I recently watched the movie Love and Other Drugs starring Anne Hathaway and Jake Gyllenhaal. I had wanted to see it, but had been putting it off due to the things I had read about Hathaway’s character. For those who have not seen the movie, Hathaway’s character, Maggie Murdock, is a loner, who suffers from Stage One Parkinson’s. During the movie she meets and falls in love with Gyllenhaal’s character, Jamie Randall, a sales rep for Pfizer. Ultimately Randall ends up being the top Viagra sales rep in his area.
The film has some extremely funny, and some bitterly painful scenes. In one scene Murdock (Hathaway) is trying to open one of her pill bottles, ostensibly to help her calm her shaking. She has difficulty with the bottle, and when she finally succeeds, she realizes the bottle is empty. In another scene Randall (Gyllenhaal) has a Ménage à trois fueled by his Viagra. He discovers that one of the side effects of Viagra is the often warned about “erection lasting for more than four hours.” During the course of the film Murdock tells Randall that she does not want to be anything more than casual, and that she cannot allow him into her life due to her illness. I won’t spoil the rest of the movie for those that have not seen it, but it is a touching portrayal of a person who is dealing with a CNS disease and their interaction with a healthy person.
The film hit close to home for me, as I too suffer from CNS disorder. It is something that I am forced to deal with everyday, and some days are better than others, and some worse. The scene where Hathaway’s character could not open her pill bottle reminded me of many the days I have where I shake so badly and violently that the pills go flying once the bottle is opened. Her relationship with Gyllenhaal, and the problems that her illness causes also reminded me in many ways of my life.
It is one thing to have a friend that says in private that they will stand by you and are willing to help you with whatever medical problems you have, and yet when you are in public, and having to use a wheelchair to get around the store, they are in a constant hurry to get done and out. It makes one feel as if the other is embarrassed by being seen with you and your disability. Just because you have mobility issues does not mean that you are less of a person, and that you should be rushed and pushed out the door so as to not inconvenience other shoppers. I am very cognizant of where I am when I shop, and if I need to stop and look at a list (something I make regularly so I don’t forget an item or go overboard in shopping) or figure out where to go next in the store, I usually pull to one side and not block an aisle or walkway. Which is more than I can say for many able-bodied persons who stop in the middle of the main aisle to chat with a friend or relative.
I am beginning to really look at relationships and friendships in a cost/benefits manner. By that I mean, is the cost of the relationship equal to or less than the benefits you get from the relationship. If there is parity between the cost and the benefit, then the relationship may well be worth the time, energy and trouble to maintain. If however, the cost of the relationship is greater than the benefits received, then I think it is time to review that relationship.
I have a friend whose 18-year-old daughter is now pregnant by her boyfriend. The same boyfriend who has beat her; vandalized her car several times; caused them to lose their apartment; caused her to lose her job, and yet she remains with him. Is the cost to this young woman worth staying with this man? I would have to say, “No.” He treats her as if she was a piece of property, and will not get a job. She has been the main financial support for the two of them, and he takes advantage of the situation. Even if one person in a relationship is unemployed and the other the main breadwinner, the unemployed person can help by taking care of things around the house: cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. But when the unemployed person sit on their ass and plays video games or goes and hangs with his friends, then there is no parity. And by my definition the relationship is extremely unhealthy.
I have seen in all too many marriages, and relationships where one person tells the other that they love them and wants to be with them, but the reality is that the person has a deeper emotional relationship with a third person. Even if there is nothing going on physically between the person and the third-party, there is a sense of betrayal and hurt. If you are in a relationship, and your spouse or significant other is making an emotional connection with someone else that is deeper than the one they have with you, there is serious problems with your relationship.
Thus the cost/benefits analysis. If the benefits of your relationship are greater or equal to the costs (time, energy, emotions, physical well-being, mental well-being, spiritual, and psychological health) then I think you have a relationship that can succeed. If, however, you or the other person are having to expend more time, energy, emotion etc. than what you or they are receiving I think the relationship needs to be reevaluated.
I once was in just such a relationship, and the woman I was with had become emotionally attached to another man. They would spend hours talking to each other, she would go over to his house and help him cook and clean. Eventually their relationship turned sexual, and when I discovered the true nature of what was going on I filed for divorce. She broke off the relationship with this man, and promised that it was a one time thing, and was truly sorry. Within a year she was pregnant by another man, and this time I went through with the divorce.
But back to Love and Other Drugs, as I watched the film, and thought about it afterwards I realized that in many ways I am much like Hathaway’s character, Murdock. Despite the limitations that I have due to my shaking or weakness in my limbs, I try to be as fiercely independent as I can. Most days it is easier than others, but there are those days that I wish I had someone to help me with simple things like shopping. But I always have in the back of my mind the one nagging doubt and question. Is a relationship with anyone worth the costs to me and to them? For me it would be the ideas of companionship, assistance, and encouragement. For them it would be having to watch as I shake, or fall into a wall or to the floor, deal with bouts of speech problems and the ever-present exhaustion that I experience.
My daughter and I discussed this after I had watched the movie, and her opinion is that it really isn’t up to me to decide whether or not someone wants to be in my life, but rather it’s their decision. The more I think about it though, the more I have to disagree. Doctors do medical treatments with the patient’s “informed consent” but in the situation that I am in, can other person really understand and be informed about what my body is doing and going through? Can they truly give “informed consent” when I, who am dealing with all the problems, can’t even explain what is or is going to happen?
Again, this goes back to the idea of the cost/benefit analysis. What cost does the other person have to pay versus the benefits they are to gain with the relationship? I don’t understand what is happening within my own body, and the doctors are unable to pin point a diagnosis. So, if I am in a nervous system limbo, not knowing from one day to the next how things are going to be, how can I expect someone else to understand? And is it fair to another person to expect them to be tolerant and patient with my problems. My conclusion is no. I know that there are those people out there that are altruistic and nurturing, needing someone to take care of, but that is not the type of person that I want around me. I will do for myself as long as I can, and if I get to the point where I can’t take care of myself, then and only then do I want that type of person. Respect me for where I am, and encourage me to do what I can for myself.
If I am wrong on this, I would really love to hear other arguments. Until then, I am going shopping and pop wheelies in the main aisle.