Friday, March 6

I wish I were a chemist

The other night we finally watched Casablanca, one of the greatest movies of all times. True to its legend Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart have heartbreaking onscreen chemistry. Something like what you see with Michelle and Barack Obama or Heidi Klum and Seal. A chemistry you wish for in your own life, and that of your loved ones. Something that creates a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart that you cannot define but everyone knows. An universal visual clue for all's well.

And so it is difficult to see that chemistry disappear before your eyes. A few years ago when a friend divorced it was difficult to see the magic fade. As another friend faces troubles it brings back memories and I fear the worst. Makes me wish I were a chemist and could find the philosopher's stone. I wish I could help them recreate that magic, feel that sexual tension and let the world see it too. I don't know if marriage counselors, couple's therapists do that. If it is humanly possible for a third person to rekindle that fire. An outsider can only listen, advise them to have a conversation, do things together to develop camaraderie, bond over common interests...but if they have lost the magic, if that chemical reaction in their brain is missing ingredients, can these "activities" help?

Even as my husband anguished over the fate of our friend's relationship, we began discussing what could have helped them. And over and over again we kept coming back to the centrality of conversation in a relationship. If you can have a dialogue with the other person you should be safe, we thought. It doesn't have to be profound or intellectually stimulating. It only needs to be a dialogue. In a stereotypical situation the women are viewed as the talkers who keep blabbering and nagging the poor man. But that does not amount to a conversation, and does not serve the purpose. Reflecting on our own relationship we know it is strong because no matter how much I nag or blabber, we talk a lot. I think the long-distance relationship we have had for the last four years came handy. Chats and telephones kept us talking, helping to understand each other better. Long-distance relationships falter because conversations are limited. For us it was the only way to enjoy each other's company when chances of living together were bleak.

Of course I do not mean to oversimplify and say that the ability to talk is all it takes. A certain level of attraction is crucial, as are shared interests and values. Personalities do matter. But as a romantic and super-believer in the ability of dialogue to solve problems even of an international nature, I cannot let go of the feeling that if only they could talk more our friends would be happier. If only I were a chemist...

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