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“The Time Traveler’s Wife” Film Analysis According to the Book Essay

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Updated: Jul 10th, 2018

Intimate Relationships theories by Rowland Miller

At the beginning, I would like to emphasize, that the film “Time Traveler’s Wife” is one of the best examples of relationships for the analyses through the prism of Rowland Miller’s theories and concepts. The latter had been found in the 5th edition of Interpersonal Relationships, outlining the processes of formation, development, and deterioration of human connections, explaining the problems and the roots of these problems of human relationships, and, generally, covering the main aspects of relationships paradigm.

Firstly, it would be appropriate to point out the main theories of Rowland Miller’s research into interpersonal relationships. To follow the natural human development while growing up, Rowland Miller offers to our consideration the attachment theory. There he, together with scholar Dollard and Bowlby, describes the formation and mechanism of attachment, which occurs with a personality in the years of early childhood.

The attachment theory is being considered through the prism of two main approaches, including learning and evolutionary theories. The first theory anticipates the fact of child’s attachment formation to people, who provide the most primary care, while the latter claims, that children are ready to get attached to those, who respond to their releasing stimuli.

They choose a particular attachment figure, which is supposed to be further used as a firm ground for world exploration and cognition. This first child’s attachment is a pattern for interpersonal relationships in future.

The next theory, introduced in the work of Rowland Miller is interdependence theory, which is inextricably linked to the terms of CL (comparison levels) and CLalt (comparison levels for alternatives). The author represents the definition and concepts of CL, which means for “the expectations that determine whether or not we are satisfied with our relationships” and CLalt , which, in its turn, denotes to “our perceptions of how well we would do if we left our current relationships”. [2]

Generally, the psychologist expresses his point of view, connecting the state of satisfaction with the state of dependence. Naturally, the both mental and emotional aspects concern the issue of relationship. Hence, interdependence theory considers the interrelation between one’s expectations and one’s outcome, the balance or misbalance between what we wanted to have and what we really have. The author also emphases the inability to set a clear boundary between satisfaction with the relationships and dependence on it.

Triangular love theory, being described in the Chapter 8 of the book Intimate Relationships, concerns the matter of the three separate units, the combination of which are to set up healthy long-term relationships. These are closeness, fervour, and responsibility. The author claims, that love, including only one part is much weaker, than love, including all the three in a “composite”.

Rowland Miller explains, that there are many aspects, which have to be taken into consideration while analyzing love relationships. The vital role belongs to culture as a major determiner of a personality’s behavior and world outlook. Cross-cultural differences may be a reasonable destroyer of intimate relationships just for the reason, that mentality of one peoples does not fully coincide with the mentality of other.

The author provides a reader with information about social exchange theory.

This theory states, that a person chooses his/her partner according to his/her own idea about “prize and price”. A person has always been thinking about the relationship type he or she deserves. Reward is a vital issue, without which it is impossible to build up strong and healthy relationship. Defining the word “reward” in this context we cannot but mention that there exists a straight proportion between the time and effort put into the relationships on the one side and the formal “size” of reward expectations on the other side.

As an analogy to the interdependence theory, the theory of social exchange is determined by balance. This balance is to be reached between the two factors, which are mentioned above. Otherwise, the relationships are doomed to misunderstanding and personal discomfort.

Talking about correspondence of our needs and expectations with what we become in return, we cannot but mention the theory of cognitive dissonance. The author implies this theory to the situations of contradiction. The latter lies the feeling of discomfort while coming to terms with two opposite statements, actions or phenomena.

The theory of cognitive dissonance reflects the necessity of “reaching the compromise” between these opposites by altering our views and behaviors, making them suitable for each other and trying to combine them that they were logically corresponding.

According to Rowland Miller, cognitive dissonance appears, when the particular beliefs are of the opposite extreme nature and cannot be hold by one person at a time. Hence, the most forceful reason of cognitive dissonance is an internal conflict about whether you have done right or wrong. Personal self-awareness leads to looking for excuses, finding some causes, which would explain your actions.

The author uses a term of “rationalizing” while discussing this issue. In addition, the topic of cognitive dissonance deeply concerns the matter of egoism, so to say, protection of oneself from destructive processes. Moreover, the term of self-image is being used in the book referring to the willingness of a person to correspond to his/her own idea about him/herself.

In further description of Rowland Miller’s ideas, I would like to provide the quotation taken from the book Intimate Relationships: “The more we see and interact with a person, the more likely he or she is to become our friend or intimate partner.” [3]

This conception, defined by the psychologist as a propinquity effect, is one of the key points in strong relationships maintenance. Interpersonal relationships are also highly affected by such factors as personal traits resemblance, attractiveness, and mutual liking.

Rowland Miller pointed out that “attitude similarity activates the perceived attractiveness and favorability information from each other, whereas dissimilarity would reduce the impact of these cues”. [2]

“Time Traveler’s Wife” Film Analyses According to the Theories and Concepts of the Fifth Edition of Book by Rowland Miller Intimate Relationships

“It’s hard being left behind. I wait for Henry, not knowing where he is, wondering if he’s okay. It’s hard to be the one who stays.”


Indeed, relationships themselves are very complicated issue, leaving alone such relationships Clare and Henry had. Here we are talking about a romantic love story, including the elements of scientific fiction – however, pretty much realistic – kept the viewer on the edge of his/her seat.

Henry and Clare, the protagonists have met for the first time during one of Henry’s time travels. At that time this beautiful and smart little girl Clare has seen a good-looking handsome man, which soon has become her best friend.

Generally, each relationship has universal stages, which they come through while its existence. We can metaphorically compare relationships to human organism, which is born, than is developing, getting older and, consequently and inevitably dies. Therefore, the scholars distinguish the following stages of relationships:

  1. Acquaintance
  2. Development
  3. Decay

So, when a little girl Clare has met her future love, we can observe the acquaintance stage. There, according to Rowland Miller, we can watch clearly illustrated theory of attachment. The girl has namely found her “base”, her “firm ground”, and no wonder it was approximately 35-year-old man.

They have spent a lot of time together; he was one of the main source of her world cognition. Henry was the one who shaped her outlook, Henry was the one, whom he wanted to marry since her early childhood. The attachment strings became stronger and, due to mutual liking, interpersonal relationships became closer.

During these time travels Clare was practically brought up by Henry. He was destined to be both her “father” and her lover. The time passed, and, naturally, the girl grew up and came to the point, when she realized, that Henry was her one and only love.

At this point we have to provide the other type of relationships development stages. It is as follows:


So, the development of Clare and Henry’s relationships has come to the stage of transformation into romantic ones. The romantic stage lasted quite long, until their first meeting at the library. This stage can be characterized by the triangular love theory, where the two young people were combining the three most important components of healthy and strong relationships.

Intimacy together with passion and commitment has made their lives full of happiness and joy, which only the true feeling can bring. They have been developing their relationships, which have undoubtedly led to wedding and marriage.

There, however, we see the first roots of dissatisfaction in Clare’s feelings. But, at first, she covers them with the idea of true love to the person, for whom she has been waiting for her whole life. At this stage of relationships, the interdependence theory can be considered as an appropriate one in analyzing the position of Clare.

At the CL (comparison level) the viewed can observe her inner doubts about how she is going to spend her life with a person, who is constantly traveling in tie and, what is more, unexpectedly. We could see the facial expression of a beautiful bride, who was left alone on the first night after the wedding party.

Disappointed, she was lying on the bed trying to find excuses for the situation. However, she did found an “excuse”, being motivated by the thought, that they are really worth of each other and their love is worth fighting for.

When years passed, Clare’s dissatisfaction was growing, her husband’s constant disappearing for indefinite time and unexpected coming back has caused increasing disappointments. There we can obviously notice the stage of power-struggle, the conflict of the interests of two people, whose feeling of love cannot fit into the inconveniences of practical world.

Henry could not meet an ordinary woman’s requirements. Finally, after his last time travel, which lasted two weeks, he came back home, and found his wife angry and disillusioned in her own feelings. The viewer can follow how the social exchange theory is illustrated in this case.

Clare has a feeling of inequality, being somehow subordinate while waiting for her husband. She is tired of being a puppet of these relationships and decides to start leading her own life. According to the theory, Clare finds, that she has spent so much time and effort on this marriage; she has tried everything and devoted herself to these relationships. However, she did not get any feedback, so-called “reward”. In this case, feeling deprived and offended, feeling, that she deserves “a normal life” induced her split with Henry.

There, at the same time, we can see the example of cognitive dissonance theory. A viewer can observe typical ego-defense, which is based on willing of self-realization, living without dependence on her partner, who even does not have any social status.

Indeed, during the stage of power-struggle the most divorces occur, and Clare really separated from Henry. Logically, both of them were far from being happy and satisfied with life.

However, not long after, Henry makes use of his ability to travel in time and wins a lottery. This event essentially changes the quality of life of the both. They buy a large house with a separate place for Clare to work on art.

So, we can state, that these two people have managed to overcome the hard times of power-struggle stage. Summing up the behavior of the protagonists during this period, we can say, that Henry wanted to deal with the conflict in a non-destructive manner, while Clare was at first not keen on preserving the relationship.

She was unwilling to deal with the problem, she let away her aggression and discontent and did not want to seek for a compromise, to be tolerant and understanding to her husband’s way life, which he was actually not to blame.

However, stability stage in the development of Henry-Clare relationships proceeds. They both are satisfied with everything they have, Henry’s timetravels have become not so often. Clare works at her little art house. Their life has acquired balance and harmony.

However, the next stage of relationships strikes their faith and hope. The couple wants to give birth to a baby, but it appears, that baby is supposed to get the same “travel-ability”, like the father. That was the reason for the loss of Clare’s two children. The relationships had to face another ordeal. The conflict has started to destroy the relationship; everyday quarrels were the reason for couple’s disillusion in their happy life.

However, soon Clare got pregnant and gave birth to a girl, which Henry has seen in his time-travels. Life has begun to get better and brighter. Parents, having one “aim” of child upbringing have become closer. There a viewer can observe the stage of commitment and co-creation.

During this period the two people as the two separate individuals are becoming one inseparable organism, which is functioning in balance and harmony. They build up healthy relationships on the basis of mutual understanding and cooperation. This stage is determined by affection and care for each other, both talking about the both partners and about the relationships with children.

To follow the plot of the film, a viewer observes further events development from the prism of fatality. Naturally, the film could hardly be called a drama and, therefore, win attention, without some “break”, tragic climax of love relationships.

Here, in ‘Time Traveler’s Wife’ the observer can analyze the situation of Henry’s own death perception. Inability to change inevitable events at first causes mere disillusion inside of the protagonists, who are supposed to wait for the fate’s will. However, they continue to live as they use to, realizing, that everything is in the Lord’s hands.

Love as a state, as a feeling and emotion between the protagonists is transcendental. It has become on the higher stage of development, which presupposes the willing to sacrifice for each other, giving away all the tenderness and warmth you have without asking anything in return.

List of References

  1. Aronson, Elliot, Timothy D. Wilson, and Robin M. Akert. Social Psychology Sixth Edition. New Jersey: Upper Saddle River, 2007
  2. Miller Rowland S. On Being Admired but Overlooked: Reflections on “Attention to Alternatives” in Close Relationships Psychological Inquiry, Vol. 14, No. ¾ 2003, pp. 284-288
  3. Miller, R, Perlman, D, & Brehm, S Intimate Relationships. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006. – pp.608
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