To my way of thinking there have been too many comments about how Louisa has deteriorated in S6 and that she has become very harsh and angry. I want to look at things from her perspective a bit and defend her based on how she has been portrayed in this series and throughout the entire length of the show. I’ve given a pretty full assessment of Louisa in my post Women’s Issues, Part 1, and I’ve mentioned more about her in a follow-up post Women’s Issues, series 6. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to say more because I continue to read remarks to the effect that Louisa is expecting too much from and demanding too much of Martin.
Yes, she went into the marriage knowing that Martin is a difficult man and hard to talk to sometimes (to paraphrase Martin’s self-appraisal at the end of S5). She certainly knows that he can ruin intimate moments and is not the most romantic (not mister hearts and flowers). And we have no idea what happened between them following his confession of love and expressed intention to change at the end of S5 and the wedding at the beginning of S6. We have to assume that things were going well in their relationship or they wouldn’t have decided to get married.
So Louisa starts the marriage with reason to believe she and Martin are now on a better track. He looks at her lovingly throughout the wedding events, he expresses certainty that he wants to be married, and even after a tough night they both appear on the same wavelength – the night was difficult but they handled everything well together and they continue to look at each other fondly after reaching home the next morning. What happens next is a series of typical marital squabbles over child care, her wishes for him to be more engaged in her world and in the community, and the juggling of time demands when both parents work. Of course his mantra is that her life would be easier if she stopped working. She doesn’t see it that way and his regular reiterating of that is really upsetting to her, and many women should relate. Some of the stress would be relieved – child care concerns, the mixed emotions of being apart from her baby while she deals with school issues and meetings, possibly household needs. But other stressors would appear – loss of standing in the community, loss of self-respect, loss of her sense of purpose, perhaps a lack of direction in her life. Louisa is presented as needing all of these and shouldn’t be forced to give them up.
Meanwhile, some of the changes in their home life have started to affect Martin even though he wants to help with JH and tries to engage in more activities with L. He has adapted to JH and being awakened at night during S5, and he’s been capable of taking care of the baby when L is out or when childcare difficulties arise. But the older James gets, the more toys there are and the more noise too. I understand that these new conditions would require difficult adjustments for M, but they come gradually and we all generally adapt because it all benefits the child and makes our lives easier in the long run.
But Martin, more than most men, is very closed off to his wife. When she kisses him goodbye and tells him she’ll miss him, he’s very uncomfortable and doesn’t respond in kind. When she comes home at the end of her work day and says she missed being with both James and Martin, he tells her he did fine without her. When she kisses him goodnight after they get into bed, he accepts her kiss, but does not reciprocate. When she asks him nicely to take some time off to go away with her and James, he refuses and uses the excuse that he has a responsibility to his patients. He confesses to Ruth that his blood sensitivity has returned, but doesn’t tell Louisa. She knows he’s having trouble sleeping, but nothing she tries helps (e.g. lavender oil, magazine, offering to talk). When she can’t sleep because she’s worried about Mrs. T returning, he recommends going to bed because “everything seems worse [when it’s late].” But it’s not as though he takes his own advice. His mother arrives and he never tells L anything about their history or about their conversations while she’s been there. He agrees to attend the Sports Day event when he should have turned it down because he was never really interested but couldn’t tell Louisa honestly. We can argue about whether agreeing to do the awards was him trying to be helpful or whether he was going along to get along, but for me L was right to think he would approve of encouraging students to exercise. She is aware that their home life has been growing more difficult, but she could never have imagined that he would behave borderline antagonistic towards her. She had offered to find someone else, which I see as an effort to give him a way out, but he’s there in front of his mother and possibly unwilling to look uncooperative to either his mother or L.
Expecting Louisa to curtail her own emotions, be understanding of his without any willingness on his part to divulge his feelings to her, and to either stop her own activities or reduce her own effort to do her job well, is a lot to ask. Without any input from him and any attempt to give her some insight into what he’s going through, L cannot know how to interpret his rejection of her. If your new husband appears to be turning away from you within a few months of getting married, you can’t possibly be blamed for being devastated and upset. She’s confused, hurt, angry, disillusioned, worried, etc., etc. Give her a break!
Originally posted 2014-03-17 12:07:19.