Divorce and Downton

Divorce on TV

Though set nearly a hundred years ago, Downton Abbey has plenty to say concerning our contemporary concepts on love, marriage and divorce. The final episode of the third season is a prime example of relationship successes and failures. Though divorce is strictly taboo in Downton society (not much unlike the antiquated ideas surrounding divorce today), it becomes a plot point in this episode.

Despite the ending, which set our twitter and facebook feeds aflutter, the last episode had plenty to say about relationships. Bottom line, it’s about communication. On the one hand, we have the Granthams and the Crowleys. On the other hand, the Flintshires. Lord and Lady Grantham and Matthew and Mary both display a number of traits that make a successful relationship. The Flintshire’s display everything that goes wrong, sending so many marriages towards divorce. Below are a list of success and failures – seen through the lens of Downton Abbey, certainly one of our favorite guilty pleasures.

We see successful marriages in the Downton couples. Mary and Matthew lovingly tease each other, highlighting the things they love about one another. This romantic banter actually feeds the relationship with each partner encouraging the other and displaying their love. Matthew sees Mary’s inner kindness and beauty while Mary in turn sees his kindness and open heart. Lord Grantham admits he was wrong about Matthew’s scheme to modernize Downton Abbey. By admitting his mistake and acknowledging Cora’s strength in backing Matthew, the earl demonstrates both a willingness to change and an appreciation of others. Matthew points out the things that make Mary special to him. After the birth, Matthew is sure to tell Mary the things he loves and admires about her. This praise is a confidence builder. Everyone in a relationship needs to be uplifted and encouraged by their partner.

However, in Duneagle, we see a marriage in trouble. Susan won’t accept changes, leaving Duneagle and being posted to India. She can’t accept that her life will change and has a negative attitude about those changes. This negativity feeds the harshness already growing in the relationship. Shrimpy can’t find a single thing in common with his wife. Complaining to Robert that he would get a divorce if he could, cousin Shrimpy states that he and Susan are like strangers. This divide is helping to keep their relationship on the rocks. With neither party making an effort to be interested in the other, their marriage is doomed. Susan belittles others, publicly. Susan’s negativity extends beyond the marriage and causes strife with her husband. Their spat in the hallway after her outrageous outburst makes everyone uncomfortable. This relationship needs respect – not only for each other but for everyone around them as well.

When contemplating your own relationship, keep the above items in mind.

DO show love and affection towards your partner, encouraging her to be herself. Each person in the relationship needs to feel that they are an individual.

DON’T be resistant to change. It is one of life’s inevitablailities. Change brings new opportunities for growth, often in unexpected ways.

DO admit when you are wrong. It will save so many useless spats. We all make mistakes; identifying and accepting them is key to building wisdom.

DON’T wait to find something in common with your spouse; make an effort to find interest in something they enjoy or explore activities you could do together.

DO point out the things you like about your significant other. Praise does wonders for self esteem, both to the person receiving and the person giving.

DON’T be disrespectful to yourself, to others, or to your relationship. A respectful voice and choice of words makes even difficult situations easier.

DO ask if your spouse is open to feedback. Everyone needs some fine tuning from time to time. Keep is short and simple and be specific about how things could be better.

DON”T use harsh criticism. Words can never be taken back. Be kind and offer solutions to things you’d like to see improved.

DO go out of your way to be helpful by offering assistance. Supporting a relationship means a willingness to support each other when needed.

DON’T stick your nose in your spouse’s business by telling her what to do. When your spouse wants advice, she’ll ask for it. Solving a problem on your own is important for growth and learning.

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