I saw two movies this weekend: 1) Horton Hears a Who 2) Predators. You would think there would be nothing similar between them but surprisingly, I discovered a connection. I woke up at 3:45 this morning, my mind whirling, weaving thoughts and ideas together. I thought about my marriage, I remembered parts of the book ‘Passionate Marriage’ and I recalled the movies I had just seen. Then, like a lightning bolt, I saw the truth. The truth is something I see and feel with every atom of my body. The truth I saw was this–The balance between autonomy and dependence is something that all humans struggle with. We are all alone and yet connected. This idea becomes especially evident in the context of a marriage. There comes a time when one must achieve this balance between being separate and being together within the relationship. In the language of David Schnarch–How do I hold onto myself and my own integrity while at the same time develop an intimate connection with my partner?
I believe that men and women have different instincts and tendencies. Men generally have a strong instinct for autonomy. They strive to be strong and independent. Their innate desire is to be self-reliant; to able to survive alone. Women, on the other hand, have the instinct to connect with others; their desire is to develop interdependency. In the modern world, humans need both of these in a healthy balance in order to live happy, fulfilling, successful lives. The biggest challenge in a marriage is mastering this balance between separateness and togetherness.
I know I have been struggling with building a stronger sense of myself–I am here and this is who I am. I know what I need and what I want. I am a capable, independent woman.–In the past, I have bent over backwards trying to please people. (I have the image of Kenichi Ebina doing the move from Matrix in my mind.) I think if I had had a more solid self-esteem going into my relationship, I wouldn’t have bent so far as to lose my footing. It’s essential to be flexible in a relationship but you have to know yourself well enough to know when you have to stand your ground.
Women don’t fear depending on others because they know, instinctively, that interdependency is necessary for our survival. Picture a mother breast-feeding her baby. Women know that we depend on these connections. What some women fear is being disconnected, being alone, having to be completely self-sufficient. I was controlled by this fear which led me to lose pieces of myself since I so desperately wanted to keep the peace and keep my relationship. Men, in contrast, fear being too dependent on others and if they are faced with this fear, they may do anything to maintain their separateness and freedom, thinking that it is their only source of power. Take a look a how many wars in the world are about preserving autonomy.
In the movie “Horton Hears a Who”, an elephant, named Horton, discovers there is a whole community living on a speck on a clover. As he carries the clover around, keeping it safe, Whoville is unknowingly completely dependent on the elephant. In the end, all the Whos in Whoville make as much noise as they can so they can be heard and save their tiny world. ‘WE ARE HERE!!’ they shout. It’s a beautiful movie that shows just how much strength we can have together and how much we really depend on each other. In my opinion, Dr. Seuss is a total genius.
In Predators, the two main characters are a man (Royce) and a woman (Isabelle). They are being hunted by the alien predators on an unknown planet and fight to stay alive. In one scene, another man is hurt and Royce and Isabelle talk about what to do. Royce decides to leave, opting for his own survival while Isabelle chooses to stay, unable to deny their human connection. At the end, both learn how much they need each other, even though both are skilled, powerful soldiers.
The truth is we ALL need to find our own inner strength and personal power. We all need to have confidence in our abilities; especially our ability to survive by ourselves independently as a separate human being. At the same time, we ALL need to recognize that no one is an island. We are dependent on each other and in order to give and receive and live in harmony we need to be adaptable and sometimes allow ourselves to be vulnerable.
What I imagine is a tree and water: The tree is solid, strong and stable, standing by itself and the water is flexible, fluid, flowing, merging. To survive well in this world we need to have the qualities of the tree and the water, man and woman.