We may not have a plethora of examples of healthy relationships or even those where both partners attempt equality among them, but they do creep up in places. I’ve previously argued that Lily and Marshall and Kitty and Red are great examples despite the period when the latter takes place. No relationship will ever be the perfect example to just do this thing and everything will be perfect, but we do turn to media to show us options outside of those with which we were raised or witnessed in other households. Those examples tackle the give and take of a relationship and what happens when one or the other takes more than gives. Plenty of episodes of both their shows depict scenes where they argue and make up.
Another favorite of mine is ten years old now, it’s Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Their marriage has gone stale under the pressure of all the lies and acting out their at home roles. It happens. People stop being themselves, they forget what was great about their relationship, and then they get into a stage where they are just generically husband and wife. Not everyone goes through it, but plenty do. This has a crazy circumstance that pulls them out of it and is great fun. At the same time, the crazy circumstance makes them realize the lie, meet their real selves, and fall in love all over again. Some days I think it would be fun.
I could back even further and watch What Dreams May Come again and see a couple struggle through loss and make their marriage work. We would also see the devastation of separation from his death, her following pain and eventual suicide. There’s a beauty to the movie that I love, though I get the holes in the plot and love story. Where I find this more healthy than not is that they helped each other through the tragic loss of their children. Becoming suicidal after also losing your husband doesn’t make the relationship too dependent or unhealthy. They were doing good before for their circumstance until his untimely death, which is what I mean to point out here. The flashbacks to their struggle before his death bring into stark reality the ways that couples can fall apart in tragedy and the ways that their demands of each others can be just too much.
More recently This is 40, Date Night, and Sex Tape show couples who are past their first blush. Some try to get it back, some sink into comfort. None of these couples were hanging on the edge, the passion had just been lost somewhere, as it is difficult to keep most of the time. While two of these depict their own outlandish and crazy circumstances to bring the couple back together, it’s what happens in the moments between that really let you know that they were great couples to begin with. In Sex Tape, there’s a great moment where they have a whole conversation in looks. On the other hand, This is Forty is a series of moments that are ridiculously familiar in some ways, though completely different in others. It’s fun is in the familiarity, all the little ways that we miscommunicate and knowing that we aren’t alone in it. It’s also in the reconcile.
When it comes to building equality within that first blush, but after the initial commitment is made. For this, television provides more examples, but they have a common flaw. Television thrives on the continuity of it’s shows and so a good relationship is more often in the background, such as both the examples mentioned above. Even so, we do still have the marriage in Madam Secretary which appears to be holding strong for the moment. There were some great moments in Firefly where the marriage of Zoe and Wash is challenged or strengthened. The Charmings in Once Upon a Time are great too, alternating between healthy and codependent by episode and showing just how precarious the balance can be.
Even when compiled, these examples are anecdotal at best. There’s also that most of these examples have outlandish circumstances that bring these couples back together or bring the spark back, leaving relatively no great options to look to for our normal lives. It would be good to see ever greater examples of people working things out and for it to be healthy and for everyone involved to be making their own decisions and compromises, uninfluenced by outside forces, in relatively normal circumstances, as with Lily and Marshall, This is Forty and Kitty and Red. This kind of progress is slow when it comes to culture, but it seems to be on the horizon. We seem to be reaching for it, though we are still falling short.
I completely realize that this is sadly white washed with the sole exception of Zoe from Firefly who is still married to a white guy. I know that other groups have these examples too, please share them with me! These were just the ones that came to my mind when I thought about this topic.
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