5 Lessons on Relationships from “The Last Five Years”

From Wikipedia because I’m lazy:

The Last 5 Years is a 2014 American musicalcomedy-drama film starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. Based on Jason Robert Brown‘s musical of same name, the film is written and directed by Richard LaGravenese.

last five years

The movie basically chronicles the love story of Cathy and Jamie in their five years together. It starts however with Cathy singing about Jamie leaving, then jumps to Jamie singing about their first night together… and so it goes, Cathy’s timeline moving backward while Jamie’s move forward until we get to their wedding day, and then we get the same moments told from the other’s perspective, ending with Jamie saying goodbye while Cathy recounts their first parting.

Presentation wise: mindblowing! Yet, none of the songs were particularly memorable. At some point they just seemed to fuse into one song… and I found myself walking out of the theater singing “For the First Time in Forever” — Yes, the Frozen song — instead of a song of the movie, which should tell you just how boring the songs were… and one or two of them probably sounded like For the First Time in Forever, otherwise why would I be singing that song??

Also, since the movie is about the ups and downs of Cathy & Jamie’s relationship, there’s really no clear plot/climax/message. Yet, watching it I was reflecting on my own relationship and realized there are very good lessons to be learned, as follows.

Lesson #1 — Being in a relationship means walking together side by side.

One of the biggest problem in Cathy & Jamie’s relationship I think was described in Cathy’s third song “A Part of That” in which she describes how Jamie drifts off to his own faraway land and while at first Cathy is happy because she gets to be a part of Jamie’s creative process, soon enough she sings the following lines: “And it’s true I tend to follow in his stride instead of side by side. I take his cue.” and eventually she questions whether she’s really part of Jamie’s world. And that’s the thing. For a relationship to truly work, both people have to be partners side-by-side. If one person feels like he/she is just being dragged along then you have a problem.

This is not to say that you both need to be successful, which seems to be the problem for Cathy: Jamie being a success while she keeps on failing. I think if a couple really are equals, then the success of one will not make the other feel neglected/invisible.

Lesson #2 — Being in a relationship means making mutual compromises and supporting each other.

This one was painfully obvious in the song “If I Didn’t Believe in You.” It seems that while Jamie tries to be supportive of Cathy, but he really has his dreams and career as his main priority. He seems to think that Cathy didn’t need to be cared for because she’s strong and Jamie says “If I wasn’t certain that you’d come through somehow… I wouldn’t be standing here now.” This song made it seem like Jamie was a nice guy who believes in Cathy and Cathy is the one who needs to fix her problems, but being in a relationship means fixing each others problems together, not soaring on while we let the other deal with their feelings.

No matter how strong a man or a woman is, the reason why she/he wants to be with you is because at some point they’re going to be weak and they’re going to need you to support them.

Lesson #3 — Being in a relationship means taking the time to make the other person feel special and important.

One of the moments in the movie when all the girls in the theater went “Awww” was when Jamie decorated their whole apartment to tell a story to Cathy and make her happy again despite having had an awful day. Well done, although at first I was about as pissed off at Jamie for forcing this girl who obviously needed peace and quiet to listen to his story as Cathy was, but okay, all is good in the end. AND YET… a few years later (though actually this scene came first), there was Cathy singing about how they could make the relationship work and Jamie went on to say that he’s going to leave soon and we find out it’s Cathy’s birthday. DUDE! You should be with your wife on her birthday, period.

Lesson #4 — Being in a relationship means keeping the flame of passion burning.

This is something that seems to be problematic for many people… at first you can’t keep your hands and lips and bodies off of each other, and then suddenly that flame is gone. And that’s when other people become attractive. No, no, no. No matter how old you get, be passionate about your partner. This is why you really shouldn’t be in a relationship with someone because you think they’re good looking because there will be a time when they no longer are, but if you love them for all that they are then it doesn’t matter how they look like, you will want to make love to them and be intimate with them all the time. And yes, that includes the time when you are no longer able to have sexual interaction. Intimacy and passion goes much deeper. But first, you have at least 10 to 20 years before the sex drive clears out, so make good use of it!

Lesson #5 — Being in a relationship means being honest with each other about everything.

If you feel like your relationship is breaking down, tell them. If you feel like you can’t take it anymore, tell them. If you are struggling with yourself because you’re finding someone else attractive, tell them! What are you afraid of? That they’d get angry at you? If you have a true relationship where you are equal partners who make mutual compromises, keep each other feeling special, are passionate with each other, then you shouldn’t have that fear. At the same time, if a relationship isn’t build on trust and honesty then you will not be able to do all of the other things.

You chose to be together, “try a little harder and bend things to and fro to make this love as special as it was five years ago.”

On Memories of Past Loves

Blessed are those who do not have many crushes and ex-lovers in their lives, for you are saved from the random moments when your brain decides to throw a memory at you triggered by a mundane thing.

Like the janitor’s new cleaning liquid that reminds you of the boy you had a huge crush on. Or a perfectly happy song playing on the radio that makes you cry because it was the song you once dedicated to someone on Valentine’s Day. Or a Facebook like from someone you once had a crush on who is now married with kids that makes you remember how sweet his messages used to be.

And don’t even get me started on how meeting up with a friend at a cafe gives you the chill or how someone’s text gives you a nervous breakdown because it made you think of that guy who turned out to be abusive.

What makes it worse is that you’re pretty sure you don’t have any feelings for these people any longer, but when these memories pop up it feels like your ground is shaken. It doesn’t make any sense, does it? To remember that you once felt something for so many different people? You question why it is that you remember this feeling, why it still makes you smile, or (in most cases) pierces your heart.

And then you remember that your past loves are lessons… every smile, every laugh, every tear, every scar, every memory, they are there to remind you what you’ve learned. This is why they pop up at random, it is when your brain decides you need a quick refresher of your course.

And you can look into the eyes of THE ONE and tell him:

“I’ve loved many before you in many different ways, they have shaped the love I have for you. Like a mosaic of different pieces, my love for you is unique, you remind me of all those I’ve loved before, yet at the same time I realise the difference. You are special, because you’re the last piece, the one that completes. With you, I will have a different sort of lesson, one that I have been prepared for by all the lessons before you, one that will never become a random memory, because it will go on until the end.”