Condensed and edited from Andrew Goldman’s interview with Rebecca Miller, Julianne Moore, Ethan Hawke and Greta Gerwig. Wall Street Journal.
EH: I see people breaking up because they just have such extremely high expectations for every aspect of their life. That makes life really hard. It doesn’t allow for much compromise or forgiveness. Like what you said—“I’m no prize either”—which I think is so funny. There’s a fundamental humility to that, whereas I’ve had a couple of friends who are breaking up, and their problems with each other are so minute.
AG: Like what?
EH: Oh, just what the other one doesn’t do for the other one. They are both amazing people, and I look at these two friends and I think, I wish you could see each other for what you are and not the tiny part of the puzzle you’re not.
I ran across this interview of the director and cast of Maggie’s Plan and was struck by the truth in this excerpt. So often it is the piece of the puzzle that is not there that drives a partner crazy about the relationship. It’s like a sore tooth – you can’t keep from touching it with your tongue.
We all have a vision of the relationship we want. Notwithstanding dealbreakers like violence and abuse- the vision or the puzzle is an amalgam of societal and family expectations, family of origin loading and a hurt ‘little person’ trying to get whole. Often the relationship we land in solves most of these expections – but there’s usually one thing. And that thing may look minor to a friend on the outside but is major to the one in the relationship.
Part of therapy is getting to that ‘one thing’ that is missing. Where did it come from, why is it important, what would it look like if it showed up in the relationship and do I want it bad enough to look at myself as the instigator of the change that might make it appear?
A sense of humility is so key in the process. “I’m not such a prize either” helps to put things in perspective. We are all imperfect. Are my expectations out of line? Is there enough good in the relationship? What happens when an imperfection is found in a new relationship. Do you leave again? Remember you take you with you when you go.
Couples therapy is a growth experience for the individuals and the relationship. It challenges you to look at yourselves and your expectations. It’s like putting the puzzle pieces out there on the card table and working to bring them together….which pieces you and your partner bring in to complete the puzzle and how important any imperfection is – with at least a small dose of humility.