Couple Relationships: In the movies

By: Alaa Abdelhamid

Mate Selection and Relationship Forming-The Notebook

1. How did they fall in love? Which mate-selection theories best describe the couple?

  • Noah was instantly attracted to Allie when he first saw her at the carnival
  • When he asked her out, she was not interested. Noah wouldn't take no for an answer, so he threatened his own life until she reluctantly agreed
  • When Allie fell in love with him after their first date, they became inseparable as they got to know each other better
  • Ideal Mate Theory suggests that individuals choose their partners based on their unconscious view of their soul-mate, supports "love at first sight"
  • This theory applies to Allie and Noah because Noah fell in love with Allie before getting to know her, which is why he wanted to take her out on a date
  • Complementary needs theory suggests that people are attracted to other people with opposite personalities, which helps balance each other's traits, supports "opposites attract" (e.g. introvert with extrovert)
  • Noah is more spontaneous, persistent, and rebellious, whereas Allie is more obedient, sophisticated, and lives up to her family's expectations, which changes once they become a couple (he encourages her to take risks and focus on what she wants, not her family; while she makes him more mature)
  • Social Homogamy suggests that attraction depends on similar social status, culture, family background, and values
  • Applies to Allie and Lon because they both come from high class, wealthy families and her parents approve of him

2. Describe the dating process. How does Murstein's market (filter) or script theory apply?

  • Filter theory suggests that dating allows individuals to screen out unacceptable partners by going through a series of filters until one person can pass through the last filter and get married
  • The Notebook displays the theory from attraction to marriage
  • Noah is in the attraction filter until he and Allie break up. When Allie meets Lon, he passes through the Homogamy, compatibility, and trial filters until they break off their engagement and she ends up with Noah (decision and marriage filter)

Companionate Marriage - Mr. and Mrs. Smith

3. Describe division of labour, where they are in the marriage cycle, and how they solve their issues and conflicts

Division of Labour

  • John and Jane Smith pretend to be an ordinary suburban married couple with jobs
  • At home, Jane is responsible for dinner and home decor, as she is often seen in the kitchen cooking or asking John for his opinion on the curtains and carpet
  • John comes home from work later Jane, does grocery shopping for her, but buys the wrong type of food, and mows the lawn

Marriage Cycle

  • Married for 5 or 6 years, no children
  • Past their romance and settling down stage

Issues and Conflict Resolution

  • Relationship is based on lies to hide their true identities as assassins
  • Lack of communication and romance
  • When John and Jane discover that they are assassins working for competing organizations, they try to kill each other
  • They reconcile after ending their fight by having sex
  • When they become the target of an assassination they team up to protect and defend each other
  • That is when they start to tell each other everything they have lied about throughout their relationship
  • End up seeking help from a marriage counselor

Impact of Family and Society

4. Are there any societal or family factors that effect the couples' relationships?

Culture - My Big Fat Greek Wedding

  • Toula's family is very traditional and attached to their Greek culture, which initially makes them uncomfortable with Toula marrying someone who's not Greek
  • This effects her relationship with Ian because everything has to be done according to Greek culture and religion, so Toula's family can approve of Ian (Ian was baptized, had a Greek wedding)
  • Toula's culture is more dominant over Ian's culture
  • This is why Toula was hiding her relationship with Ian at first. She knew that her father wouldn't approve, despite her being 30 years old and capable of making her own decisions
  • Shows that Toula was ashamed of her family and culture, not open to letting Ian into her life at first

Extended Family - Four Christmases

  • When Kate and Brad are forced to visit all four of their divorced parents for Christmas, they discover things about each other they didn't know before
  • They realize that they don't know each other as well as they thought they did, despite their three year common-law relationship
  • Visiting her family makes Kate become more open to the idea of marriage and children, which she and Brad had no intentions of doing because they don't want to end up like their parents
  • This negatively effects their relationship because they start to argue about why they kept certain things from each other (Brad's real name is Orlando, Kate's childhood)
  • They also argue about marriage and children since Brad still wants to avoid it
  • This is what happens when a couple shuts their family out of their life for three years

Social Status - The Notebook

  • Allie's parents see Noah as "trash" because he is from a low-class family and makes 40 cents an hour
  • This causes them to break up

Current Research and Trends

5. Do the movie couples adequately reflect what current research and trends say about couple relationships?

In terms of living arrangements, I think the couples in The Notebook and My Big Fat Greek Wedding adequately reflect current trends in relationships, while the main couple in Four Christmases does not. and it is unclear in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Current research says that more couples are "living apart together" (LAT), as shown with Allie and Noah, and Toula and Ian before marriage. According to statistics Canada "...a significant number of LAT relationships are transitional, especially for younger people—some have been in a relationship for only a short time and many are in a LAT couple due to circumstances rather than by choice". In Four Christmases, Brad and Kate are living common law, which is becoming less common according to statistics Canada.