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How TV Teaches Us Toxic Monogamy

How TV Teaches Us Toxic Monogamy

When Netflix first introduced Associates in its entirety to its streaming service on January 1, 2015, my husband and I spent about seven or eight months watching it all through from Rachel leaving Barry on the altar to “She got off the plane!”

There’s one thing uniquely comforting concerning the ’90s basic sitcom. It’s humorous, it’s acquainted, it’s a bit fantastical (a bunch of absurdly handsome 20-somethings on the Higher West Aspect in monumental flats who virtually by no means appear to truly work? Positive. Additionally, they every date like 50+ individuals over the present’s 10-year run, so).

However it’s additionally straightforward to observe. It doesn’t hit you within the feels too typically, and even when it does, it’s dealt with with mild humor (infants being born, weddings, breakups). It’s not critical, and it’s not heavy, and typically you simply need to escape right into a world so simple as theirs.

Up to now few months, we’ve began watching it once more, placing a couple of episodes on once we’re vegging out or killing time and don’t need to should pay a lot consideration. In any case, we all know what’s going to occur by now!

However this time via, we’ve observed one thing we don’t like a lot about Associates and different sitcoms: the best way they deal with relationships.

In a nutshell, sitcoms are likely to perpetuate what I’ve seen termed “toxic monogamy.” I’ll use Pals because the prime examples since I’m so accustomed to it, however I’m positive you’ll see the identical patterns in different exhibits.

Instance 1 — “We were on a break!”

Ross and Rachel date for a few yr. Their relationship ends when Ross turns into jealous of Rachel’s spending time with a handsome co-worker who helped her get the job within the first place. Rachel tells Ross she thinks they should take a “break” from one another.

Ross promptly goes out consuming and dancing and finally ends up sleeping with “the hot girl from the copy place.” Rachel comes by the subsequent morning to speak to Ross, finds out he’s had intercourse with another person, and declares that he has cheated on her and that they’re carried out.

Ross insists that since they have been “on a break,” he wasn’t dishonest and it shouldn’t be held towards him. This “we were on a break” catchphrase continues all through the present, years after the occasion.

There are two points to parse right here. The primary is that Ross is jealous as a result of Rachel is speaking to her coworker, Mark. Ross decides that Rachel should be interested in Mark, and that proven fact that she’s speaking to him should imply that she’s going to cheat on him with Mark.

He turns into ridiculously jealous, doesn’t give Rachel the good thing about the doubt, and finally ends up inflicting an enormous struggle and break up. To start with, Rachel doesn’t give Ross any cause to assume she doesn’t love him or that she intends to cheat. Second, Ross doesn’t belief Rachel to be trustworthy and as an alternative assumes that she will’t management herself round a cute man. Why doesn’t Ross belief his girlfriend? And why doesn’t he simply speak to her about it and settle for her at her phrase?

The second situation is the query of whether or not Ross cheated on Rachel by having a one-night stand with the copy woman. To Rachel, that is unforgivable. How might he do that to her? They weren’t damaged up, and subsequently he was untrue, the actual factor Ross accused Rachel of! 

However why does having intercourse with another person when your present monogamous relationship standing is unsure imply an automated breakup? And why does it proceed to be such an enormous deal for years afterward?

Instance 2 — Ross and Joey compete over Gabrielle Union

Ross leaves Central Perk and sees an attractive lady named Kristen (Gabrielle Union) unloading a shifting truck. He gives to assist her take the bins as much as her house and asks her out on a date. Later, Joey meets the identical lady in the identical means and in addition makes a date together with her.

Chandler realizes Ross and Joey have each began courting the identical lady, and Ross and Joey instantly start competing for her. Their rivalry turns into so ridiculous that when Joey exhibits up on the restaurant the place Ross and Kristen are on a date, Joey and Ross discover increasingly more horrible issues to say about one another, and Kristen will get up and leaves them each.

Once more, there are some things to unpack right here. To begin with, Ross and Joey can’t stand the concept they’re each courting the identical lady. This theme seems in different sitcoms as nicely, and it happens a number of occasions all through the collection, whereby two males who’re good buddies find yourself in bitter competitors over a lady.

Why can’t Kristen date them each, if everyone seems to be pleased that method? It’s not like she’s on a date with each of them on the similar time. It might be that down the road, it turns on the market’s a deeper reference to one of many males than the opposite, and the connection will grow to be unique at that time. Or, she might discover that it was enjoyable whereas it lasted, however she doesn’t like both of them sufficient to make it a long-term factor.

Ross makes use of his larger revenue and schooling to attempt to counter Joey’s appeal and attractiveness (and prowess in mattress), and the result’s disastrous for each of them. As an alternative of them each courting a wonderful lady that they each like, their competitors turns into so bitter that Kristen turns into disgusted with them each, and their friendship is threatened.

Secondly, why isn’t it as much as Kristen to determine who she dates? The wishes of the lady in query are by no means thought-about when Ross and Joey begin preventing. It’s all about which ones is a greater man for her, not which ones she likes.

They’re making assumptions about what she’s in search of in a person, about why she likes them, and about what her intentions are within the short- and long-run. They behave in an extremely immature trend, and Kristen was completely proper to dump them each.

There’s a considerably parallel episode the place Phoebe is courting two males on the similar time, a fireman and a kindergarten instructor, and she or he’s having hassle selecting. They don’t know one another, however once they discover out she’s been courting each of them, they’re each fairly upset about it and each dump her.

Right here, Phoebe ought to have been trustworthy with the 2 males that they weren’t unique, and that early in a relationship, she didn’t essentially have to select certainly one of them to proceed with. Once more, she might date each and see which one she clicks higher with, if both.

Instance three — Chandler loves Joey’s girlfriend

Joey is courting a fellow actor named Kathy, and when Chandler meets her, he falls head over heels in love together with her. He holds again, not eager to disrupt his greatest good friend’s relationship, however ultimately it turns into clear that Joey and Kathy are drifting aside and there’s a particular spark between Kathy and Chandler. They kiss, and earlier than Joey finds out concerning the kiss, he and Kathy break up.

Chandler feels horrible about betraying Joey like that and ultimately ‘fesses up, at which point Joey declares that he and Chandler are no longer friends. Chandler comes up with a bizarre way to get Joey to forgive him, and he and Kathy date for a while quite happily.

Then Chandler goes to see Kathy in a play and goes into a jealous rage when he sees her kiss her costar on stage, convinced that she’s dishonest on Chandler together with her costar. She insists she’s not and wonders why Chandler would assume that of her, and he factors out that she has a historical past of dishonest on her boyfriend. They break up.

Clearly, it was not cool of Chandler to intrude on his pal’s relationship, however there was a a lot easier method to deal with the entire thing. He might have informed Joey that he has emotions for Kathy and let Joey and Kathy determine what to do subsequent. Joey had a proper to really feel some jealousy and betrayal towards Chandler for breaking his belief like that.

Nevertheless, Chandler’s lack of ability to take Kathy at her phrase that she was not dishonest on him is one other instance of the person not trusting the lady’s phrase or her self-control. His response is ugly, immature, and insulting.

Comparable themes and others happen all through the present and in lots of different sitcoms. Take into consideration what number of occasions you’ve seen the next used because the premise of an episode:

  • Jealousy is used as a measure of how characters love one another.
  • Speaking to somebody engaging is tantamount to dishonest.
  • Associates should compete with one another to impress somebody they’re each keen on.
  • Ladies can’t be trusted to make their very own selections about relationships.
  • Males can’t be trusted to “keep it in their pants.”
  • Males are afraid of dedication, whereas ladies simply need to get married and calm down and have infants.
  • Women and men can’t be buddies with out some sexual rigidity or with out hooking up sooner or later.

None of that is to say that monogamy is incorrect or undesirable. However in these instances, monogamy is used as a weapon and seen as one thing that’s always threatened, somewhat than as an settlement between two individuals who love one another and need to love solely one another.

The prevalence of those themes in in style exhibits and films teaches us a really unfavorable model of monogamy and relationships.

Love must be measured by the individuals concerned making one another higher than they might be aside, by mutual respect and understanding, by shared values and objectives, by belief, and not by how jealous you can also make one another by flirting with different individuals, or by proving that you could keep away from the “temptation” of a beautiful individual, or by testing one another’s “faithfulness.”

This text initially appeared on Medium and was republished right here with the writer’s permission.

Madison Barry is a spouse, mom, and small enterprise proprietor who self-publishes BDSM-themed erotic fiction in her spare time. She writes about her personal experiences with sex-positivity, monogamy and non-monogamy, and BDSM subjects on her Medium weblog.

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