Michael Eriksson
A Swede in Germany
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Marriage advice from “Forces of Nature”

In the movie “Forces of Nature”, Sandra Bullock’s character gives Ben Affleck’s a number of tips for his upcoming marriage. Below is brief analysis of these tips (paraphrased from http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/f/forces-of-nature-script-transcript.htmle).

  1. Never forget her birthday. Make a really, really big deal out of it.

    This is supported by a number of other sources and makes great sense in light of another discussion. I have the impression, however, that anniversaries of the relationship can be even more important, and they have the advantage of emphasizing “us” over “you”.


    The last, at least in U.S. TV/movies. This is a point where my real-life experiences and observations have surprisingly little to contribute. Correspondingly, it might be more of a TV/movie stereotype or reflect something more common in the U.S. than in Germany.

  2. After sex, hold her for a little while.

    As above.

  3. Talk to her like a human being.

    The claim is borderline tautological, and the need for it highly surprising to me. This should probably be seen in the light of Sandra’s character having a history of picking up idiots; however, it is possible that this is a misformulation of some other intention.

    Female readers should note, however, that even a “great guy” will start to talk down to his girlfriend if she behaves like an idiot or a child. Looking both at my own history and fictional depictions, such behaviour is the typical reason, with the exception of some macho sub-cultures.

    From another point of view, the affected and slightly condescending “boyfriend” voice and formulations used by some of my past colleagues seemed to meet with more approval with girlfriends than my more more neutral, “talk to her like an adult”, voice. This is not necessarily incompatible with “talk to her like a human being”, but might be a partial explanation. This especially if one woman finds the “boyfriend” voice positive, e.g. by making her feel special, while another finds it condescending.

  4. Do not wear your socks to bed.

    I cannot speak for the female POV, but, as a man, I find this odd. In particular, I have a strong preference for the opposite in women, so that I am not bothered by ice-lump feet. (This assuming that the advice is with regard to sleeping. On second thought, it could conceivably be a reference to sex. Then, again, feet are usually ugly and might be better kept out of sight for sex.)

  5. Always side with her in an argument with your mother.

    My reaction when first hearing this was: The corresponding advice on how to be a good son would be the exact opposite.

    Also see another discussion.

  6. Listen to her like you mean it.

    If a man does not listen (or does not “mean it”), the root cause is typically that the woman says too little of interest. She should learn to communicate instead of making noise; propose valid ideas instead of blabbering; discuss interesting things instead of gossiping; ...

    As an aside, the formulation used would allow fakery of the “Pretend that you mean it, even if you do not” kind. I am not certain whether this is intentional. Similar ambiguities might be present elsewhere, e.g. with “Talk to her like a human being”—does “human being” refer to him or her, and should it be seen as an actual or a pretend characteristic? Crash course for a Martian Casanova: “Talk to the human women as if you were a fellow human.”

  7. Supportiveness is a really, really sexy turn-on.

    This is born out by many other sources.

    As a counterpoint, blind supportiveness might well be unethical or otherwise ill-advised. For instance, should we be supportive in the sense of agreeing or pretend-agreeing with her merely because she is the wife/girlfriend (as opposed to “because she is actual right”) if she gets into an argument with a third-party? If we do, it might foster poor attitudes, give her a flawed world-view, antagonize the third party, whatnot. Also consider the wife-vs.-mother situation above: why not do something radical and side with the one who seems to be in the right?

    Similarly, encouraging her when she is lacking in self-confidence might be good, but telling her lies that bring her to waste time/money/whatnot is bad. For instance, if a female student is torn between continuing with a hard class and dropping it for something easier, a “Hang in there! I know that you can do it!” should only be given by someone (not restricted to husbands/boyfriends) who honestly believes that she can do it. (“Talk to her like a human being” would also seem to require honesty.)

  8. Never, ever hit.

    Goes without saying in most contexts. An important addendum is that this goes in both directions: A very sizable part, the majority according to some sources, of all hitting is done by women, which is equally unacceptable.

    Further, this is contingent on a lack of provocation: Words and emotional abuse can be far worse than a few blue spots, and a point of provocation can be reached where no man can reasonably be expected to control himself. Needless to say, it is very wrong for a woman to behave in a manner that even approaches that point.


    Additional exceptions can conceivably be made for the more childish and immature women: If a woman displays the behaviour and maturity of a child instead of an adult, takes no adult responsibility, and expects her husband to “father” her, she will have to live with being treated like a child—including being subject to similar punishments and disciplinary actions. (Whether hitting a child as punishment is acceptable or beneficial, is a question where I have no clear opinion at the moment; however, I do not rule the possibility out. Less controversial punishments like grounding or removal of telephone privileges definitely apply.) Simply put: If women want to be equal, they actually have to take the responsibilities of an equal, and, unfortunately, not all women do.

  9. No matter what annoying habits she has, just realize that she’s dealing with a huge mountain of imperfections every day. So you might just want to let it go.

    While this is not untrue, I have two objections:

    Firstly, open communication about e.g. annoying habits can be beneficial, both by creating mutual awareness and by improving the situation—some habits can be curtailed at no or little expense. Notably, it is not uncommon to be unaware of one’s own bad habits. In contrast, just letting something gnaw on a relationship for ten years, can prove highly detrimental; in particular, when it is accompanied by a dozen other gnawers. (Obviously, such discussions should be taken at the right time and with the right mind set. A “Stop that, you f-ing bitch!” is somewhat lacking in constructiveness...)

    Similarly, if she communicated more, maybe some of his “imperfections” would be lessened. For that matter, it seems to be comparatively common that women say nothing for years, finally snap, and catch their men entirely unaware that something was wrong. This up to and including (what the men thought were) happy marriages turning into nasty divorces from one day to the next.

    Secondly, this statement strikes me as hypocritical: Women are on average much more prone to criticism, outbursts over behaviour in an SO, and so on, than men are. Thus, the advice would be better directed towards women. (But, again, beware that Bullock’s character had a record of picking the wrong men. From her personal history, the statement could be more understandable. And, no, there is no contradiction with the previous paragraph—just individual variation.) Further, IMO, women on average have much more annoying habits than men do, in the first place. This, however, could be a result of natural differences between the sexes, where men and women simply have very different preferences (e.g. shoe shopping vs. ball games).


    Revisiting this page many years after the original writing, I would like to put more emphasis on the “Secondly”—this advice would be better directed at women, who seem to be oblivious of how much men put up with, how much special treatment women are given, how much women get away with that a man could not, etc. Indeed, I have on a number of occasions seen women complain about mistreatment by husbands, “discrimination” in the office, or similar that was actually just the absence of preferential treatment, e.g. that a husband would give her flowers too rarely or that she would have a tougher time in the office once her looks faded and she had to put in more effort—while she never gives her husband flowers (or a more male equivalent), respectively, she now simply is held to the same office standard as her male colleagues have been held to from day one.

    (While special treatment is more common with younger and/or more attractive women, it is by no means limited to them. There might well be a shift, however, as treatment resulting from e.g. “would like to get her into bed” disappears and that from e.g. “better keep her happy for the sake of peace” or a natural protective instinct remains.)