Marital Happiness

Not surprisingly, my attempts at writing light posts have fallen pretty flat. There’s not really much anyone can say about them anyway.

Since we know there will be marital/couples counseling at some point in S7, I figured another topic of interest might be what it takes to achieve happiness in a marriage. I’ve written about the topic of happiness a few times because I think there is a significant emphasis placed in the show on happiness and its importance. I have to assume they purposely chose to underline this mental and emotional state. (Among the many intriguing topics brought up on this show, making happiness one seems rather curious to me. While taking Martin deeper into depression as the show goes along until in S6 he reaches Major Depression, they continue to broach the subject of the overall importance of happiness. (Why else have the conversation in the hospital near the end of S6 between Louisa and Martin in which, after she tells him she’s taking James to Spain, she says “I’m not happy and I’m not making you happy am I” and he answers “Happy…Why does everybody have to be happy all the time?” That question hangs there while Louisa looks at him crestfallen. Once again she’s asking him if she’s the reason for his problems and his answer is indirect and noncommittal, as it was before. Besides, is this an existential question? Are we supposed to wonder whether being happy is even on his radar? Or should we ask whether being happy is a state he has lost any desire to strive for? In spite of all these uncertainties in regard to happiness, I will go ahead with this post about happiness in marriage and couples.)

I have now learned that John Gottman, who is a professor emeritus at the University of Washington, is considered an authority on marriage and its major pitfalls. He is known for his work on marital stability and relationship analysis through scientific direct observations, many of which were published in peer-reviewed literature. Gottman was recognized in 2007 as one of the 10 most influential therapists of the past quarter century. He is best known for his Four Horsemen concept ( which is a reference to what can bring on an apocalypse in a marriage). It defines four major negative communication styles that can cause significant problems in a marriage: Criticism, Defensiveness, Contempt, and Stonewalling.

It might be useful to go through each of these and see how Martin and Louisa have been depicted in relation to these behaviors  and what we might like to see them do to change them. If we’re talking about change, and we have heard both Martin and Louisa say they think people can change, we should consider what particular changes could best help their marriage. Since Gottman has studied marriage, his assessment seems a pretty good place to start.


1. Criticism: Attacking your partner’s personality or character, usually with the intent of making someone right and someone wrong:

Generalizations: “you always…” “you never…”“you’re the type of person who …” “why are you so …”

2. Contempt: Attacking your partner’s sense of self with the intention to insult or psychologically abuse him/her:

– Insults and name-calling: “bitch, bastard, wimp, fat, stupid, ugly, slob, lazy…”
– Hostile humor, sarcasm or mockery
– Body language & tone of voice: sneering, rolling your eyes, curling your upper lip

3. Defensiveness: Seeing self as the victim, warding off a perceived attack:

– Making excuses (e.g., external circumstances beyond your control forced you to act in a certain way) “It’s not my fault…”, “I didn’t…”

– Cross-complaining: meeting your partner’s complaint, or criticism with a complaint of your own, ignoring what your partner said

– Disagreeing and then cross-complaining “That’s not true, you’re the one who …” “I did this because you did that…”

– Yes-butting: start off agreeing but end up disagreeing
– Repeating yourself without paying attention to what the other person is saying – Whining “It’s not fair.”

4. Stonewalling: Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict. Partners may think they are trying to be “neutral” but stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness:

– Stony silence
– Monosyllabic mutterings
– Changing the subject
– Removing yourself physically
– Silent Treatment

So lets look at the Four Horsemen as they relate to what we’ve seen transpire between Martin and Louisa. (Perhaps a slight caution is appropriate here. Louisa will seem to be the instigator or culprit most often because she does most of the talking. Also, to a great extent the humor of the show often depends on these problematic sorts of interactions. I wouldn’t want to have them work on making themselves too much different at the expense of the humor.)

At various times in the show we have heard Louisa use some of the phrasing associated with the “Criticism” category. She has said, for example, “Everything’s always up to me, isn’t it? You never do anything or say anything to help us move on…”(S3E1) Or, “Why are our conversations so combative?” (I’m paraphrasing here). In both cases, she implies that Martin is causing the difficulty between them. Granted, these occur before they are married, but they exemplify the sort of interaction that belittles Martin. Louisa clearly thinks she’s the victim and being wronged. Although we haven’t heard her use that terminology during S5 or 6, she’s come close. She’s told him that she’ll be the one to question her mother’s behavior and that he’s expecting too much to want her to keep the baby quiet during his office hours. One occasion that stands out to me is on the first morning following his mother’s arrival in S6 when she has to leave the kitchen to find Martin after talking to his mother in the kitchen. She finds Martin tinkering with a clock in his office and angrily asks him what he’s doing. The implication is that he is guilty of leaving Louisa to deal with his mother by herself and she finds that absolutely wrong. Even the time when Louisa quickly comes into the kitchen to tell Martin to take James to music class is accusatory. “We don’t want him to grow up to be shy and introverted?” (motioning towards Martin and leaving us to fill in “like you”). Martin has asserted to Louisa that he doesn’t want James to be like him, but now Louisa is reminding him of that at a point when Martin is under pressure to agree.

The next category is “Contempt,” and they are both guilty of doing this from time to time. Most often this behavior is in the form of body language on both their sides. Louisa is more likely to roll her eyes when Martin does something annoying, which is admittedly humorous, but she also does it when she’s meant to be angry with him. For example, after Martin asks Dennis to come to dinner, and once again hasn’t taken the time to check with Louisa first, Louisa looks irked. This time she gives Martin the stink eye and then closes her eyes in frustration. The one action that Martin cannot seem to alter is making decisions without Louisa’s input, and she is always incensed by it. Because Martin has no awareness of how unhappy she is when he neglects to consult her, he innocently puts himself in a position to receive her disdain. I don’t think Louisa is supposed to be deliberately insulting him here; she is simply reacting naturally, if with anger. (It’s remarkable that Martin frequently has so much trouble simply asking Louisa’s opinion, especially since that is the one thing that always puts her off.)

Martin sometimes behaves contemptuously towards Louisa when talking about her job and her students. He belittles the value of the school that she heads and the students she cares so much about. She is proud of how she handles the troubles that take place at the school and it’s demeaning that he considers the school subpar and her as easily replaced. We do see a sneer and a curling of his lip at times when he refers to what he witnesses at the school and her importance there. He also uses some hostile humor, e.g. when the students get sick due to daring each other.

“Defensiveness” is the third category. I’m not sure I can think of any examples of this. Martin has sometimes protested that he didn’t mean what he said to be taken the way it was, but that’s not the same as acting defensively to ward off an attack by Louisa. I really don’t remember Louisa using this tactic either. If any of you think of a time when this happens, please help me out.

Number four is “Stonewalling.” This one is huge in this show. I don’t want to confuse Martin’s lack of talking skills or introversion with deliberately avoiding giving an answer or knowingly removing himself.

Martin is the one who exhibits this behavior most frequently, of course. The example I used above where Louisa has to find him in his study is one of several. He also immediately absents himself once he and Louisa have gotten the bedroom ready for his mother’s stay. Their first night together begins with Martin walking off without his bride and making it difficult for her to keep up. I would definitely put the scene at the Sports Day celebration as a good example of him stonewalling. His silent treatment begins early that day when Louisa tries to eat breakfast with him and suggests a weekend outing. It continues when Louisa reminds him of his promise to speak at Sports Day. It reaches its apex at the celebration and then he walks off.

Louisa is not immune to this reaction either. Leaving is her métier, or her default position. When the going gets tough, Louisa gets going.

In both cases, my feeling is they are demonstrating a sense of disconnection and distance from each other.

There are ways Gottman suggests of reversing these behaviors. Here are some basic recommendations:

– Learn to make specific complaints & requests (when X happened, I felt Y, I want Z)

– Conscious communication: Speaking the unarguable truth & listening generously

– Validate your partner (let your partner know what makes sense to you about what they are saying; let them know you understand what they are feeling, see through their eyes)

– Shift to appreciation (5 times as much positive feeling & interaction as negative) – Claim responsibility: “What can I learn from this?” & “What can I do about it?”

– Re-write your inner script (replace thoughts of righteous indignation or innocent victimization with thoughts of appreciation, responsibility that are soothing & validating)

– Practice getting undefended (allowing your partner’s utterances to be what they really are: just thoughts and puffs of air) and let go of the stories that you are making up

Surprisingly, I noticed that when Louisa requested that Martin take James to music circle, it was she who wouldn’t listen or talk about it. In that instance, Martin asked if they could talk about the plan and she cut him off. She was in a hurry and had a lot of driving ahead of her, and that often makes it harder to take a few minutes to discuss anything; however, he is offering to talk and she refuses and becomes critical.

Is that enough to keep him from trying again? It has to be more complicated than that. They’ve had some good conversations at times and they clearly want to find a way to resolve their marital conflicts. I don’t see them ever hugging for very long, but a little affection can go a long way. Louisa kisses Martin spontaneously from time to time, including in S6. Martin needs to do more of that. We know he can; he has kissed her without prompting before they got married. Everyone likes to be complimented and shown some appreciation. It was nice when Louisa told Martin she would miss him before leaving for work. He didn’t respond, but I imagine those words touched him as well as embarrassed him.

This show would not remain what it’s been if Martin and Louisa no longer clash, but maybe we can get an answer to that question left hanging about happiness. It’s just possible that their happiness hinges on each of them providing the support and companionship they each need. That’s not a terrible way to leave this couple…A little sappy, but not terrible.




Originally posted 2015-03-31 18:21:24.

20 thoughts on “Marital Happiness

  1. Santa Traugott

    Great topic Karen. Am rushing now (going off to England, but not to Port Isaac — where Abby is right now!) –but a few thoughts.

    The concept of marital happiness plays such an important role in this series. The first explicit mention is, as I remember, the Rev. Porter, instructing Martin that the right question to ask is not, “does she make ME happy” but rather, do I make HER happy.” And shortly after that, there is the final scene of the non-wedding episode, when each admits to the other that their marriage wouldn’t make them happy (seemingly forgetting about Rev. Porter’s injunction). And then of course, seasons 5 and 6 see this prediction play out — Martin makes Louisa miserable, and it’s unclear, but something about being married to Louisa seems to play a role in making him miserable. So it’s not surprising to hear Louisa finally confront him with this. Martin’s reaction, like so many of his reactions, is defensive and not helpful. I’d like to think that if he had reassured her that she did make him happy and he wanted nothing more than her happiness, if he only knew what to do to achieve it, that she would have reconsidered her flight, but I think it was too late by this point.

    Anyway, the question that has always come up for me is, why is it a partner’s responsibility to make their spouse happy? Surely, we want to avoid making them actively unhappy, and want to offer support and affection and understanding as needed, but in the end, their happiness or unhappiness is ultimately their own responsibility. Or so it mostly seems to me.

    I’m familiar with Gottman’s work and indeed found it helpful when I was practicing. Marital partners get into these bad, relationship damaging habits, but it seems like Martin and Louisa have been there from the get-go.

    The examples you cite of Louisa’s damaging outbursts: it seems to me that usually Martin has done something to offend her, and her anger is “justified.” How she goes about getting redress or satisfaction is almost always counterproductive. I won’t say her misery is her own fault, but I do think a lot of her unhappiness results from her inability to confront Martin calmly and in a way that really communicates her needs. She seethes, repressses,and then explodes. She might be “happier” if she could speak her piece, see what he does with it, and make some decisions about next steps in a “wise mind” rather than in an emotionally reactive way.

    Martin is indeed an expert at stonewalling. It’s his basic character style, in a way! I imagine a real marriage counselor — would have to focus a lot, especially in the beginning, in changing their communication styles and opening them up to each other. But it won’t be easy, and heaven knows what the writers will come up with.

    I’m looking forward to what others have to say.

  2. Carol

    This is an interesting post and I really think those 4 ideas are big red flags – I have seen them hurt couple after couple. I agree with Santa though. I do think that we are responsible for our own happiness. We can’t expect our spouse to be the only source for that. In addition to their great communication issues, Martin and Louisa could both use a friend to do something fun with once in a while. (Yes, I know – Martin doesn’t do friends or fun – but someone needs to tell him he needs to.) I would love to see them both realize this. They are so inward focused and that puts needless additional pressure on their relationship. We all need other interests besides just work, family and marriage. When we in the US lived with extended family close by, and certain traditions in the community, those interests were natural and easy. These days we have to make more of an effort, but doing so is always helpful.

    The breakfast in the office episode you mentioned is particularly painful, I think. I can hardly stand to watch that if I am looking at reruns. It just feels so miserable. And Louisa here is trying desperately to have a bit of fun, change of scenery, etc. Martin, so depressed by this point, can’t do it. I for one really hope that the marital therapy includes the two of them being pushed (if that’s what it takes) to have some fun alone, and even with another couple – maybe Chris and his wife??

    And I’ll end by saying that, in order to do this, Martin needs a polo. A polo and some khakis. So now I’m adding to what I want to see. A smile, a polo, and some khakis!!! (And I KNOW he looks great in a suit, but just once?) 🙂

  3. Post author

    Thanks so much for writing when you’re about to leave. I didn’t know Abby had gone to PI. Hope she’s enjoying it when it’s fairly cold and wet.

    I remember you previously mentioning that you don’t think anyone should be responsible for another’s happiness. That’s a very complicated issue. We shouldn’t be in a position to be required to instill happiness in someone else, but without any intention on our part we can be blamed for someone else’s unhappiness. Each of us derives our sense of happiness from all sorts of things too. My dog, your cat, my car, your house, my cooking, your writing, my children, your parents…it’s endless. I guess it’s a lot easier to know how to reduce unhappiness than it is to induce happiness.

    I certainly agree that we should find what makes us happy on our own and not expect anyone else to provide that for us. I also agree that things would have gone very differently if Martin could have said something to Louisa that would have confirmed his love for her. She’s asked him twice and he’s left her hanging both times. Third time’s a charm?

    What do you make of Martin’s question about why everyone always wants to be happy?

  4. Post author

    A polo and khakis! Maybe he could just take off his tie and jacket. They’ve gone to a concert. They could find something to do together.

  5. Santa

    I thought in this instance, he was just being defensive,plus he was in such a bad place that happiness was a foreign concept to him

    Perhaps also, given his general dysthymia or depression, rather than looking inward and admitting he is unhappy and trying to figure out why, he is still in denial about how much emotional trouble he is in. By the end of E8, I think he might have given a very different answer.

  6. Post author

    He’s supposed to be stunned and trying to find a way to redeem himself after the way he acted at Sports Day, but this is one time when I have trouble accepting he expects L to come home and be ok. His mother is still there, she’s hurting both physically and mentally, and he hasn’t apologized or done anything to explain his behavior to her.

    We’ve gone from both of them agreeing they shouldn’t marry because neither of them would make the other happy to being unhappy but wondering what’s so important about being happy anyway. Maybe we need to return to the idea that he has little or no concept of happiness and is always being defensive. I still think the whole subject of happiness has been pursued throughout the show in all sorts of ways and must be someone’s hobby horse.

  7. Linda D

    A very interesting post Karen! I enjoyed reading of Gottman’s “Four Horseman” ideas. I copied this post in fact, because I think there are some great thoughts init. I agree that Louisa is more critical of Martin than the other way around. I think she feels she HAS to draw an answer out of him when he doesn’t have one. And yes, she often puts pressure on Martin to agree with her in a bullying sort of way. Let’s not forget that Martin can be infuriating!!! I don’t see either of them using contempt except for body language and tone of voice. She is so often put out when he ignores her feelings and ideas and he has a lot of trouble realizing why it irks her so much when he goes ahead with something without consulting her. Neither seems defensive nor do they engage in”yes butting”. Martin does stonewall but really, I believe he does it without really realizing he is doing it and he is rarely nasty. He seems very confused about Louisa’s reactions to him.

    They definitely need to learn how to deal with each other in new and more effective ways. As with all couples, they need to learn how to connect with one another. To do this, they work hard to understand each other. This will be tough for them as they have not been very good at it, Appreciation and validation is so necessary. That means, considering each other’s feelings and trying to understand why each acts the way they do. I suppose, as in any relationship, that means really wanting to make your partner happy and more fulfilled. Martin has no idea what happiness is or why it is important to others. It truly baffles him. Louisa can’t understand his lack of understanding of the concept of happiness. It will be important for Louisa to understand why Martin is so baffled by the concept of happiness or making others happy and content. We can only hope that they finally learn to accept each other and to appreciate each other and especially to enjoy each. I totally agree that they need to have friends and activities apart from one another as well as doing more together and as a family. And, certainly, it is important to make oneself happy before trying to keep anyone else happy! Great post and comments ALL!

  8. Post author

    Thanks Linda. It’s gratifying to know you felt the post was worth copying.

    As far as stonewalling is concerned, I want to distinguish between when Martin is simply being the person he is from the times when he is deliberately not answering. I think we have to say he is deliberately stonewalling many times in S6. He doesn’t want to tell her about the return of his blood phobia and claims he didn’t tell her because he didn’t want to worry her; he doesn’t mention testing himself; he deliberately does not tell her about his mother even though it has to be obvious to her that there’s a lot of tension between them; he says he’s fine when it comes to how he feels about his father’s death, etc. etc. He’s not being nasty, he’s doing what Gottman describes: “Withdrawing from the relationship as a way to avoid conflict” and as a way to be “neutral.” As Gottman states, when Martin acts this way Louisa thinks the “stonewalling conveys disapproval, icy distance, separation, disconnection, and/or smugness.” Instead of helping things, his silence is upsetting and perceived as anything but neutral.

    Whether Martin can conceptualize happiness is, to me, very muddled in this show. As I’ve said in my previous posts on happiness, we’ve seen Martin appear “happy” at various times and he agrees with Louisa that she wouldn’t make him happy either when they call off the first wedding. Somewhere in him there must be some sign of what it means to be happy. There are even little examples of Martin being glad, e.g. when he looks at the sonogram picture of the baby in S4, or when he tells Louisa in S5 he filled out the naming forms and she’s excited he agreed to James Henry, and especially in S6 when they are at the lodge after the wedding and she says “hello, husband.” He’s never going to laugh out loud or do anything markedly overt to reflect happiness, but it’s there in the show. However, the fact that he descends further and further into depression during S6 would impact whether he considers happiness a goal in his life. I admit that! And his being in that state can’t help but be troubling and deeply disheartening to Louisa.

    He’s stonewalling and keeping her at a distance while also becoming less and less pleasant to be around. She started the marriage with a good attitude and finding humor in some of his actions. She could even argue in good humor, while holding his arm, that their honeymoon night would be one they would never forget . But what they’ve done during S6 is take happiness out of the equation for this couple until, I think, Martin finally snaps out of his funk enough to realize he doesn’t want to lose Louisa. He wants her help, and that’s a good start. At least that indicates he has some willingness to allow her into his world to a greater extent.

  9. Linda D.

    I have thought more about this post and agree with a lot of what you have said in your reply Karen. You are right about Martin “stonewalling” to avoid conflict with Louisa. No doubt he is fearful about how he is feeling and is seeking a scientific answer but he is also fearful of revealing all of what is happening to Louisa. Perhaps he feels it will appear as a weakness or perhaps he is afraid of her reaction. He obviously does not trust that she will be understanding and empathetic. I think she would be totally compassionate IF only she knew why he was so troubled and why he was pulling away from her.

    That brings me to the point I wanted to make that occurred to me last evening. Each of them knows NOTHING about the past of the other! There have been a few bits and pieces of conversation but really, they don’t know. The viewers know more than anyone except for the writers. Those who read fan fiction, as I do, may have trouble differentiating between what they have read and what they have ACTUALLY SEEN. The writers have not connected the dots in the way that authors of fan fiction have. Louisa has not heard about Margaret’s previous visit nor did she meet Martin’s smarmy father. She certainly does not know what transpired during Margaret’s second visit but she did form a negative opinion of the woman. She may not yet have realized the terrible toll the visits have had on Martin and Martin has never told her! Seeing his demeanour change so drastically without explanation is scary for her. She does try to engage him in talk but is hurt by his refusal to let her in. That breakfast scene was PAINFUL. I was surprised that she didn’t ask him for an explanation but it was plain that she was so hurt that she just had to get up and leave. He must have known how hurt she was but he was paralyzed at that point and did not even try to explain nor apologize. Perhaps he didn’t know why he refused her offer of a weekend away. I think that scene, more than any other, showed the state of their marriage. It was just SAD and viewers were left stunned and crushed with the rest of the episode.

    You are right to point out how muddled things are with regard to Martin’s views of happiness and his actual mini moments of displaying it. You are right that he has had moments. The examples you gave were spot on. The night they talked after shoving Alison Lane out the door, he seemed pleased about the idea of finding “something new”. He made a joke about when she told him things were over with Danny Steele and that he had gone to London. Martin smiled a bit and said “I’m missing him already.” Until he blew it, he was smiling when he took her hand at the concert. I think he was proud and happy that Louisa accepted his first proposal of marriage and he seemed happy during the engagement period, until the end, of course. He was smiled and followed her with his eyes when they have met in the village, especially when she gave him a peck on the cheek. He was pleased at the real wedding reception when Chippy Miller told he that he had married a real beauty and he seemed happy during the wedding dance. You are right that the early honeymoon lodge scenes were lovely and he did seem happy. He even told her a joke. I suppose what I am saying is that inwardly he has happy moments but is not demonstrative at all. He just has no experience with it. He will never be the life of the party!

    They have to open up to each other with confidence and trust. That will be HUGE for them both.

  10. Post author

    Your additional examples of moments when Martin looks happy reinforce the argument that Martin can feel happiness and has displayed what we would identify as happiness. So we are left with the dilemma of whether Louisa makes him happy and whether being happy matters to him.

    Since they have given us many moments when Louisa appears to have made Martin happy, and we know he wants to be with her, maybe what his next step is is to start doing more to make her happy. And really mean it.

  11. LindaD.

    Absolutely. MARTIN in particular, and both in reality, must be DEMONSTRATIVE about their feelings – not just when in crisis. Both of them hold back. They must be CLEAR about what they want and how they feel both when in dark times and in good times. That’s how they will learn to be better parents and spouses. I REALLY believe they both want this but just need help to learn skills and just learn to trust each other to understand how each is feeling and thinking.

    I speak from experience when I say that I just expect my husband to “get” what I want or to understand exactly how I’m feeling. When things go wrong between us, it is most often because I hint loudly about what I want and he never gets it! Part of the trouble is that he is deaf and won’t deal with that. Part of the trouble is that he doesn’t bother to listen. Then I get upset with him when I am mostly to blame for not spelling things out. It upsets and enrages me and we don’t speak for days. I really don’t think he understands what happened nor does he try to find out. Sounds like Martin hmmm? Then, things just get left unresolved. My husband rarely apologizes either. He stonewalls and ignores the problem rather than admitting he is wrong. I can expertly pin him (and get great enjoyment in proving him wrong) but hejust squirms and says something stupid and won’t admit I am right. I feel this stems from his childhood where he had an ogre for a Dad who would line the kids up and try to force them to admit to things like eating his cookies or using a forbidden object etc. They learned to clam up and NEVER confess for fear of consequences (the belt). I can’t imagine my father-in-law EVER apologizing for anything and he certainly never thought about the feelings of others. My husband makes off handed comments designed to make me feel his disapproval – which usually is about me not doing something he thinks needs doing or me doing something in a way he disapproves of. We both find it hard to understand each other at times – mostly silly stuff though. Lest I sound too unhappy, I should say he is an optimist and he is relaxed most of the time. He works hard around the home and for others with no complaining. We’ve been married 42 years and have been happy most of the time. He’s a keeper.

  12. Post author

    Probably we could all benefit from counseling, individual and/or couples. I’m glad to hear your husband’s a keeper after 42 years! You both must be doing something right.

  13. Linda D

    Defensive, indeed Santa. It was a VERY poor answer but it did reflect his state of mind. Louisa certainly deserved much better from him considering her medical condition and her HUGE disappointment over Sports Day. His answer reflected that he really had NO IDEA of WHY she was feeling as she was and especially did not take the hint that going to her mother (who she isn’t fond of), was preferable to staying with him. I think he owed her BIG TIME, an effective apology for his abysmal behaviour. You might be right Santa, that he might have given a different answer at the end of E8. Oh my, that was such a PAINFUL run of episodes wasn’t it?

  14. Mary F.

    Many people tend to assume that their spouses are largely responsible for their personal happiness from the very beginning of courtship. Then they marry, the romance wears thin and they begin to fault their spouse. Its so much easier to attribute our feelings of happiness/unhappiness to the way our spouse makes us feel and not to what we do for ourselves as individuals. No one can make us happy, but how few of us realize this when we are in the throes of romance. Often this realization and the effort to change one’s perspective occur much later in the marriage, if it occurs at all.

    Martin doesn’t have a clue as to what makes Louisa so unhappy, well, at least not until the end of Series 6. But Louisa has not really made much effort to understand him either, though he has dropped several tantalizing hints of his horrible childhood. They do need counseling but they especially need to establish healthy friendships outside of each other to give them a bit of breathing room, perspective and….happiness.

  15. Post author

    Does he know what would make her happy? The biggest recurring problem between them has been his inability to realize that being a couple means making decisions together, especially about the major concerns like a christening date or the naming of your child. It is totally exasperating when someone you consider your partner, teammate, special mate, neglects to show you the respect you deserve. One significant change he could easily make is simply to include her whenever there is something important that needs to be decided. And that does include what color to paint the house or who to invite to dinner and when.

  16. Mary F.

    Yes; hopefully a little counseling will make it easier for him to share the decision making with Louisa.

  17. Santa Traugott

    As S7 filming is ramping up, I’m thinking again of Martin Clunes’ remark on some talk show that “we left them in a pretty grim place …they’re not sure if their marriage can survive.” (or words to that effect). I’m assuming that the situation has not improved when S7 picks up the story, at whatever point that is. We know why, I think, that Martin would be unsure — he’s not at all sure that he can convince Louisa to return to him, because the situation has deteriorated so badly. And also, might there not be a flavor of self-doubt as to whether he CAN change enough, and whether in fact he does deserve her? Does he even have a clue at this point about what changes Louisa wants/needs from him?

    I’m less clear about what Louisa wants/needs from Martin in order to return to the marriage. I’ve been trying to think about what actually was the deal-breaker for her. I think there were two moments: the one where she found out that the whole village knew about his blood phobia before she did, and he hadn’t confided in her, even though she is his wife. The second in E7 where she does her best to get him to open up to her — practically begging him, and he stonewalls her. He refuses her nurturance — breakfast and coffee — offers of listening, and of a weekend alone together. How shut-out she must have felt — even abandoned. He has left her, emotionally, and that’s been happening for some time (at least in her view — we, the audience, know better). The Sports Day fiasco was the icing on the cake. But for that though, she may have nerved herself to confront him with her unhappiness and tell him clearly that something had to change or she would have to leave him.

    So we surmise that because Louisa has “abandonment issues” so that his stonewalling must have cut especially deeply. He has to be open to giving and receiving love, in order for her to be happy in the relationship. His failure in this is going to be interpreted perhaps as abandonment, or at least as emotional withdrawal from her, perhaps (in her mind) because he is no longer in love with her. She thinks she has caused his unhappiness — “I’m not making you happy” and therefore he’s withdrawing from her.

    She needs him both to show her affection, and to let her in. But this is what he cannot do. Because, as Edith so aptly put it, he’s “developed a fear of intimacy.” Only it’s been there all along, and at different times, I think Louisa has believed that she’s finally cracked through, and this time there will be more emotional intimacy. “Do you know how long I’ve been waiting for you to say nice things?” sums this up.

    In the hospital, when he says “why do people talk so much about happiness’ and she shakes her head scornfully, she’s saying, that’s just what I expected from you. YOu can’t engage with me on an emotional level. You can’t bring yourself to tell me that I do make you happy, that all you want is for me to be happy,please help me to do better, and can’t we talk about this.

    What’s frustrating to watch about Louisa is that I think she knows, at some level, that he loves her. I think her problem with him is that he expects her to know that, that that would be enough, and he doesn’t have to prove this over and over with displays of affection, or even even trust to let down his guard and share himself with her. He just thought, it seems, that the mere act of getting married was enough. He could just continue in his usual way, but the difference would be that she would be there. But it’s not nearly enough for her.

    I’ve been thinking about “blood” as a metaphor here. We have the irony that Martin is a vascular surgeon — working all the time on blood flow. Blood — blood kin, warm-blooded, etc. All he can do is work, in a particularly cold-blooded and detached way — on keeping the blood flowing. It can’t, though, flow to him or from him — he’s too afraid. When he can’t avoid an intimate scene, I think the force of what he’s denied himself, breaks through, and a phobia of blood breaks through — read, all the experience of warmth, intimacy, the flow of emotion back and forth between two people who love each other. So Edith is wrong — he hasn’t developed a fear of intimacy — that’s what the blood phobia was masking. As it returns again, it has to be a sign that his difficulty with wanting and needing to be in loving relationships with others, has returned. Possibly in this case, b/c the demands on him are constant, beyond his wherewithal, and perhaps because of his growing fear that he is still the bad little boy in the closet, and he must shut himself off from the prospect of being hurt, when his inadequacy has come to light. Perhaps we can even say that he has emotionally left Louisa, out of fear that she will leave him.

    Marriage counseling will have to be pretty good to make progress on such deep-seated issues. Hopefully, a little will go a long way ,

  18. Post author

    Santa, I’m very sorry I haven’t had a chance to write a reply until now. Thank you again for keeping the discussion going. I find much in what you say to be good thinking, especially if we were talking about a real couple. I believe you hold the same view as I that in the show we will never see the comprehensive counseling we would like to see in a couple dealing with these same issues in their real lives.

    What I think we have done over these many months of not having a show to watch is to have fun and learn a lot from speculating about these individuals as if they were real. That is what inspired me to start a blog in the first place; there was so much to sink my teeth into. BUT, insofar as the show is concerned, the major topics that have been touched on have never been thoroughly explored. We could start with what exactly is Martin Ellingham’s background and childhood experiences? What were Louisa Glasson’s? Where do they stand on women’s issues, childcare, marriage, interpersonal interactions,family, etc., etc.?

    There seem to be many areas we could learn more about, but that’s not this show. What makes DM so good is that they introduce these topics at all, and what makes it so frustrating is that we only get a taste of all of them. The lack of filling in the details is, to some degree, what keeps us interested. In addition, if they are going to keep it light for the most part, they can’t get too intense about these subjects.

    I have come to see S6 and S7 as a unit like you do in that S6 took the couple apart and S7 will put them back together. Isn’t that also what MC said at some point? In this case, unlike other series, they did not reconcile before the end of S6. I don’t know how they will manage to reconcile in this series, and I would not be surprised if it takes well into the series before they have some event that catapults them into a new frame of mind. However, I doubt we’ll see too many counseling sessions or in depth analyses of their psychological states. I think all of us on this blog have gone way beyond what the show will do. Maybe we’ll get just enough to convince us that counseling took place and did some good.

    Then we’ll have more to add about what might have either taken place or might have been a better approach. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve reached the conclusion that there are too many paths they could take for us to guess where they will go from here. That’s smart writing and smart planning. They keep us wondering and speculating while using what we might be led to believe to take a different direction. They know their fan base is constantly looking for hints of what will happen next and don’t want to fall into any predictable pattern.

    The main thing I’m hoping for is getting back to more humor, more banter, and less doldrums. Louisa’s attempts to reach out to him, which you excellently describe, and which have surprisingly not made viewers more sympathetic to her, mean that she deserves to have him make a concerted effort, no matter how awkward or strained, to show her he wants the marriage to work. Your comments bear repeating: “I think there were two moments: the one where she found out that the whole village knew about his blood phobia before she did, and he hadn’t confided in her, even though she is his wife. The second in E7 where she does her best to get him to open up to her — practically begging him, and he stonewalls her. He refuses her nurturance — breakfast and coffee — offers of listening, and of a weekend alone together. How shut-out she must have felt — even abandoned. He has left her, emotionally, and that’s been happening for some time (at least in her view — we, the audience, know better). The Sports Day fiasco was the icing on the cake. But for that though, she may have nerved herself to confront him with her unhappiness and tell him clearly that something had to change or she would have to leave him.”

    He’s finally chased after her now and emotionally broken through his barriers by saving his wife. There’s much to hope for in this series. I look forward to some pay off to us for having to sit through the trials of S6!

  19. Amy Cohen

    Those four “horsemen” were interesting. I was feeling pretty good until I got to number 3! I know I’ve done that — though less now after 40 years than I did 40 years ago!

    I am once again thinking of this after S7 and wondering how much progress M & L have made, if any, on these last two horsemen, as they certainly have problems both with defensiveness and stonewalling.

  20. Post author

    I probably don’t have to say this, but we did all these exercises in an effort to pass the time until S7 came out. So we were looking at this couple as if they were real, although we knew that no matter how close to reality the writers made them, they were not acting and reacting in the real world. In addition, we have no idea if the way they were depicted was in a manner that would make sense to analyze as if they were real. (Which is to say that sometimes characters behave in a manner that is more key to the plot or for other motives than to follow a path close to reality.)

    That said, it is fun to consider their interactions as we might if they were seeking help. (At the time we knew there would be some therapy in S7.) They should have been viewed by a therapist as having these two horsemen and there could have been many therapeutic strategies engaged to help them. We didn’t see anything like that in S7, and you probably know that I was quite disappointed in the therapy.

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