What is up with all these separated couples on TV thinking that separation equals a dating free for all? Ok, it’s really only two couples on two shows that I’ve seen, Desperate Housewives and Private Practice, but it’s a trend that I find really disturbing.
I’ve never read a single marriage book or heard of a marriage counselor or reputable psychologist that said “you know what would be a great idea? You two separate because of your irreconcilable differences, make vague promises about working it out and just seeing how things go, then start sleeping with other people. It’ll be a great test to see if your marriage was meant to be!” But that sentiment seems to be the major plotlines this season between Lynette and Tom Scavo and Dr. Pete Wilder and Dr. Violet Turner.
How in the world are people supposed to try to save their marriage when they’ve got someone else, someone exciting and new in their beds? Dealing with marital problems is hard enough, never mind problems serious enough to separate over, without a third person adding jealousy, resentment, and feelings of betrayal to the mix. And yet on two major television shows you’ve got people actively in relationship with someone other than their spouse, with their spouses’ full knowledge, while they’re still married. Worse, their friends on the show are all for it and advise them that they can’t do anything about their spouse’s behavior and they should hook up with someone too, as soon as possible. Really ABC? Really?!? Can we back the crazy train up for a minute and look at the messed up message that sends?
What happened to recognizing that until a person is divorced it’s still called adultery? I’ve seriously heard on both shows dialogue along the lines of “why feel bad? You two are separated. If it makes you happy, then go for it!” or “He’s moved on, you should too.” And that’s another thing: if both parties are ready and moving on, then why keep them married? Why keep them in a perpetual state of limbo, ABC, letting them act like single adults while still having all the legal constraints of their nuptials hanging like an albatross around their necks? I don’t think it makes for good tv, you can get just as much drama from having them divorce and still have to find ways to be in each other’s lives, seeing the other person date, spying to see who’s sneaking out of their house at 5am. See, the drama possibilities are endless! I’m sure that they’re planning a big thing, at least in D.H. which is in its last season, where the man realizes that he was in love with his wife all along, drops the girl on the side, and comes back and all is happy again. But if they do that, I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that they won’t show the years of work that have to go into rebuilding the marriage and the trust that is lost when your partner starts sleeping with someone else while you are separated, NOT divorced. They won’t show that, because that is not good television, but it is reality. ABC, if you’re going to go down this road with not one, but two of your shows, at least give marriage the dignity of calling it over when it’s over, instead of letting your characters drag the beaten-down carcass of their failed marriages behind them while trying to decide if the person they’re with is enough of a reason to make their divorces final.
I’ve had people in my life who have lied to themselves about this very thing, starting a relationship with a married-yet-separated person before the divorce was final. Never mind all the reasons why a relationship can’t be healthy if one party is still coming off of a failed marriage, what about the responsibility that comes with potentially being the reason a person didn’t fight to save their marriage? And yet people make choices like this all the time without a second thought, regardless of whether people in their lives or their faiths tell them “slow down, wait a minute! What’s the rush? Let the ink dry before you jump right in with both feet.”
Television has a way of shaping culture, and I really don’t like how this is becoming the new norm on television. It’s not healthy, it’s not smart, and it’s not ok.
What do you think? Agree or disagree? Any other television trends ruffling your feathers?