The Story of Us – A Quick Bit about Marriage Through Its Difficult Seasons

2009 August 25th Wedding Anniversary in Paris 128

“Contempt is conceived with expectations. Respect is conceived with expressions of gratitude. We can choose which one we will obsess over—expectations, or thanksgivings.”   – Gary Thomas*

“I wouldn’t be surprised if many marriages end in divorce largely because one or both partners are running from their own revealed weaknesses as much as they are running from something they can’t tolerate in their spouse.”   – Gary Thomas*

The Story of Us (1999), a film, starring Bruce Willis and Michelle Pfeiffer, details a marriage gone flat. I wanted to see the film at the time but the R rating (for language and brief sexuality) deterred me. Just yesterday, I caught the last half-hour of it, and loved that bit. Not recommending the whole film necessarily (it got terrible reviews) but Michelle Pfeiffer’s monolog at the end is amazing.Blog - Story_of_us - Wikipedia, Universal Pics, Warner Bros Pictures

To set the scene (if you didn’t see the movie either), Willis and Pfeiffer (actors I love) are Ben and Kate in a 15-year marriage. It has unwoven terribly over time. While their two children are away at summer camp, they decide to separate. Toward the end of the film, they are both rethinking their decision. As they pick up their children together, the emotional tension of that reunion is so touching. The monolog, in that last scene, is a great declaration of why not to destroy “the story of us”.

Before you watch (or read**) that scene, let me just say this about marriage and divorce…

My family history is riddled with divorce, and I was afraid of marriage because of all my biological family issues. Divorce happens, and honestly, there are situations when we can’t see any other way out, or through. Still, marriage, as we all at least say if not always believe, is worth the fight.

There are so many reasons to work through the dry and difficult seasons of marriage. Gary L. Thomas is a great teacher on this subject and I recommend all of his books on marriage. They are practical and empathetic and full of hope.

One thing I value is history in relationships. When we went through our hard seasons in marriage, I held on to three things: 1) wanting to honor God in my marriage; 2) never wanting the consequences of divorce (had experienced those as a child growing up in divorce); and 3) not wanting to lose our life together (“the story of us”).

We, my husband and I, are in a different place now, and I can say to any in fragile relationships right now, “Wait for it!” “Work for it!” Of course, it takes two. Pfeiffer’s monolog would have had a whole other feel if Willis didn’t respond, in the film, the way he did. In married life, it does take two, but God, in His mercy and love, adds great power and grace to the one willing. Hold on to that.

So here’s just a part of Pfeiffer’s monolog (women, especially, might enjoy reading this out loud, if you’re in a private place – so full of earnestness and vulnerability – just sayin’):

“We’re an “us”. There’s a history and histories don’t happen overnight. In Mesopotamia or Ancient Troy or somewhere back there, there were cities built on top of other cities, but I don’t want to build another city. I like this city…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. And it’s not for the sake of the children, but they’re great kids aren’t they? And we made them – I mean think about that – there were no people there and then there were people – two of them. And they grew…  Let’s face it, anybody is going to have traits that get on your nerves, why shouldn’t it be your annoying traits? I’m no day at the beach, but I do have a good sense of direction so at least I can find the beach, but that’s not a criticism of you, it’s just a strength of mine. And you’re a good friend and good friends are hard to find… I mean I guess what I’m trying to say is – I love you.”**

[I know this is just a movie and maybe not a great one – it just reminded me – the bit I saw, and the monolog – of possibilities and hope. For you who have been terribly hurt in marriages you saw no way to save, God knows…and wants to heal that place in your heart.]

*Gary L. Thomas Quotes at Goodreads

YouTube Video – The Story of Us – Ending – Michelle Pfeiffer’s Amazing Monolog

**One of the Best Monologs Ever

The Story of Us film

How The Story of Us Should Have Ended – just for fun – a variation but with the same conclusion

A Lifelong Love: How to Have Lasting Intimacy, Friendship, and Purpose in Your Marriage by Gary Thomas

A Lifelong Love Quotes

Gary Thomas Answers Your Marriage Questions

YouTube Video – The Story of Us – Taylor Swift – Great song – Disclaimer – NOT about marriage

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2 thoughts on “The Story of Us – A Quick Bit about Marriage Through Its Difficult Seasons”

  1. Gary, I have a question. My wife and I and our two children finally found a church we all like with a loving congregation. My son was a volunteer and was recently in ceremoniously dismissed very unfairly. My wife and my son and my daughter have now sworn off church for good. This is about the third church where something unfair has happened and they decided to leave. I love the church and congregation. Should I continue to go and not be supportive? Or should I stop going and be supportive of their decision? I am so tired of leaving churches due to unfair treatments.

    1. Oh Steve…wow! You’re not getting Gary here, you’re getting Deb who wrote this blog. I hear the struggle in your life, and it makes me ache for you and your family. Churches are not perfect. They are made of people like us…imperfect, often sinful, not thinking, self-serving people. That being said, it must pain God Himself when we hurt each other. There is so much in your comment… You didn’t detail your son’s situation, but it was clearly the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back”. God calls us to a different walk than the world cajoles us into… In the world, when we are hurt or offended, we have “permission” to withdraw and not forgive. I want to speak carefully here, because not knowing what the treatment was of your son, I don’t know if it was brutally hard for him, or your wife and daughter. Jesus was treated so wrongly and He was pure and perfect, loving us even to his death. He is our example, but admittedly, it is hard to walk like Him in this world. Only through the help of the Holy Spirit and within a loving community. God loves the church, with all its blemishes. He calls us to do the same. To your question: what is the obedience you are called to? Loving (supporting) your family AND also gathering with the church (Hebrews 10:25). You are in a difficult place…but not an impossible one, with Jesus with you.

      When your son was “let go”, did you go talk to the person who dismissed him? You used the word “unfair” three times in your comment. It is all around us, especially if we look for it. Growing up, our children (and we as parents) could use that word only in support of another person being treated unfairly. Not ever to just walk away in contempt or disgust, but trying to help in whatever way we could. When we are tempted to cry “unfair”, it helps to remember how unfairly Jesus was treated…we will never know the “unfair” that He experienced.

      You will never get your family back in church fellowship and service by just joining them, staying away from church. You need the church. They need the church. Even in its imperfections, which our presence lends its own. I hope you can find a believing friend/teacher/pastor who will stay with you in prayer. I will pray for your family’s healing…and loving wisdom for you. Thanks for sharing a bit of your story.

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