What You Can Learn From (500) Days of Summer

The wife and I saw (500) Days of Summer last night before we caught Inglourious Basterds. Very different movies, with very different messages. But since I’m a dating and relationship coach and not a revenge coach, I’m going to focus on the offbeat romantic comedy just for a moment.

The story recounts the two-year on-again-off-again relationship between Tom and Summer, two twentysomethings who work at the same greeting card company. Although Summer does not believe in relationships or boyfriends, Tom is instantly smitten and knows that Summer is the woman with whom he wants to spend the rest of his life. He wins her over, but she keeps him at arm’s length emotionally for the duration of their time together. Eventually, she leaves him brokenhearted and finds someone else. The end.

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

None of this a secret; I haven’t spoiled anything. But there were two big things that resonated for me, as I was discussing the movie with my wife afterward:

1) If the gender roles were reversed, this movie could NOT have been made. It’s kind of fascinating, actually. It’s the story of a man who takes on the stereotypical woman’s role of wanting a relationship, being smitten, being treated poorly, and getting devastated that he invested so much time in someone who never was willing to reciprocate. In other words, it’s painfully sad. The boy doesn’t get the girl of his dreams. If you can tell me a movie where there’s a girl who loves a boy madly, spends 2 years chasing him, and ends up devastated at the end of the movie, you’re a better film aficionado than I am. (My Best Friend’s Wedding doesn’t count, since she wasn’t madly in love with her best friend).

2) The other takeaway was a line that went something like this:

When Tom is talking about Summer and how perfect she is, his best friend describes how he met his wife in 7th grade and has been with her ever since. He’s looked around and found tons of amazing women but realized that they weren’t perfect either. So he decides to stay with his wife, because “even though she isn’t perfect, she’s real. Which makes her better than perfect,” in his eyes.


This is the way I feel about love. So many of us get smitten with someone, idealize them, and get our hearts broken because we’re blind to their flaws. That’s what’s painful about the movie. True wisdom is in recognizing that there ISN’T a perfect person who meets all our criteria, and that we should be thrilled to have someone who loves us unconditionally, forever.

So don’t be like the character, who thinks they’re meant to be because they both like the Smiths and have a strong physical attraction.

Realize that your perfect mate is the one who is real and the one who treats you like gold.