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October 31, 2019

Relationship Lessons from Downton Abbey

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What about relationships, love and marriage can we learn from the popular TV series, Downton Abbey? For this special Halloween episode of Global TV’s The Morning Show, Jess, Carolyn, Jeff dressed up in their finest aristocratic fashion and sat down to discuss further. Check out Jess’ notes and video segment below.

1. You can grow in love. You don’t have to fall head over hells from the onset.

We see this in Lord and Lady Grantham’s marriage, which was one of economics to begin with, but develops into an exceptional love marriage. They even sleep in the same bed, which was rare for folks in their position at the time.

We see a similar connection develop between Mary and Matthew. Their potential marriage is also one of economic necessity — he’s the heir to the family fortune and there is pressure to marry him to keep the fortune. She dislikes and judges him harshly with prejudice at first. They’re not aligned politically, as she is deeply entrenched in tradition and he criticizes the aristocracy. He’s engaged to someone else at one point. They become friends. And then eventually they develop love — rather than falling in love.

2. Love is ultimately friendship; it need not be rooted in passion.

Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes have a happy, healthy working relationship. They have their specific roles and work as a team even though he is her boss. He polishes the silver while she rotates the linens — sparks do not fly.

I don’t know if people predicted that they’d marry in the end, because most on-screen romances aren’t about comfortable friendships.

But this comfort can be a good foundation and in the end, their marriage is (one of) the most heartwarming relationships in the series in my opinion. I did read, however, that they likely would have been unable to marry at the time, as the service staff was not only at the beck and call of the aristocracy, but they were also limited and controlled in their private lives.

3. Sibling rivalry (and bullying) can be costly.

There are so many scenes and incidents of not only rivalry, but nasty bullying in the Downton storyline.

Mary treats her sisters terribly. And even Lord and Lady Grantham speak about Edith, for example, with such disrespect.

When Mary tries to sabotage Edith’s marriage by bringing up her baby, Marigold near the end of the series, they finally have it out and Edith unleashes upon her.

Just shut up! … Who do you think you’re talking to? Mama? Your maid? I know you. I know you to be a nasty, jealous, scheming bitch. … You’re a bitch! And not content with ruining your own life, you’re determined to ruin mine. Don’t demean yourself by trying to justify your venom. Just go. And you’re wrong, you know, as you so often are. Henry’s perfect for you. You’re just too stupid and stuck-up to see it. Still, at least he’s gotten away from you, which is something to give thanks for, I suppose.

Eventually, they seem to make amends, but Edith doesn’t entirely let her off the hook. She simply says, “You were unhappy, so you wanted me to be unhappy too. Now that you’re happy you’ll be nicer for a while.”

There seems to be some understanding and empathy on the surface, but it’s not always reflected in their behaviour.

For example, Lady Grantham tells Mary to be kind to Edit because Edith doesn’t have as many “advantages” to which Mary replies that Edith has no advantages at all. Mary is not only critical of her sister, but she has a mean streak. I think we were all happy to see Edith come out on top at the end of the series.