The Best Relationship Advice That TV Can Offer
It’s easy to get invested into a fictional relationship seen on TV. After all, we have watched from the very beginning of the relationship, including the initial awkward greetings, to the eventual happy endings. We’ve seen them through the good and bad, and cheered and wept in tandem.
It isn’t a stretch to say TV’s fictional couples have much to teach us about relationships. We can learn from their mistakes, take heed from their struggles and discover a new way of approaching a relationship. Here are some of the best relationship takeaways from your favorite TV shows.
Talk About the Future — “The Mindy Project”
Mindy and Danny were one of the few couples on television who got together very early on in the series. Though polar opposites, they were still an adorable couple and eventually had a kid together. Leo’s birth, however, highlighted the differences between the two. The fights between the new parents about marriage, caregiving and staying home with the child became too hard to ignore and ultimately ended their relationship.
Talk About the Future — “The Mindy Project” (Continued)
In a romantic relationship, after some time together, it’s important to talk about the future. If you and your partner’s plans don’t align, it’s better to talk it out sooner than later. This is true especially if there are plans for a baby — a serious talk about expectations and life post the birth are important. Be clear about where you want the relationship to go, and convey it to your partner.
Don’t Be Afraid to Keep It Private — “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Let’s face it, we love Jake and Amy and how their relationship grows on the show. But, there’s another relationship that deserves equal weight, if not more screen time: Captain Raymond Holt and Kevin. As the department’s first black, openly homosexual captain, Holt has faced his share of troubles, and Kevin has been by his side through it all.
Don’t Be Afraid to Keep It Private — “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” (Cont.)
They highlight why, in today’s day and age, it’s alright to keep a relationship private (albeit not secret). You don't have to shout your love from the rooftops or put up a dozen social media posts to prove that it's real. They don’t make a big deal about their relationship, and there are no public displays of affection or grand gestures. Their marriage is a private affair — their love for each other shows in the little unsaid things.
Mutual Respect Is Crucial — “Modern Family”
Through the seasons, we’ve seen the various members of “Modern Family” deal with their own issues when it comes to family. One of the pairings that stand out is Phil and Claire Dunphy. The former is a magic-loving, adventure-seeking funny guy, and the latter, a pragmatic, forgiving, multitasking woman.
Mutual Respect Is Crucial — “Modern Family” (Cont.)
Though they have their fair share of tiffs, what keeps them together is their mutual admiration (and respect) for each other. Claire appreciates Phil for who he is, even while enduring his jokes and rolling her eyes at his antics. And Phil loves his wife with devotion, surprising her with romantic declarations and gifts.
Romance Isn’t Necessarily the Key — “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Rebecca Bunch leaves behind her life in New York to follow her childhood boyfriend Josh to West Covina, California. In most movies, this would be considered the big romantic step, the grand gesture. Rebecca goes to extreme lengths to insert herself into Josh’s life and give them a chance together.
Romance Isn’t Necessarily the Key — “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Cont.)
The show highlights a truth that is not depicted in rom-coms and fairytales: Romance (and love) is problematic. Making grand gestures and finding “the one” doesn’t always work out in real life. Sometimes, the person you think you are supposed to be with may not be best suited to you. And it is possible to live a fulfilled life keeping your happiness at the center, minus the romantic subplots. Romance is good, but it isn’t the only thing that makes life worth living.
It’s Alright to Be Vulnerable — “Lovesick”
This British show begins with a man, Dylan, who has just been given the very unfortunate news that he has chlamydia. The episodes that follow take us into his past where we meet all the women he has slept with, learning along the way about how those encounters changed his life.
It’s Alright to Be Vulnerable — “Lovesick” (Cont.)
The show isn’t about sexual exploits or even relationships. It’s about timing and allowing characters to be vulnerable. Every romantic entanglement and the choices the characters make are measured against their fear of rejection, of being alone, of never finding love. It’s their vulnerabilities that make them behave the way they do, that guide their relationships and ultimately affect their decisions. The show tells us it is OK to be vulnerable and own up to our emotions instead of bottling them up and suffering the consequences.
Don’t Force a Relationship — “Friends”
The story about six friends and their lives in New York still holds up, even a decade after going off the air. Although “Friends” had many healthy and unhealthy relationships, one that didn’t last too long was that between Rachel and Joey. The two had chemistry, but somehow, they realized they didn’t fit together. Plus, the timing wasn’t right: Rachel had a baby on the way and was looking to settle down more.
Don’t Force a Relationship — “Friends” (Cont.)
In your life, many romantic relationships may just not work. This has nothing to do with chemistry or other tropes about opposites attracting. It may simply not be a right fit. If this is the case, if things feel off, don’t force it. There’s no point in pushing yourself into something that you know doesn’t feel right.
Marriage Is a Partnership — “Madam Secretary”
“Madam Secretary” may be advertised as a political drama, but at its heart, it’s about family. At its center are Elizabeth and Henry McCord. She is the Secretary of State, keeps busy hours and douses fires all around; he is a religious scholar, a professor who also goes on covert missions. Together, they also raise a family. One of the few sane relationships on TV, most people’s takeaway from the show is the gender role reversal: Henry looks after the family while Elizabeth is away at work.
Marriage Is a Partnership — “Madam Secretary” (Cont.)
But there’s a bigger dynamic at play here. Both of them work and have a life outside their home. Yes, Henry spends more time at home, but it’s something he does willingly and not because he has to. It’s because he knows that marriage is like any other partnership. You have to have the other’s back, provide support and step in when needed. Gender roles don’t matter.
Cyberspace Is as Important as Personal Space — “This Is Us”
In the show, Kate starts stalking Toby’s ex-wife, even going to the extent of visiting her former place of work to find out more information. We’ve all been guilty of it: stalking our ex’s or potential new partners and doing that deep dive into their social media. But Kate crosses the line, going that step further. It would’ve been easier, and healthier, to just ask Toby.
Cyberspace Is as Important as Personal Space — “This Is Us” (Cont.)
If you respect your partner, you should also respect their cyberspace. If there’s something on your mind, just ask or trust that the person will tell you when the time is right. If you aren’t satisfied with their responses, and you have to cyberstalk them, give yourself some limits. Don’t go to extremes.
Your Relationship Doesn’t Need Sex to Be Successful — “The Big Bang Theory”
If you’re a fan of the show about four nerds and their lives, chances are you are also rooting for Shamy (Sheldon and Amy). They seem, to use a cliché, made for each other: Both are brilliant, talented, socially awkward and prone to unconventional thinking. Their relationship is cute, weird and frustrating (a relationship agreement, really?).
Your Relationship Doesn’t Need Sex to Be Successful — “The Big Bang Theory” (Cont.)
There’s no denying there’s much love between the two. Yet, they don’t sleep together until much later. They prove that that you don’t need to be all over your partner just to show you care about them. Yes, sex matters, but it’s just one aspect of the relationship. It’s equally important to build a strong emotional and intellectual bond with a person. This is particularly true if you or your partner fall in the asexual spectrum.
Accept Your Partner’s Weirdness — “Black-ish”
Every character in this family sitcom is unique and, in turn, hilarious. Leading the family are Dre and Bo, both of whom come with their fair share of eccentricities. Though they clash often, at the end, they completely accept each other’s idiosyncrasies and quirks, understanding that it is the key to a good marriage. They will rib each other, but it doesn’t take away the love between the two.
Accept Your Partner’s Weirdness — “Black-ish” (Cont.)
Your partner won’t always behave the same way as you or share all of the same hobbies or interests. For the relationship to thrive, it is important to understand and accept these differences, these quirks. Acceptance goes a long way in a healthy relationship.
Figure Out How to Deal With Finances, Together — “Jane the Virgin”
Jane and her first husband, Michael, have to tighten their purse strings when they realize they can’t afford their new home. The two have different saving styles, and they clash about whose is better. They soon realize that, in any relationship, making money decisions has to be a joint effort. It cannot be about what they individually think is best.
Figure Out How to Deal With Finances, Together — “Jane the Virgin” (Cont.)
Every expense, from small ones like getting a coffee to major ones like paying off rent, has to be tackled together. This is a conversation that should ideally happen early on in a relationship.
You Can’t Fully Love Someone Until You’ve Seen Them at Their Lowest — “You’re the Worst “
Face it, we aren’t all nice people. Most of us have a dark, unpleasant side that we take great pains to hide. In the show, “You’re the Worst,” both characters are awful human beings and not in a cutesy way. Jimmy and Gretchen start out their relationship by trying to one-up each other. They embrace their flaws, flaunting them in a bid to prove they aren’t worthy of being in a relationship.
You Can’t Fully Love Someone Until You’ve Seen Them at Their Lowest — “You’re the Worst“ (Cont.)
In reality, all they’re doing is showing how “worst” they can be, and you can’t know a human being until you’ve seen them at their lowest. Among the many obstacles the characters face are Gretchen’s clinical depression and Jimmy’s dealing with his father’s death. And through it all, they stick to each other. Word to the wise: If your relationship can survive through the many challenges and lows that come your way, it bodes well for the future.
Know What You Want in a Relationship — “Casual”
The comedy drama series follows the relationship between two siblings and, separately, their navigation through the world of dating and casual hook-ups. In one of the earlier episodes, Alex advises his sister, Valerie, to go out with a man whom he found via his dating app. He thinks it’s the best way to move on from her divorce. But Valerie isn’t ready, and that date ends in disaster.
Know What You Want in a Relationship — “Casual” (Cont.)
Your loved ones may have the best intentions when they give you advice about dating or love. But it’s best to know what you want before asking others to help you out. Once you know what you seek from a date or partner, it becomes easier to define your future moves. Even if you are confused, talk it out with your date so you know what they are seeking from the encounter. At a time when relationships have found new definitions, it's best to ensure you get what makes you happy.
Don’t Blame a Third Person for Your Relationship Failure — “Will & Grace”
The focus of “Will & Grace” is the loving dynamic between the lead “couple” — Will, a gay man, and his straight best friend, Grace. One of the recurring themes or topics touched upon was whether their closeness would come in the way of their respective partners. In its reboot, one episode had Grace and Leo (her husband) question whether her bond with Will was the reason their marriage failed. As they realized, Will had nothing to do with it. Their marriage had other issues.
Don’t Blame a Third Person for Your Relationship Failure — “Will & Grace” (Cont.)
In life, a time will come when you seek to blame a failed relationship on someone else — maybe your partner’s family, or best friend, or sister or any other loved one. It is important to understand that, while these people could interfere in your relationship, it is the two of you who ultimately decide its fate. Your problems cannot be blamed on someone else (there are exceptions, of course). Only you can give someone else the power to influence you and interfere in your relationship.