Do you need a date night idea? Here is one! Go see Pixar’s new film, Inside Out, with your partner. After the movie, grab some ice cream and talk about how the movie relates to your relationship. To make it easier, I’ll explain 3 possible starting points.
Pixar—once again—put me in tears. Toy Story III, Up, Wall-E, and now Inside Out. This time, the tears were out of my own happiness that Docter and Carmen directed a movie that beautifully illustrates a universal phenomenon—emotions.
In fact, I heard rumors that this movie can change the cultural notions of emotions for the better! As a therapist trained in Emotionally Focused Therapy for couples, I couldn’t have been more excited.
The movie, in a nutshell, talks about a 11 year-old girl, Riley, and her parents. The family is moving to San Francisco and Riley is struggling to adjust to this big life change. Similarly to all of us, Riley is being guided by emotions—joy, sadness, fear, anger, and disgust (just a note here, shame and surprise are additional two emotions that have not been talked about in the movie but are very powerful in the real world). Riley’s emotions advise her on a daily basis how to navigate through this transition. Joy has been prevalent in her life before the move, but despite Joy’s best effort to keep it positive, Joy has been losing her power, as Sadness has been taking over Riley’s life.
There are so many mottos and interpretations of this movie. Let’s focus on the messages that can enhance your date night and boost your relationship:
- All emotions signal a need! Emotions play a crucial role in our lives and even negative emotions have an important purpose. The reason behind that is that emotions help us adapt and they signal when we need something. Riley felt deep sadness around her recent move. What do you think she needed? How did she ask for what she needed? Granted, she is only 11, and at that age, parents are the ones who still need to help her understand her emotions and the needs that come with those.
As a therapist, I know that many parents don’t fully know how to teach that skill to their children (often because they haven’t been taught that themselves) and, as a result, their children, and then as adults, are unable to send a clear, coherent message to their partners.
What would be a clear message? For example, when we feel scared about our connection to our partner, we might need reassurance that we are loved, special, and the priority.
- All emotions have action tendencies! Riley, when she was feeling sad, started talking back to her parents and was about to run away from home. In general, joy and excitement makes you want to share it with someone, so you might call that a friend. Anger makes you want to scream, so you get into an argument. Shame makes you want to hide. Sadness makes you want to cry and shut down. Now, depending on a person, these action tendencies can vary.
Think about what is your action tendency when you feel intense feeling about your relationship. You can fill in the blanks: “On the outside I show you….but on the inside I feel…” In my office, I hear different versions of: “On the outside I show you anger, but on the inside I feel lonely.” OR “On the outside I show you blank, but on the inside I feel hurt.”
- All emotions pull us either closer or further away from each other! Riley’s angry attitude triggered her dad’s anger. They yelled at each other, and then Riley pulled away from dad. In your love relationship, how many times do you wish you said something nicer and calmer so that your partner can really hear and respond to your sadness or fear? It is hard to respond with love and care when your partner sees your comments as blaming and attacking.
In general, if your relationship patterns are not too rigid or too distressed, your softer emotions tend to make your partner want to comfort you and be close. The harsher emotions make us want to move away. This sounds like common sense, but it would surprise you how often couples miss that “little”, yet super important, nuance.
I hope that I gave you some staring points for your after-movie conversations. Remember that making time for a date night is only one part of making that time special. It is about the discussions that you have with each other that strengthen your bond and make your feel closer to one another. I’d like to say that the quality of the date night matters more than quantity.