy the problem

3. Contempt

Contempt, which is the worst of the four horsemen whereby were messages sent to another party were so distorted that it communicates disgust to the person. Contempt come in the form of “”Sarcasm, cynicism, name-calling, eye- rolling, sneering, mockery, and hostile humor” (Gottman, 1994) that cause nothing other than further damage to the relationship. In the film, Mickey made fun on Ellen’s taste for art in the presence of others that sometimes lack of realism or in other words – childish. Such humor, when portrayed at the wrong context may be considered a cynical remarks that lead to embarrassment and awkwardness on the other

4. Stonewalling

Stonewalling represent another form of dysfunctional strategies used when one partner began to become unresponsive towards the another. Although stonewalling was not apparent in Mickey and Ellen’s relationship (both are depicted as equally confrontational and argumentative), it is believed that this form of behavior tends to enter marriages later, after a significant period of negative disputes.

References

Gottman, J. (1994, Why marriages fail. Psychotherapy Networker, 18(3), 40-40. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/233304799?accountid=14649

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