“We were almost perfect for each other …”
“The Five Year Engagement” is a love story. Violet and Tom, a couple that love one another very much, have grandiose plans to marry. The wedding date keeps moving further back as their lives change. They change. Resentment builds, they start testing each other, and the bond breaks. The question of “what if” lingers, and eventually, they do find their way back and renew the relationship.
It’s beautiful, funny, and incredibly sad. For me, it is a bit depressing and too close for comfort. Not the called-off wedding or premise, but the emotional content that keeps this film so fresh.
I have seen this movie too many times, yet refuse to buy it. Perhaps I don’t want to compare my relationship too much to theirs, as I so often do with other movies and couples.
My own love story started 10 years ago. I had just graduated from high school, ready to start the next chapter of my life. Nate just finished the 10th grade. (I am such a cougar.) A skateboarding punk that I began spending a little too much time with. It wasn’t supposed to happen, for I was going to meet older, more mature college guys. Yet, there was this spark. It was undeniable.
That summer was great, but it waned and the season changed. In college, I had begun to flourish. New studies, new ideas, and new friends. I started to resent Nate for so many things. He was younger, and his beliefs were much different than mine.
We hung on. It was fun for awhile, then we would squabble over any and every little thing. I was pretty strong-willed, and let him know it. Sometimes for no good reason. He went to a Christian college, I went to a public university. Meanwhile, our lives were just going in different directions. We should have taken a break, lived our own lives, and dated other people – but we didn’t. He took one last try at the relationship by transferring to my school. At first, that felt great. Then, it felt smothering. He didn’t, btw, but I felt it was an intrusion all the same.
He moved back to his original school after a semester and then broke up with me. Even though I should have expected it, I didn’t. We had always fought and managed to somehow get back together. That summer was awful. Even though there was fault on both sides, I blamed myself for our distance. I had a great internship and ruined it by obsessing over my wrongdoings.
We eventually got back together (after my constant pleading.) Nothing changed. We fought and made up in a constant cycle. By the next summer, we were going through the motions of possibly getting engaged. He had saved up for a ring, planned on talking to my father – and, well, we both panicked. We realized that we were nowhere ready to make that commitment (thank God.) The cycle continued. I went to Europe for a couple months, somewhat to escape our issues. He graduated college and moved in with me. That didn’t work very well. He missed his friends, college life, and I lived in a studio apartment. We were both stubborn, had different viewpoints, had no space, and were unwilling to compromise. Again, he ended things.
This time, I went off the deep end. Seriously. I blamed myself completely, and went into a deep depression. Large doses of medication, months of therapy, and a week’s worth of being on work disability didn’t seem to help. I sunk to my absolute lowest. Of course, anyone close to me who saw me in this mental state was bitter towards our broken relationship. Even when I clawed my way out of my hole with writing, meditation, and yoga, I still yearned for what I knew. Me and Nate.
We started to quietly see each other, once and awhile, over a course of a couple years. Eventually, the pain and resentment was too much. I tested him all the time. I couldn’t bring myself to forgive all that had happened — him or me. I moved across country and we vowed to not talk with one another for awhile. My anger continued to build, and I wish I had done things different. I wish he had done things different. Forgiveness didn’t happen overnight. It took a long time.
After awhile (a long while), we started casually dating one another. Our families weren’t super happy about the decision, but started to accept it. We realized how much we did have in common and how we really enjoyed each other’s company. We weren’t perfect, but who is?
Since that time, we have grown so much. We realized that in order to make our relationship work, we had to be in the same place. That was a huge problem. It wasn’t ideal for either of our families for us to move in with one another – but as adults, we knew this was right for us.
There was wrong done on both of our parts. Loads. But a big part of our positive transformation was that we both needed to mature. To realize we don’t always have to be right. That we can disagree and it is not the end of the world.
Our relationship isn’t perfect. And it has taken us a ton of time to get where we are. I’m just glad that our paths have intermixed again, and that we are together.
I used to think that I just needed to find the “right” person. That there was a perfect man out there for me who fulfilled all of my wildest dreams. I have since found out that there is no such human being, and my happiness comes from myself. You can’t depend on anyone else for that; all you can do is find someone you love to be on that journey with.
In regards to relationships, one character in the film said, “(I) thinks there is no right cookie. You just pick one and take a bite.” I agree. And eventually, you find that one cookie you will call your favorite.