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Relationship Status: It's Complicated.

I joined Facebook in 2008, mostly because it seemed like everyone else I knew was. Social media is a fun way to catch up with friends, check out pictures of your grandkids' achievements, or share common interests. I remember setting up my profile page, and when it came to "relationship status," I clicked "married," and indicated to whom. But one of the options for relationships struck me as curious:

Aren't all relationships complicated? Here is a quick list of some of the many relationships I enjoy/endure/experiment with every day:

  • Christian
  • Pastor
  • Father
  • Husband
  • Son
  • Consumer
  • Citizen
  • Leader
  • Follower
And there have to be a billion more, right? But of that quick list I compiled in less than sixty seconds: which is not complicated?

I learned yesterday that HBO will re-launch the first several seasons of Game of Thrones each Sunday starting this week at 9:00 a.m.-- 10 consecutive hours each Sunday before the new series begins April 12. I've never watched it, so I scheduled the DVR to record and began sorting through the movies on my recorded list to clear space for those upcoming marathons. I cleared four hours last night when I watched an interesting double feature: The Way Way Back and Her. Both, it turns out, explore very interesting and complicated 21st century relationships. You guessed correctly: it's complicated.

The Way Way Back is one of those ensemble movies that features a ton of well-known celebrities but the story is focused on kids-- just click on the link for the all-star cast. Toni Collette and Steve Carell are dating. She has a teenage son Duncan (14; he's the central figure in the movie), and he has a teenage daughter. They bring the potentially blended family to the beach for the summer. They meet up with other eccentric families, one of which is also dealing with the ramifications of divorce, + alcoholism, the other with infidelity. On the drive to the beach the potential father-in-law asks the kid to rate himself on a scale of 1-10. Duncan votes himself a 6. Trent disagrees: "Your mom says you have no goals, no interest, no plan. You sound more like a 3 to me." Ouch.

Things go from bad to worse at the beach house, a nightmare situation for the quiet, awkward Duncan. He just wants to move to San Diego with his dad and his dad's (younger) girlfriend. Duncan's only outlet is discovered almost by accident-- he rides a bike to town, sneaks into a water park, and is given a job by the sarcastic, irreverent adult-who-never-grew-out-of-adolescence owner of the place. Duncan loves his job so much-- he doesn't even tell his mom about it so the beach group will not mess things up. The water park and the funny staff and patrons there accept him, support him, encourage him, challenge him-- all in loving ways. It becomes home for him. I really enjoyed The Way Way Back. It's a good family movie, exploring the many complexities of family dynamics.

I've been in the parenting business now for nearly 13 years. Oh my gosh. It's tough work. I have such respect for parents who do their best to instill values to their kids while not stifling their independence and growth. I wonder how my kids would rate my parenting on a 1-10 scale. Like so many other things, I'm learning as I go. It's complicated.

Her is such a different movie. Joaquin Phoenix is a writer who works for a dot.com business where people submit ideas for letters to their loved ones-- but they are composed by a professional, someone who has the time to compose just the right words for an anniversary, graduation, etc. Some of his clients have been with him for years-- he feels like he knows them personally, although he has never met any of them face to face. Theodore is dealing with the looming divorce from his childhood sweetheart. He has tried dating and failed many times. One night he upgrades his home computer, which has an operating system that one can speak directions to: check my email, compose a note, find a reservation, etc. He chooses a female voice, who calls herself Samantha-- voiced by Scarlett Johansson. She's basically Siri if you have an iPhone. The two get to know each other and eventually fall in love, as crazy as it sounds. He has an earpiece to go with his smartphone so they can speak to each other throughout the day. This has become so commonplace in the movie's world that when a co-worker and his girlfriend hear Theodore is dating they recommend a double-date. When he says, with a hint of embarrassment, "She's an operating system," they do not even notice. Theodore just brings them earpieces so they can hear Samantha speaking.

It's a great commentary on the nature of online relationships, and how many of us are awkward or uncomfortable with others, but are able to adapt successfully to the wired community.The movie leaves open-ended some of the questions that come to mind: Is this where romantic relationships are headed? What is the nature of human intimacy? Her is a great movie--it's for adults, no kiddos. If you can accept Theodore and Samantha, and in 2015 this is hardly the realm of science fiction-- there is a lot of thoughtful, honest discussion of what does, and does not, make for a successful relationship.

I've been in the husband business for nearly 18 years, and as reticent as I am to ask my kids to grade me on a 1-10 scale, the same goes for Christy on the spouse scale (she, of course, easily scores a 10-- hey, I may be dumb but I am not an idiot!). We're raising three boys, we've lived in something like 10 houses during our married life, still trying to find a comfortable balance between our careers and family. Yup, no doubt: it's complicated.

What about your relationships? Really, Facebook: what relationships are not complicated?

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