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Dearly beloved?

The happy couple face problems in marriage

They don't quite have the language to reassure each other

THE wedding was beautiful, he remarked. Nothing went wrong, she agreed. But before the day is out, the bride and groom are having a blazing row – and it threatens to wreck their happily ever after in the film adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel On Chesil Beach, released at cinemas next Friday (18 May).

In summer 1962, Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) are celebrating their wedding day. She’s a talented classical violinist. He’s more into Chuck Berry. As far as their interests and families go, they are very different people – but it doesn’t matter because they are a young couple deeply in love.

‘You must be the squarest person in all of Western civilisation,’ says Edward to his new wife.

‘But you love me,’ she responds.

‘Therefore I love you,’ he explains.

The couple begin their honeymoon at a dull and formal hotel in Dorset. They dine in their room. They make stilted conversation. What remains unspoken is the pressure they feel at the thought of spending their first night together as husband and wife.

Eventually, the tension becomes too much for Florence to bear and she darts out of the room. When Edward catches up with her on Chesil Beach, they have a heated argument. In the cold light of day, they begin to question their differences and whether the love they feel for one another is enough to make a marriage work. It’s painful.

Ian McEwan, who has penned the novel as well as writing the screenplay, says that while the characters of Edward and Florence go together, ‘they don’t quite have the language to reassure each other’. And that’s the problem. Because words are important in all kinds of relationships.

Without honest and open communication, partnerships and friendships can suffer. Keeping our mouths shut can lead to prolonged sadness, pain and misunderstanding.

While it’s important to have people around us that we can talk to, it’s not always easy. Perhaps we want to share our burdens but no one will listen. Maybe the one person we want to talk to more than anyone is no longer in our life. It could be that we just can’t find the words to say how we feel. Or maybe we don’t dare speak for fear of how our words will be received.

In times when communication feels impossible, it doesn’t have to be. God is ready to listen to anything we tell him. No subject is taboo. No words are off-limits. What we say doesn’t even have to make much sense. But we can say anything and everything to him – and he will reassure us.

One Bible writer who told God his deepest, most shameful thoughts said: ‘I confessed my sins and told them all to you … Then you forgave me and took away my guilt’ (Psalm 32:5 Contemporary English Version).

The same can be true for us.

When we tell God the things we can’t tell anyone else, and when we say sorry for our mistakes, he can help us to cope, to overcome, to start afresh, to find freedom. By talking to him, we can experience comfort. By listening to his response, we can discover guidance for a brand new future.

When we put our faith in him, we will find that we are dearly beloved.

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