“The Break-Up” is an ideal movie to understand the inner workings of relationships. It is about Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn), a couple who decide to put an end to their relationship after some years together, which then leads to a series of circumstances: the fight for who keeps the apartment they shared, and later, the way they both go through this breakup.

A scene that is key happens at the beginning of the movie, where the couple has an argument over superficial matters. Brooke accuses Gary of not helping her wash the dishes, and then continues saying that he never buys her flowers or takes her to the ballet. Gary then responds in a frustrated manner, saying he feels like nothing is ever good enough for Brooke and that she will never be happy with it.

This kind of argument can often happen within relationships, and there are times where the couple may not realize the message that is behind the superficial talk.
Within this couple’s dynamic we can observe how one’s thoughts and actions can feed into the other person’s, and viceversa, therefore creating a vicious cycle (or how we call it in therapy: circularity). In this case, if we reduce this dynamic to a simple mechanism, we would see it this way:

Brooke thinks “Gary doesn’t appreciate me”, therefore she feels like she isn’t valued, frustrated and demotivated. Consequently, she tells Gary that he doesn’t do anything for her. This leads to point number 2.

Gary thinks “Whatever I do, Brooke will never see it as enough”, therefore he feels incapable, frustrated and defensive. Consequently he doesn’t try to do things that Brooke would like. And this leads to point number 1.

Within this circularity, it would be necessary to make changes in order to create a new and healthier dynamic.

Moreover, later we see how Brooke does just this, by communicating exactly what she was meaning to get across in the first argument: she doesn’t feel valued or appreciated by Gary. In fact, we can see how Gary is much more receptive to this kind of vulnerable and direct communication, and therefore doesn’t act defensive because he doesn’t feel like it is an attack.

All in all, this romantic comedy is a tool that can show us how a relationship can become complicated due to dynamics that they can get stuck in and can tend to become chronic. But it can also show us how a small change in the dynamic can open new doors towards change and evolving within the relationship.

You can see the clip of the fighting scene here:
The Break-up Movie (2006)

Alexia Kelsey Roncero Penistone
Division of Psychology, Psychotherapy and Coaching
Alexia Kelsey Roncero Penistone
General Health Psychologist
Adults, adolescents, couples and families
Languages: English and Spanish
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