Have you seen the movie The Story of Us? Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer play a married couple on the brink of divorce. While their son and daughter are at summer camp, they separate and plan for a future of him and her rather than a future of us. Through flashback scenes, we see their story – how they fell in love and how they fell apart.
If you haven’t seen the movie and you plan to, you may want to stop reading now because the rest of this blog post is going to be a spoiler. (On a side note – the movie is rated R. There are bad words and some raunchy attempts at humor. It’s not a movie for kids. But I think the overall theme of the movie is valuable enough to endure both the F-word [A LOT] and Paul Reiser’s character’s crude personality.)
Throughout the movie, we see some of the happy moments — their falling in love, their wedding, the births of the children, glimpses of their love and joy in the every day. We also see their angry and sad moments — the fights, the disappointments, the turning away from each other rather than toward each other. We see how the daily-ness of routine and the stress of life has chipped away at their happiness and closeness. At dinner, they routinely tell their High/Low of the day. This entire film depicts the High/Low of a marriage.
After separating and attempting to begin lives apart, they come back together to pick up the children from summer camp. Rather than taking the children to Chow Fun’s, their favorite restaurant, they have prepared to go home and deliver the news of their imminent divorce.
As the children climb into the car, Michelle Pfeiffer says she wants to go to Chow Fun’s. Bruce Willis asks if she wants to go only because she doesn’t want to face telling the children.
This is her response:
“That’s not why I’m saying Chow Fun’s. I’m saying Chow Fun’s because we’re an US. There’s a history here, and histories don’t happen overnight. In Mesopotamia or Ancient Troy there are cities built on top of other cities, but I don’t want another city! I like this city! I know what kind of mood you’re in when you wake up by which eyebrow is higher, and you know I’m a little quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly. That’s a dance you perfect over time! And it’s hard; it’s much harder than I thought it would be. But there’s more good than bad, and you don’t just give up! . . .
Let’s face it, anybody is going to have traits that get on your nerves. I mean, why shouldn’t it be YOUR annoying traits? And I know I’m no day at the beach . . . And, God, you’re a good friend. And good friends are hard to find. Charlotte said that in Charlotte’s Web. And I love how you read that to Erin, and you take on the voice of Wilbur the Pig with such dedication even when you’re bone-tired. That speaks volumes about character! And ultimately, isn’t that what it comes down to? What a person is made of? That girl in the pith helmet is still here — ‘bee boo bee boo’ — I didn’t even know she existed until you! And I’m afraid if you leave I may never see her again, even though I said at times you beat her out of me. Isn’t that the paradox? Haven’t we hit the essential paradox? Give and take, push and pull, the yin, the yang. The best of times, the worst of times! I think Dickens said it best. ‘He could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean’, but, that doesn’t really apply here, does it? What I’m trying to say is — I’m saying Chow Fun’s because I love you!”
Marriage IS hard. It is give and take, and push and pull, the yin and yang, the shadow and light, the high and the low.
But I like what Michelle Pfeiffer’s character said — There is history in a marriage. And history doesn’t happen overnight. When you get married, you become an Us. You become One. And it’s not easy or painless to tear apart two people who are bound up in each other and in each other’s story.
I’m so grateful for a husband who doesn’t want to build new cities on top of this one, a husband who believes that you don’t give up just because it’s hard. I’m so grateful for a husband who’d rather have my annoying traits than anyone else’s. I’m bound up with him in the story of us.