Not actual parenthood, mind you, although I’m sure when we cross that bridge together we’ll both learn a lot.
But I’m talking about the TV show Parenthood.
My husband and I started watching the show last year, after several of our friends recommended it, and after a brief hiatus, we’re finally back to watching an episode together most evenings. The reason we took a break from it is really just evidence for how great a show it is.
We got too involved, too invested. We (okay, okay, I) couldn’t get through a single episode without ugly crying. The characters, with all their various issues and mistakes and complications, became a part of our lives. And what with me publishing my second book and trying to get my ducks in a row for going back to school and us buying our first home and moving and facing the busy holiday season, it all became a bit too much.
But now we’re back. And, as I was beginning to suspect last year before we hit the pause button, watching it together has been exceedingly good for our marriage.
How can a TV show, especially one rife with such relational and familial drama, be good for any real life relationships? That’s probably would I would have said last year, before we entered what can only be described as the Braverman Family Circus. Divorces and delinquent teenagers and spoiled kids and brother-sister screaming matches all put together doesn’t exactly equal the relaxed, peaceful atmosphere I’m usually craving at the end of a long day.
But here’s the thing. This show is so real, from the situations to the acting to the breakdowns in communication to the consequences of everyone’s crappy actions. And through all this fighting and discord, I’ve discovered something.
The characters have fights for us.
That sounds weird, and maybe it is weird, so let me explain.
My husband and I have shared almost three wonderful years together as man and wife. We’ve had our ups and downs, of course–what couple doesn’t? And there have been plenty of family emergencies and situations arise during our time as a married couple.
But there is still plenty we haven’t experienced yet, like parenthood and the trials and tribulations thereof. There is plenty we hope we never experience, like layoffs, cheating, separation, a spouse with cancer, substance abuse, and divorce. And all these things play out on our television every night, an hour-long drama fest filled with mistakes and arguments and, yes, fighting.
After we’d been watching for a while, we started pausing the episodes so we could discuss what was going on. What was Julia doing wrong? What was Adam doing right? Without really meaning to, we started discussing the thought processes behind each character’s actions and whether or not we agreed with them. Oftentimes, at least starting out, we have wildly different opinions, but we talk through the situations calmly and thoughtfully, weighing each other’s comments with careful consideration until we reach a satisfied middle ground, a place where we both feel like we understand the other person just a little bit more.
Basically? We get the productive benefit of having a fight, without having to have a fight at all.
Thanks to Parenthood, we know more about each other’s personal communication styles, our more nuanced views of what’s right and wrong, and what we would like to do in various difficult situation, all without having to experience anything more difficult than sitting on our couch holding hands. Watching this show together has been a way for us to both step outside ourselves for a little while and just engage with each other intellectually. It has allowed us to wrestle with tough questions without us forgetting for a moment that we’re on the same team.
And you know what? Since we’ve started watching the show together, our fights have been fewer, farther between, and more productive.
I’m not going to give Parenthood all the credit for that. After all, we do work on our relationship outside of that one hour spent together on the couch. But it’s definitely helped. It gets us talking about things that aren’t superficial at the end of long work days when we’d both rather veg out. It makes us think about how we would act, and whether our instincts are correct. It makes us–or at least me–more mindful of our marriage, in the very best way. And in my book, something with results like that is definitely worth pursuing.