Healthy relationships take work and awareness. Merriam-Webster defines a romantic relationship as an emotional attachment between individuals (a meaningful relationship). In other words, relationships require two people to interact in certain ways to make the emotional connection meaningful.
The Oscar-nominated film Silver Linings Playbook introduces us to messy relationships and messy lives. The relationships and characters are incredibly sensitive and humane. It is a romantic comedy that highlights the best and worst behaviors of people in relationships.
Silver Linings Playbook is a story of love, loss and everything in-between. The main character is Pat Solitano (Bradley Cooper). The story starts with Pat's release from a mental hospital after being treated for bipolar disorder for eight months. We find out Pat nearly killed a man who was having an affair with his wife Nikki (Brea Bee).
Nikki gets a restraining order against Pat after the attack. Pat's goa, for month,s was to become the man Nikki wanted and reunite with his wife. Pat's thinking was noble, yet grandiose, which fits with his bipolar diagnosis and symptoms. Yet, Pat found that living with a sense of hope after experiencing the despair of losing everything — his wife, job, home and freedom — provided meaning for him. He vowed to look for the silver lining from every experience, learn from it and move forward.
A friend of Pat's introduces him to Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence), a woman with a sordid past. Pat and Tiffany connect immediately, discussing the various psychotropic medicines they have been on to help them deal with their mental health symptoms. We learn Tiffany struggles with depression and is dealing with the unexpected death of her husband.
Pat and Tiffany begin to spend time with each other and find they can be themselves with each other. They don't pretend. They are honest, and tolerant of the others quirkiness and idiosyncrasies. Both are messes emotionally yet are able to connect with the "crazy" in each other.
Here is what we can learn from Silver Linings Playbook about meaningful relationships:
1. Accept people for who they are. Embrace the quirks and emotional baggage your partner brings to the relationship. Tiffany and Pat accept each others' emotional baggage. Pat learned to stop idealizing Nikki and accept the reality she had moved on. He also came to appreciate Tiffany for her thoughtfulness and accepting him as the man he was already.
2. Don't try to change others. Nikki wanted Pat to be something he isn't. She was unsatisfied in the marriage and had an affair. In other words, Pat did not meet her expectations for who she wanted as a husband, so she made a tough situation worse by having an affair.
3. Find out who you are and be that. Don't try to change yourself into a mold of what your partner wants. Pat exercised, read literature, took care of his body and did all the things his wife wanted him to do. He did not especially like reading literature and found the stories somber and heartbreaking.
Pat even flew into a rage after finishing a book by Earnest Hemmingway, throwing the book out of his window and complaining to his parents, Pat Senior (Robert De Niro) and Delores Solitano (Jacki Weaver) at 4 a.m. When Tiffany and Pat were together, they were real with each other, which felt comforting and meaningful to both.
4. Learn to compromise. Tiffany wanted Pat to do a dance competition with her. He refused at first, but when Tiffany offered to get Pat's letter to Nikki, he agreed to dance. Pat began to appreciate Tiffany's support in trying to win his wife back. Tiffany also did not try to change Pat's goal. She knew she couldn't change him. She put Pat's obvious goal of reunifying with his wife above her needs.
5. Look for the silver lining amidst setback and pain. Pat holds onto the idea that life is what you make it. Trying is better than not trying, even if the odds are against you. You just may hit a jackpot. The storyline concludes with a double parley bet where Pat Sr. puts his life savings on the line giving the football team a ten point spread and betting that Pat and Tiffany score five out of ten at the dance competition. The tension unfolds as the football team wins by the given spread. Now Pat and Tiffany must score a five. After a hilarious dance routine, the score is revealed and a huge jackpot was won by all.
Relationships are messy. We all have emotional baggage, and it often gets in the way of having what we desire most. The best we can do is accept responsibility for your own baggage and be the best you can be. Be sensitive to others' emotional baggage, accepting you will make mistakes. When mistakes do occur, make relational repairs quickly.
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