The top ten films of our relationship – Part 2

3) My Little Eye

In comparison to some of the more lurid torture-porn offerings from the past couple of decades, this low budget claustrophobic horror probably seems pretty tame. However to my rather cosseted sensibilities, watching it was a grim and distressing experience. It didn’t help that we thought we were actually going to see a different film entirely (The Eye – a Japanese thriller about a woman whose organ transplant has unexpected consequences. To date I’ve still never got around to seeing it). I think we both wanted to show a bit of bravado, but the truth was that the film really got under our skin, and neither of us handled it well. On the way back from the cinema we had our first really proper fight and said some very unpleasant things to each other. We were both far more rattled than we wanted to admit, and lashed out at each other as way of trying to deal with it. As horrible as that was, we learned two very important lessons from this. First, fear looks an awful lot like anger. In most subsequent arguments over the years, we have realised the importance of distinguishing between the two. Anxiety often manifests as irritation, and remembering that (as difficult as it may be sometimes) has helped us to diffuse tensions before things get really fraught. The other lesson was learning that having a fight wasn’t the end of the world. We said things we didn’t mean in the heat of the moment and afterwards we apologised and talked it through. As people, we sometimes regress to dumb, panicky animals. But we don’t have to define our relationship through our worst selves. We aren’t perfect, and it’s inevitable that we will screw up from time to time. But we also have the capacity to learn from our mistakes, and to forgive others and ourselves. My Little Eye is a nasty, crappy, little film, and I will always hate it for sparking such a painful occurrence. However I am forever grateful for what we learned as a couple as a result.

4) Moulin Rouge

Before I even left school, a trip had been arranged for me to spend the summer between my first and second year of university in Australia with family. Terry and I had been dating for less than 6 months and we were still in the first bloom of love. So much so that I was seriously trepidatory about going away for 10 long weeks. What if we lost interest in each other? What if we met someone else? Or what if the pain of separation was too much to bear? But I also remember feeling that on a non-romantic level, this was probably a very good thing. When you are 19 and in love, and to paraphrase from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, all you can see of tomorrow is your paramour, it is easy to lose perspective. I’d seen enough rom coms by this point to understand the value of knowing yourself before you commit to a long term relationship. A bit of distance, (well a lot of distance in this case) would be healthy. If we survived this enforced break then all well and good. If we didn’t, it probably wasn’t going to last anyway. So I convinced myself it was all for the best, and I hopped on the plane.
And it was a bit heartbreaking. I missed Terry like a limb. I longed to be back in his arms. I ached for his lips. I pined for him like some kind of gothic heroine. My aunt, quite reasonably, was somewhat amused by my teen anguish and did gently point out on more than one occasion that I was very young to be so sure that this was The One.
However having spent a significant amount of money on what was supposed to be an enriching and valuable experience, I wasn’t actually going to spend the whole time crying into the red, fluffy heart-shaped pillow Terry got me as a leaving present (he’s all class that one!) So I went to the movies with my cousins.
5 years previously at the even more tender age of 14, Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet plunged me into the depths of despair as I longed for a boyfriend. (This would take a further two years – late bloomer). But despite it’s effect on my emotional well-being, I bloody adored that film. So I was delighted to see his new movie, Moulin Rouge, which came out in Australia a few weeks before the UK release. I was entranced by the riotous, energetic chaos and the doomed affair between Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor was a tonic to my bruised heart. I enthusiastically rang Terry that night, telling his how awesome this film was, and how much I was looking forward to seeing it again with him when I came back home.
Terry was one year ahead of me, so when I did return at the end of that summer he was embarking on his final year. My husband is a very intelligent man, but in academic terms was a little bit on the lazy side, and rather prone to distraction. After a few days of happy and tearful reunion following my trip, I reminded him that he needed to focus on his studies, and I also needed to focus on mine. We could still see each other but we needed to make sure we were sensible about the amount of time we spent together.

Some weeks later I went back to my parents one weekend so he could concentrate on an upcoming deadline. So I was slightly exasperated when I got back to Norwich on the Sunday evening to be presented with a CD he had made for me of the Elephant Medley from Moulin Rouge. Early on in the film, Ewan McGregor woos Nicole Kidman with a series of snippets of classic love songs. Terry had found each original song, and cut them together to recreate the finished piece as it appears in the film. This being before editing software was readily available for PC’s, it represented hours of work. Hours he was meant to be spending on his essay. It was such a lovely, romantic gesture, and I was so touched, but also infuriated that he had allowed our relationship to distract him. I thanked him for the gift and told him that it was very thoughtful. Then we had one of the least romantic conversations we have ever had. I explained that he was a smart guy, and if he applied himself (I think I may have actually used that phrase) he was capable of achieving a 2:1. And a 2:1 would open doors that a 2:2 wouldn’t. I told him I loved him, and I very much hoped that our relationship would last. But if he could pull the stops out and get a good degree he would have that for the rest of his life. Whereas statistically, there was every chance that we would fizzle out. So it really didn’t make any sense for him to prioritise this relationship over his whole potential future.

It did the trick. We saw a bit less of each other over the next few months. Terry wrote a brilliant dissertation and graduated with a 2:1. He got some work experience the following year while I finished my degree, and was then accepted onto the Vodafone graduate training programme, which shaped his career, and by extension, our lives together.

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