Now that I’ve pretty much overdone the discussion of whether people can change, and we’ve reached the conclusion that there will be some change, but probably not too much, we can look at what attributes these characters have that should be good for their marriage. Despite Louisa being a woman who likes small town and middle-class life, especially in Portwenn, and Martin being a man who has an affinity for London and the more upper crust life, there is much that they have in common.
Previously I wrote about whether Martin and Louisa should stay together. I questioned the whole notion of bringing up that issue because I am the type of reader/viewer who takes the storyline as something to accept as written. I tried to make allowances in a second post (“Ambiguity”) for those who read/watch as if they are looking through a keyhole rather than looking into a box. I want to be open to those who like to imagine what might happen “if.” This post is different because I can use the information we’ve been given in the show to discuss why Martin and Louisa are well matched. In my opinion, the writers have given us sufficient evidence that this couple could be compatible.
I have my own ideas about what criteria might be used to determine compatibility, but I thought I should see what the established guidelines are. Psychology Today published keys to functional compatibility (as opposed to dysfunctional, which I assume means those couples who stay together but have a very problematic relationship).
Key #1: basic values. These values reflect one’s moral standards, one’s religious beliefs, and one’s sense of gender roles. (I would add one’s interest in having children, although this subject could be folded into several of the keys.) From what we’ve seen of Martin and Louisa, they have very similar feelings about morals and religion, but may have somewhat different views about gender roles.
Both Martin and Louisa are concerned about others and make the time and effort to help the townspeople whenever called upon. As a doctor, M would be expected to take care of any medical problems, but he frequently goes well beyond that. (The “Kindness” post from last November delineated much of that behavior.) L demonstrates concern for her students, for their parents, and for others in the community, including Roger Fenn, Mrs. T, Morwenna, and Ruth. She worries about her friend Caroline as well as Mark and Al.
Religion plays a very minor role in their lives. They get married in a church but do not participate otherwise. They both react with surprise and derision to Danny’s regular invocation of God.
Their differences regarding gender roles may coincide in theory, i.e. they both think women should have the same opportunity to work as men and can handle the same positions. (Surely Martin’s aunts have been an influence on him.) Where they differ is whether women should work once they’ve had a baby, most especially when the baby is very young. Louisa’s desire to return to work within a few months of having James is contrary to Martin’s beliefs and a source of conflict between them. They never really resolve that issue; however, Martin takes on the care of James despite his objections to Louisa’s decision to work and in spite of its inconvenience to him. He deals with childcare at least as much as Louisa and hires Michael to help with James.
Key #2: degree of being ego-centered. This refers to a willingness to compromise. The way I understand this is that each partner can have strong convictions, but it is their ability to be tolerant of each other’s positions that is important. Thus, when Martin attends the school concert with Louisa he is sublimating his disenchantment with this sort of event to satisfy Louisa. Similarly, when Louisa wants to go to a social event that she realizes will not appeal to Martin, she doesn’t press him. Another example would be helping out as receptionist until Martin can find someone else. Or accepting his interest in fixing clocks even if it takes time away from her and James. (To be honest, in the show Martin is more often the one who does the compromising. That circumstance actually bolsters our sense that he is not stuck in a gender rut.)
Key #3: shared insight and perspective. Here we are talking about having comparable intellectual abilities such that both members of the couple can comprehend ideas, issues, and problems in a reasonable and thoughtful manner. In this show we have seen Martin and Louisa handle issues jointly and reasonably. There are many examples that come to mind, e.g. when Allison’s daughter acts hyper and ultimately badly injures herself. Louisa brings Allison to apologize to Martin and mediates the conversation between them. Louisa displays her problem-solving prowess and Martin and she have a meeting of the minds. We could also point to their handling of the porphyria addled headmaster; many cases with students, especially Peter Cronk and Theo Wenn; Mrs. Tishell; as well as their agreement about the personal traits of Mrs. Wilson and the Oakwoods. Indeed, this category is the one that stands out to me as demonstrating excellent compatibility in this pair.
Key #4: shared interests. I suppose we could suggest music as one activity they both enjoy, although Louisa doesn’t have any in depth knowledge of classical music or the instruments. After their sojourn to the concert, they clash over the children’s music Louisa has on in the kitchen. Other than that, the only truly shared interest they have is their son, unless we once again include shared concern for the townspeople.
Keys #5 and 6 are where we hit a major snag. These have to do with the temperaments of each member of the couple and their ability to relate authentically. We have spent quite a bit of time discussing how much Martin and Louisa need to talk to each other about their inner thoughts and probably their histories. To be in a truly functional marriage both parties should feel comfortable disclosing things to one another and leveling with each other. We haven’t seen much of this sort of behavior so far. We’ve gotten snippets, e.g. when Louisa can’t sleep because she is concerned about Mrs. Tishell’s return and Martin tries to reassure her. Most often they have been unwilling to share their most personal thoughts and troubles. It seems clear that Louisa would like to reach a deeper level of sharing and that Martin is the one who has the most trouble with this. Early on we see her try to get Martin to talk to her and in S6, she tells Martin she’s available to talk about his father’s death, and she suggests taking a weekend away presumably to have time to talk to each other. On the other hand, there is much that Louisa has not told Martin (or us). We could speculate that she’s hesitant to be too open because of his apparent lack of interest in hearing it or in reciprocating, or because she’s being self-protective. Whatever the reason, their inability to be more authentic with each other is a major source of trouble in their marriage and the area that needs to change most.
Key #7 is whether the couple is attracted to each other. This seems rather ridiculous unless the marriage is arranged or something, but I guess it is a factor. Martin and Louisa fulfill this requirement; they have been attracted to each other from the moment they met. Martin never stops wanting to catch a glimpse of Louisa, he has a different tone of voice when talking to her, and he agrees to do almost anything she asks of him. That is hardly the case with anyone else. Meanwhile, Louisa defends him to others, and becomes jealous whenever there’s another woman around. She worries about him, and she invites him out and finds ways to bump into him. Also, they are the best dressed people in Port Wenn and appear to have the same interest in good grooming habits. If Louisa weren’t clean and neat, Martin would have trouble finding her attractive. It’s hard for me to imagine anyone marrying unless they are physically attracted to each other, but we can’t deny that attraction is important.
In addition to the above, I would like to add that they both are very trustworthy. They can be secure in the knowledge that neither one of them will stray. They’ve made a commitment to each other, and from what we know of them, they will keep that commitment. To me that is an essential ingredient to a good marriage.
Furthermore, I think it’s important to remember that their marriage is starting with a baby already on board. They have had no time to get acclimated to living with each other without the stress of a newborn. The fact that they have been shown complementing each other throughout the early months of James’ life shows a strong foundation for their union.
Another thing that seems to be fairly common is that, for some unknown reason, many people who love each other hurt each other. Whether this is some sort of test or hurdle, I can’t be sure. (The Carpenters actually had a song called “Hurting Each Other,” it’s so unexceptional. Here are the lyrics. I think they sum up what we see with M and L quite well.)
I can’t end this post without stating that falling in love has many ineffable aspects about it. We can’t always define what captures our interest and desire. Sometimes we just know that we have met the person we want to be with because there is something deep in our hearts and minds that gives us that signal. To a certain extent, that is what has happened to Martin and Louisa, and we want them to embrace that. Neither of them had found the right mate before and now Fate has brought them together. Isn’t that a strength in itself?
One final thing…This will be my last post until June. I will be traveling in May and can only reveal that I hope to have a lot more posts to write when I get back. I won’t be leaving for another week and will be checking the blog until I leave and while I’m away. Thank you all for hanging in here with me. It’s been a demanding endeavor to keep the blog going throughout the long break between series! I couldn’t have done it without your help. I plan to continue until we’ve seen S7 and added our analyses of its episodes to our discussions. After that, who knows?
Originally posted 2015-04-30 17:28:42.