Chances are your timelines have been filled with some mention of the Zendaya starring Netflix film Malcolm & Marie. This one is a doozy, to say the least. Whether you can see ghosts of your relationships past in their chaotic dynamic or feel blessed to have never had those experiences, this film is full of things to consider. Though I found myself cringing at the emotional and verbal abuse spewed by both characters, I also couldn't help but be intrigued by all of the things one could learn from watching them.
These are the things that stuck with me.
SOMETIMES PEOPLE NEED OUR BROKENNESS TO MAKE THEM FEEL WHOLE.
Malcolm's insistence on reminding Marie of her past struggles was top tier psychological abuse and a refusal to truly let her move forward. Because so much of his existence in their relationship was being the one who didn't have the "problems," Marie's healing threatens his position in her life. If there is no one who is worse off than the other in a relationship, some people simply cannot function because they need to feel superior. Being able to throw themselves into fixing someone else gives them the perfect excuse for not fixing their own issues. Plus, how can they maintain control when that person no longer needs them to fill any voids that may have existed before?
PEOPLE CAN BE AS ADDICTIVE AS ANY SUBSTANCE.
There will come a time in most of our lives where a person will help us to move through a difficult period. We can become dependent on their advice, presence and/or love to make us feel stable. In Marie's case, her struggles with addiction gave way to partnering with someone who doesn't know how to love without cruelty. But because he was her savior from sinking, she simply traded in one addiction for another—-Malcolm. Our bodies can, literally, yearn for the emotional rollercoaster a person puts us through for no other reason than familiarity.
If you happen to find yourself in a relationship with someone who is used to manipulating others, they can contribute to this by giving you small doses of positive reinforcements to keep you hooked. Ultimately, you keep chasing the high: their love, approval, or kindness. And they give you just enough for you to excuse all the ways they actively participate in ruining your self-esteem, mental peace, and ability to function as your highest self. Sounds a lot like a drug to me.
ABANDONING YOUR PURPOSE FOR LOVE IS A RECIPE FOR RESENTMENT.
Lean in, girl and repeat after me: I will not center romantic relationships in my life's purpose. Saying it is the first step. Though sidetracked by her own demons, Marie's life was also at a standstill because she did what far too many do; stop reaching for her goals to support those of her partner. We think this makes us supportive or proves our dedication. But, by and large, it just leads to a lot of resentment. And that resentment turns into blaming your partner for where you are or are not in your life. It leads to not being able to fully celebrate your partner's wins for fear that their success will mean they no longer have a need for you. How many times have we heard the story of a woman being in the twilight of her life and just starting to live for herself after dedicating the better part of her years to everyone else around her? Too many, if you ask me.
WE SHOULD ALL SCREAM MORE.
Follow me on this one. As Black people, we are often force-fed the worst of things and asked to swallow it smoothly with no reaction. And, honestly, it was freeing to watch both Malcolm and Marie do what so many of us probably need to do more of: scream. Not at our partners. Not at our children. But just a real release of all the things we have to push down to get through our daily lives. We are not always free to take up space or be "too loud." We are asked to make ourselves small and be happy with the portions we are given in life. We are inundated with endless trauma, and I think we can all use a moment just to let it all out.
THERE IS LOVE. AND THEN THERE IS ATTACHMENT.
We far too often mistake these for the same thing. We can be attached to a person for many reasons: trauma bonds, PTSD from abuse, or just out of fear of being left with only ourselves to face. Whatever the reason, we can mistake our attachment to a person for actual true love for them. When we do this, we remain in relationships far beyond their necessity for our growth and development. And we end up stuck. Stuck rationalizing why we should try to make it work. Reasoning with ourselves against our better judgment and gut feeling.
Love is, to quote the phenomenal Bell Hooks, "The will to extend one's self for the purpose of nurturing another's spiritual growth." It is an action. It should push us to new heights. Attachment is fear dressed up as love. Fear of our true selves. Fear of what awaits on the other side of a connection that no longer serves you. Fear that you are not good enough to be loved in your fullness. Love is truth. Attachment is deception.