Theodore (played by Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely, depressed man craving for intimacy in a world where people are more and more reliant on technology. We empathize with the alienation of this adorable, seemingly sweet nerd who wants nothing but someone to love. Simultaneously we guffaw at the ridiculousness of him falling in love with his iOS system (Scarlett Johansson). What are the lessons we can take from this modern romance? No, it’s not having sex with your phone. (But if that’s what rocks your boat then you do you, okay?)
- Technology connects and disconnects us. While it is true technology has come a long way in helping us reconnect with loved ones, we’ve seen too much of a good thing can still be bad. The more time you spend online and on your phone, the less time you have to fully partake in the human experience. Don’t let your online life consume you, even if you have a long distance relationship. The duo of love-plus-technology is not an excuse to isolate and limit yourself. Put down your phone and create human connections. Do not make him/her your entire world. Have other relationships outside of your relationship. There are other loves waiting out there and they’re called friendship, family, and self.
- Our love stories are unique. Love comes in all forms, apparently including dating Siri, so we must learn to respect others’ idea of love when it does not coincide with our own. Who cares if they met on Tinder? Who cares if some Asian guy married his pillow? People love in different ways and someone’s version of ”I love you” might not involve candle-lit dinners, boquets of flowers, or fancy dates. Sometimes ”I love you” comes quietly, cleaning your dirty laundry, cooking your dinner, fixing your snow tires for winter when you are too exhausted from work to do so. Sometimes ”I love you” comes loudly, nagging you to take your vitamins, giving you a jacket when it’s cold, arguing with you after you’ve driven home drunk again.
- Love will always surprise us. ’Her’ has shown us the best kinds of romance are usually the once you don’t look for. Just when you’ve resolved to be alone and be done with that corny bullshit, just when you’ve gotten life settled in your comfort zone, just when you’ve thought your friend is only a friend, love will suddenly fuck up everything. And it will do so in the most beautiful way possible, and it will do so without remorse. As cliché as it goes, the old saying does ring true – love hits you when you least expect it to. Don’t drive yourself crazy looking for love, torturing yourself with the notion that you are unworthy or unloveable. This is not true. Give your future relationship the respect it deserves by taking care of yourself and getting to know yourself better while it’s slowly making its way to you, so when it DOES arrive you will be emotionally, spiritually, financially ready. And if not, if love arrives in the middle of your self-discovery, work with it. Let it unfold naturally.
- Love is not a fairy tale. In the middle of the movie, Theodore’s ex-wife laments how she is no longer unable to meet his expectations. He placed expectations on how she should act, how she should feel, and that’s not what a healthy relationship is. Sometimes we expect love to be in a certain way because that’s how we saw it growing up with our parents. Sometimes we feel we are not doing love right because it’s not matching up to what we see on social media. Stop! Fall in love with HUMANS, not the idea of romantic love because love is not a fantasy. Humans are messy and love is chaotic. Love is your drunk partner puking on the toilet, love is her without make-up, love is smelly farts, and chores, and being broke, and unresolved childhood insecurities – and still wanting to kiss them and only them. Love is eating garbage one morning and drinking the stars at night, and the next day you might be somewhere in-between. Are you there for the ride or the destination?
- Break-ups still suck. Break-ups are inevitable. Sometimes your iOS girlfriend will cheat on you with 641 other iOS systems. My advice is in the words of Caitlyn Seihl – you are not a reflection of those who can not love you. Darling, your worthiness of love, tenderness, and happiness is not derived from someone saying you deserve it. Your current suffering is not an indication of your future bliss.
- People change yet essentially remain the same. As with everything else, for love to be successful we need to work hard and invest in it. People change. The woman or man you fell in love with ten years ago, four years ago, heck even six months ago might not be the same person you share a bed with today. Like Samantha, relationships need maintenance and constant updates. Your partner might take on new interests, new fashion sense, new friends, and both of you will always have new challenges to face together. But you know what remains the same? Your weaknesses and imperfections. I know someone who recently got divorced. He said, ”Learn to love each other’s flaws because neither of you will change.” The person you love will always have psychological baggage. Your partner will always have an annoying tick. Are you willing to be annoyed forever? Are you willing to try until hell freezes over? For some of us, it may be ”No.” Occasionally, despite our best of efforts, we will still fall short. Begrudge not. Do not spit on the person whose name your tongue danced for one forever ago. No matter the aftermath, however ugly the break-up – gracefully let love go.
Sade Andria Zabala is a twenty-four year old Filipina surfer sometimes living in Denmark. She is the author of poetry books War Songs and Coffee and Cigarettes. Her work has appeared on places such as Literary Orphans, The Thought Catalog, The Rising Phoenix Review, Hooligan Magazine, Germ Magazine, and more. In her spare time she likes to eat words and drink sunlight. You can purchase her books here.