Susan and I love going out to the movie theater together. But it never ceases to amaze us how differently we view what we watched. We were in the same theater. We both saw the same actors on screen. The script was the same, and more often than not, we leave the theater with that “good movie feeling.” And yet, it’s almost always for different reasons. It’s all about our movie theater attitude.
“That was great!” I’ll say excitedly. “It was full of action and suspense.”
“Wait?! What movie did you just watch?” Susan says with her adorable laugh. “I thought it was romantic but also sad.”
Has this ever happened to you and your spouse?!
It’s certainly a weird feeling. But we tend to view it as a good thing.
The Movie Theater Attitude
Relationships can be very much like a movie. Therefore, the scenario above is what we like to call the Movie Theater Attitude. Allow us to explain! As is the case in most relationships, we don’t see events and happenings exactly the same as our partners. This is true even when we experience the same event (like watching a movie). That’s because we are both unique and see things differently. We each have our own reality about the way things play out in our lives — as well as the part we each play in that reality.
Therefore, to have great relationships and happy marriages: You need to have a movie theater attitude.
Don’t shy away from it!
Don’t view it as a negative. It’s 100% a positive!
Being Different is Actually a Good Thing
When it comes to our relationship, it’s like I’m sitting in my own theater watching MY movie. That movie is based on MY perspective in life: it has my preferences, likes, dislikes, experiences, etc. It represents the meaning I have of my life — my situations and circumstances. It is also based on my family of origin, and the experiences of my past relationships.
It’s MY movie. It’s not SUSAN’S movie.
Meanwhile, Susan is sitting in her own movie theater. It includes her perspective, her view of how the world works, the meaning she has given to how she grew up, and the events, experiences, and relationships she had in HER LIFE.
It’s HER movie; it’s not MY movie.
Great relationships are made up of partners who learn to get up out of their movie theater and sit in their partner’s theater — not as a movie critic but as an INTERESTED, CURIOUS, OBSERVER!
LOOK THROUGH THEIR MOVIE LENS:
“What is going on inside my partner’s heart?”
“How are they thinking and feeling about this situation?
“I’m sure there’s a special meaning they are making out of this situation or event?”
“I wonder why he or she does what they do.”
“Why is this so important to him or her?”
Let me share another story about a Movie Theater Attitude that will hopefully drive this point home.
The Jenkins Family and Entertaining
When we got married and had friends over for dinner, Susan would buy flowers, get out the “good napkins,” set a special table, make sure the guest towels were in the bathroom, and that everything was as nice as it could be. I didn’t understand this — at all. Susan’s parents were very social. They had guests in our home almost weekly, and this is how her mother entertained. She made everything special.
The Dawson Family and Entertaining
Meanwhile, my parents did not entertain much in their home. They didn’t have a special candle for the bathroom or cloth napkins. They didn’t buy flowers. I didn’t understand this at all when we got married, so I kind of just wanted to go with the flow.
I could have criticized her for doing all this stuff but instead got interested and curious about why Susan wanted to make each dinner with guests something special. Why was this important to her? What was she thinking and feeling? And, by doing this, she won me over to her way of entertaining.
Now, I love it and can put together a dinner party just as good as she can (well, almost).
Life and the interactions we have with one another — especially during conflict — are like you both are in your own theater, watching your own movie.
So what’s the bottom line here? The bottom line is that in marriage, we need to be interested and curious about each other — NOT judgmental and critical.
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Did we leave anything out? What do you think of the Movie Theater Attitude? How do you think you can incorporate this into your marriage? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going at Mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.