Recently, I was watching Neil LaBute’s intriguing romantic drama, Possession, starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, and the classically beautiful Jennifer Ehle (best known for her role as Elizabeth in the BBC’s Pride & Prejudice). The film revolves around the dual plot of two literary scholars (Paltrow and Eckhart) and the scandalous affair they unearth between the poets they study (Northam and Ehle). Paltrow and Eckhart’s characters develop a genuinely sweet friendship, which gently grows into a romance (albeit at the breakneck pace required for a 2-hour film). During the course of which, one says to the other something along the lines of, “I don’t want to mess up our friendship by getting romantically involved.”
While I highly appreciate a message in modern-day film saying, ‘Let’s slow down. I genuinely appreciate you as a human being and a friend and not just as a sexual interest,’ the appeal to, ‘I don’t want to ruin what we’ve got,’ is quite common not just in film, but in real life, and it got me thinking. It seems to me that when we shy away from a potential romance because we fear losing what we’ve got, we are being foolish. Once romantic feelings come into the mix (mutual or otherwise), things have changed already; you’ve already “lost” your friendship—insofar as you’re trying to define the friendship by what it was—because something’s already changed. We can’t hold on to what no longer exists.
Relationships that are worth anything are worth taking risks for. Certainly we don’t want to run around haphazardly, never looking before we leap, but relationship is all about risk. That’s faith. That’s love. It’s about being vulnerable to loss, and consequently, open to gain. (See also the risks God is always taking on us.)
Friendships worth their salt (ie. the really good ones we don’t want to “mess up”) are likely to be strong enough to survive even when things “don’t work out.” I’m well aware there are many a horror story about friendships which never recover from a fizzled romance. But I wonder if that doesn’t often have more to do with the strength of those friendships in the first place, our maturity, and perhaps most particularly, the manner in which we maneuver our romantic relationships once in them.
At any rate, these were just some of my off the cuff thoughts on the topic. I’m sure there’s much more here to explore. What do you think?