Relationship therapists usually counsel couples to do more: communicate more, have sex more often (with more variety, as well) and have more frequent date nights. But are there times in the lives of romantic partners when, as Governor Jerry Brown once famously said, “less is more”?
The short answer is…yes! The new Woody Allen movie Magic in the Moonlight (which my wife and I loved despite generally mixed reviews from the critics) provides several good examples. Allen’s movie stars Colin Firth as a British illusionist who goes by the stage name of Wei Ling Soo and Emma Stone who plays Sophie, a clairvoyant, who Stanley is solicited by a fellow illusionist to expose as a quack. Sophie has been encouraged by a wealthy American family, the Catledges, who live on the French Riviera, believe she is the “real deal” and wish to support her by providing lavish funds to finance a center for her work. The Catledges’ son, Brice, has fallen in love with the fetching Sophie and takes every conceivable opportunity to to express his adoration either in song or words. In contrast, Stanley, who travels to the Cote d’Azur to meet (and expose) Sophie is aloof and disinterested in her as a romantic object although he softens considerably once he believes she may truly possess psychic gifts.
Not surprisingly Sophie is more interested in Stanley than Brice. This is not earth shattering (Firth is very debonaire for one) but it does illustrate our first example of when” less is more”in love’s arena. The principle is: when dating, do not lay all your cards on the table. Hold back. Mystery is more appealing than desperation. Do not, as Nancy Sinatra once sang, say “something stupid like I love you”…at least not until you are fairly sure that such feelings are reciprocated.
Magic in the Moonlight gives us another example of when “less is more” in committed partnerships. While on a road trip together, Stanley’s car breaks down and he and Sophie are caught in a storm. The couple takes refuge in an observatory that Stanley once visited as a child. Here they wait out the storm together; when, in fact, the rains stop, Stanley presses a button to open the dome of the observatory and together they look at the beautiful night stars while their clothes continue to dry out. This wonderful experience would not have happened had the car not broken down and the heavens had not opened with a rain shower. It could not have been scripted.
Many committed couples experience such magical, unscripted moments at some point in their romantic history, often when they are first going out. One such moment occured when my now wife and I we were first dating and got lost in Chinatown. I loved the experience of me, being a native New Yorker, being completely lost and having to find my way home with Elaine, a native North Carolinian,, who loved being lost as much as I. For couples, the principle here is: don’t overschedule your time together. Allow for serendipity to play a hand. If you are traveling out of town, leave some time open for improvisation. Less planning allows for more spontaneity and more spontaneity allows for magic, whether it be in the sunlight, twilight or moonlight!
Finally, one last example of when less is more when it comes to love. This example has to do with communication. People nowadays are very busy and beset by competing, and ever-escalating, demands for their attention. If at the end of the day, you wish to communicate with your partner about your experiences while apart, do not overload him or her with detail. The principle here is: be more CNN Headline News than PBS News Hour. Pick one of two highlights of your day and share those with your partner. Perhaps you will talk about the most irritating interpersonal conflict you experienced during the day, perhaps it was an odd encounter, an unexpected success or insight. Leave your partner wanting more, not rollling their eyes as they walk away in search of some sorely needed down time away from you.
So there you have it….when it comes to relationships, sometimes less is more. I am not sure it is what Jerry Brown meant when he uttered the phrase or what Woody Allen meant to highlight in this gem of a movie…but it is one of the things that this cinemeducator discovered during the 97 minutes of watching Magic in the Moonlight. Thank you for reading and please let me know your thoughts and recommendations. As always, happy viewing!