… Sense and Sensibility (2007): the part where Colonel Brandon tells Marianne the truth.
Marianne had said, with a rather superior tone, that she could not love a man who only told her what she wanted to hear or who only praised her accomplishments because they were hers; she wanted a man who would always be honest with her.
This is a perfectly wonderful goal.
But when Colonel Brandon offers a critique of her piano-playing skills, she is offended. She complains to her sister that Brandon must be the sort of person who finds fault with everything and everyone. She goes on to develop a close friendship with Brandon – lauding him as the only person in the neighbourhood with whom she can have an intelligent conversation – but when asked to consider this man as a potential suitor, she runs away.
For some reason, she does not want the man who is always honest with her … and she runs as quickly as possible to Willoughby, a man who offers her romance, sweet words, and all the superficial praise she had earlier decried as false and unacceptable.
Why would she do this? An honest relationship is so … preferable. Why would she choose a man who was everything she said she didn’t want, and set herself up to be deceived and heartbroken?
Because superficial relationships and quoting-poems romance is so much easier to lose.
It ultimately isn’t about Colonel Brandon or Willoughby, or whether any of us might have fallen for Willoughby’s deception, or whether Marianne deserved something better than the shallow love she shared with Willoughby. It’s about trust – in others, but more importantly, in herself.
If we can believe that we deserve good things – like honesty, affection, and fidelity – then we’re less likely to accept the things we don’t deserve – like lies, fake sentiment, or being taken for granted. If we can believe that we are enough in ourselves, we’re less likely to settle for relationships that don’t meet our needs. When we know that we are enough in ourselves, we don’t have to cling desperately to anyone else … and that allows us to evaluate their characters, to make decisions for our own happiness, and to explore deeper commitment without the constant fear of being let down.
We can relax and enjoy the honest relationship we were looking for, instead of seeking out relationships that we won’t mind losing.
And if Colonel Brandon had been undeserving? – if he had been cruel, or haughty, or too annoying for Marianne to bear his company? With trust in herself, she wouldn’t need to run away, to anything or anyone. She could know that she was all right by herself.
And because she won’t be afraid to say, “I play the piano just fine, thank you very much,” she’ll be able to be honest in relationships herself – and that allows everyone to win.