Last night, I watched the movie “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past” for the second time in a two-day span. That’s a lot, I know. But it’s a really enjoyable movie, and it was worth it because the second time I saw it, I realized how much women can actually learn about relationships from this rom-com.
I watched the movie with my sister, and we both agreed that my dad would love it (he did). It’s a chick flick and going off the title my dad objected at first (yours might also). But after? He made my mama watch it! If my dad can get on board with a chick flick, you know it’s good. I mean it, he cried from laughing so hard, fell in love with Michael Douglas’s character Uncle Wayne, and kept saying, “This is the best thing ever!”. Have I sold you on it yet? It’s got Jennifer Garner, who is delightful and my favorite actress, and Matthew McConaughey, enough said.
Casual Sex Doesn’t Provide People with True Connection
In the movie, the character Connor Meade (Matthew McConaughey) is the ultimate playboy, who is forced to visit all his ghosts of girlfriends past à la Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. While on the adventure, he is forced to revisit his relationship with the quintessential girl-next-door type, Jennifer Perotti (Jennifer Garner).
The two had been friends as kids, and when they’re reunited as adults, Connor tries to convince her to sleep with him in a typical one night stand, but Jenny refuses. Instead, she insists on “just dinner.” At the end of the night, Connor makes his last attempt, which is when Jenny imparts some words of wisdom, saying, “I don’t want this to be just a one-night thing. So you’ve gotta woo me.”
And, she points out, the wooing is actually not for her benefit. Because he obliges and continues to go on dates with Jenny and tries to have a real relationship with her, the two fall in love. The great power of the woo!
Because Connor takes a chance on an emotional, rather than a physical encounter (as he normally would), he’s able to develop real feelings for a woman. And aren’t the feelings that we develop and the relationships we build the best part? Isn’t sex meant to bond two people together, not leave women, and certainly some men, I’m sure, feeling cold and empty? The facade created by the psychological bond sex creates is likely to only leave you confused if the emotional connection isn’t there. This movie shows us that’s probably the case even for the playboys of the world who don’t realize that true connection is what they really want.
Because Connor takes a chance on an emotional, rather than a physical encounter (as he normally would), he’s able to develop real feelings for a woman.
So in the words of Jenny, when Connor begins to return to his playboy ways after they’re intimate for the first time: “You have three seconds to get back in this bed where you belong, and where, deep down, you actually want to be.” And he does, for a while.
Put Yourself Out There
Later in the night, Connor changes his mind and sneaks off, afraid of falling for Jenny (again). At which point my dad charmingly says, “Oh no, don’t do it. Not to a girl like that. You’re messing up big time.” Connor wastes so much time going from girl to girl because he was too afraid of getting crushed. Love and relationships require us to put ourselves out there and to take the risk that we just might get crushed, but the risk just might be worth it.
Love and relationships require us to put ourselves out there and to take the risk that we just might get crushed.
Choose Compatibility over That Guy You’re “Fixing”
Before Connor makes the transition to the man who will ultimately end up with Jenny at the end of the movie, there’s a lesson to be learned about compatibility. Jenny got hurt in her relationship with Connor because they simply weren’t compatible. How many times do women do this in their life? How many times do women think that their life is going to be like a sweet romantic comedy and that the man is going to change for them?
Because as much as this movie is a beautiful redemption story and has life lessons about relationships, it’s not real life. Connor Meade’s turnaround at the end of the movie isn’t something that would happen in real life. It’s not even probable. And it’s not what women should expect. Let’s stop pretending that our lives are going to turn out like the plot lines of the dozens of romantic comedies we’ve seen. Assume that the Connor Meades of the world are going to stay the way they are. Because life isn’t a movie, and they probably will.
Playboy Connor Meade’s turnaround at the end of the movie isn’t something that would happen in real life. It’s not even probable. And it’s not what women should expect.
Instead, focus on whether or not you and the guy you’re interested in are actually compatible. Does he have the same standards as you do? Do you believe the same things about religion? Do you both want children? In real life, we need to be picking the Brads of the world — the guy who was perfect for Jenny who came as her date to the wedding. It might be a boring movie plotline, but it’s bound to have a much more fulfilling outcome in the real world.
Jenny Perotti made a vow not to date any more “projects” after her relationship with Connor. Whether you’ve experienced a Connor Meade before or not, your dating life is likely to be much improved by a similar vow of allegiance to compatibility. Every single time.
At the end of the movie, Connor realizes that to have happiness he needs to be in a relationship with a trajectory towards love and marriage — the exact opposite of casual sex, but exactly the right combination for lifelong happiness. The lesson in all of this is to date towards marriage and lifelong love. The roadmap here is a laser-like focus on compatibility.
If we don’t do that, then we’re likely to learn the hard way like Connor did that we’re destined for a life of loneliness and an empty funeral if we don’t pattern our lives after developing relationships with others. Because in the end, our relationships are the most important thing we have. Without them, nothing else we do matters very much.