Category Archives: marriage and love

A comic’s look at dramedy

I am admittedly finding less and less to write about in regard to this show. Although the blog will remain open for a while longer because the time I paid for isn’t up until several more months have passed, I am straining to find anything of value to write about. As you know this blog is not a recap sort of site, nor is it a fan site for any of the actors. I have always written posts that have been inspired by ideas that arose from the show, and I think they have found ways to address a myriad of worthwhile subjects over the years. However, this last series has not introduced much in the way of new topics for discussion, and those I found, I’ve already written about.

One of the subjects we have had some moderate dispute over is whether this show was meant to be a drama or a comedy — or a combination of both, a dramedy. After listening to the most recent interview with Philippa Braithwaite, I feel assured that they consider the show a combination of comedy and drama and they try hard to find the right balance. That balance is essentially where they have at times gone off track, IMO. In S6, the show went too heavily for the dramatic and lost too much of the humor; in S7, they became farcical and neglected the drama to a great extent. They attempted to use the therapy as their dramatic vehicle, but even that became farcical, and determining the plot of each episode based on the actions recommended by the therapist became too forced. Plus the fact that it was obvious that they planned to put off any reconciliation between Martin and Louisa until the final episode made much of the action less compelling, and less convincing.

Then the final episode was so cartoonish and hard to swallow that the anticipated and presumed resolution was anticlimactic to a great extent. If anyone was going to have to make concessions this time, it would have to be Louisa. And it was her turn to both admit she was also at fault and ask for forgiveness. Throughout this series there were foreshadowings during the therapy sessions that Louisa was discovering her own role in their marital woes. Martin had admitted being wrong several other times. (That is not to say that their reconciliation wasn’t welcomed; only that its arrival was too long in the making.)

Now we’ve had S8. This series ended up toning down the interaction between Martin and Louisa to such an extent that there was very little humor between them, or even in their lives. The humor derived primarily from the other members of the ensemble and was relatively humdrum. The moments that elicited a laugh were few and far between, at least for me.

I did see a good cartoon in The New Yorker magazine that illustrates the mixture of comedy and drama in a dramedy, and thought it was worth sharing with you:

What this cartoonist has depicted, much as I argued in previous posts, is that basically dramedy revolves around relationships that often lead to some injury that is more likely to hurt someone’s pride than their body. And we laugh because they deserve the injury and because we’re human. In this case it’s the man who has decided to leave and the woman looking nonplussed. It’s left to our imagination how she might react when he steps on the banana peel, but most of us would expect her to get at least a little sense of schadenfreude from it. (I love the use of the banana peel again too.) And the man might find himself feeling foolish and undignified as he carries his luggage in a self-important manner. Like this cartoon, Doc Martin is a television series that uses both serious and comic subjects that they try to offset in as close to equal parts as possible but sometimes have overshot in one direction or the other.

Sometimes the Obvious Isn’t

I have let this blog languish for several months because I had run out of topics to discuss and felt safe in assuming that until they shot another series, there really wasn’t much to say. To some degree you can blame the NYTimes again for motivating me to write more.

This time they published another article on change as it relates to marriage and I thought it was worth mentioning. I know there is some previous post in which I noted that we all can’t help changing as we grow older. I don’t think that was an earth-shattering revelation; nevertheless, a recent article in the Times arrived at just that sort of conclusion. That they consider an article of this kind of continuing value, makes me think it’s worth mentioning here again.

What impressed me in this recent article is that the writer takes a stand in favor of acknowledging change, and even expecting it, as an integral facet of marriage such that married couples ought not to use change as a perpetrator of separation or divorce.

I particularly like her assertion that “being forever content with a spouse…requires finding ways to be happy with different versions of that person.” She goes on to say “several long-married people I know have said this exact line: ‘I’ve had at least three marriages. They’ve just all been with the same person.’”

So, for what it’s worth, in regard to Louisa and Martin, Louisa’s decision to stay married to Martin and accept him is truly what all married couples do. There will be inevitable changes, and rolling with them is a requirement of staying married. Heck, maybe that’s what keeps marriages fresh!

(I hope to publish another post very soon.)

Originally posted 2017-04-22 13:15:06.

Can We Talk?

Why do I feel so disappointed about S8? What is it about this series that simply does not live up to the previous ones? S6 had gotten too dark for me; S7 was too farcical and cartoonish. Nevertheless, I had found plenty to write about and much that made me laugh. This time I have tried to find something that motivates me to write and been struggling. In fact, even the titles of the episodes have not lived up to those of the past. For the most part I have found them trite and lacking any insight into the episode, unlike those of the past.

After doing some thinking, I have come up with the following reasons for my dissatisfaction:

1. To a great extent it has to do with the lack of a story arc for the series. My best guess at one is Louisa deciding to change jobs. It’s the only thread that has continued throughout the series. The only other threads, if we can call them that, are Martin’s blood phobia and, perhaps, the newfound ability of Martin and Louisa to actually get through a conversation without being interrupted. These haven’t been developed enough to carry the series. For some reason the occasions that presented opportunities for worthwhile development were not taken advantage of, e.g. Louisa attending classes with a former student of hers.

2. I am also very disappointed in the writing for this series and in the disjointed plots for each episode. We have previously had episodes in which the main storyline was supported by subplots and in which there were some excellent monologues and dialogues. There were often references to other literary sources or lyrics to songs. There was wordplay and ambiguity. It made the show a fun intellectual endeavor as much as an engaging bit of entertainment.

3. They chose to include almost no affection between Martin and Louisa. In my mind the producers and writers of this show must have been aware that the fans of this show were delighted that the conclusion of S7 reconciled Martin and Louisa and they expressed their mutual love for each other and had a passionate kiss. However, in this series, apart from Martin moving back into the house with Louisa and James, their sharing of duties related to James, and some perfunctory pecks on Martin’s cheek by Louisa, there is precious little to convince us that they are enjoying life together. There are some signs that Martin has taken a few pieces of advice from Dr. Timoney: he makes arrangements for a dinner date with Louisa; he allows Louisa to be “the decider” about James going to a daycare; having a dog; and about the car; and they have a standing lunch date on Thursdays (though we haven’t seen that actually happen). None of these instances leads to any meaningful or affectionate moments.

In this series the most likely bedroom situation appears to be Martin waking up to find Louisa already out of bed. In addition, Louisa tends to be late coming home. James is already in bed, the dog is a nonentity as well, and their conversation rather perfunctory. What happened to those scenes in the bedroom when they talk about a variety of things and actually seem to care about each other like in S5? Why wouldn’t they practice some of the other advice they got from Dr. T, such as saying something complimentary to each other or hugging now and then? Both of them demonstrate concern for the other at times throughout the series, but the deep expression of tenderness and devotion is gone.

4. I am a bit surprised that Martin doesn’t welcome Louisa’s decision to terminate her headmistress position. If anything he should be very happy that she won’t have the stress of the job as well as the course work, and he has always wanted her to spend more time at home with James. Although I would imagine James would still go to daycare regularly, Louisa might be available to drop him off and pick him up as well as find days when she could keep him home. Quitting her paying job is a big move for Louisa since she has never wanted to be a “kept” woman. By considering this change, isn’t she indicating that she’s willing to relent in that area, and perhaps even showing a willingness to trust Martin as her partner? (The fact that he may be forced to take a break from his medical practice and their source of income may be up in the air has not entered into her decision at this point.)

[I want to take a time out here to mention that I have looked up what is the likely procedure for filing claims against private physicians in the UK. According to a site I found that provides the rules for Medical Malpractice Liability in England and Wales, most GPs are covered by the Medical Protection Society and it is they who “will provide advice and may undertake the defense and settlement of the case.” It would be unlikely that he would be forced to stop practicing medicine; his practice manager (Chris Parsons) has recommended that he stop seeing patients until this claim is settled. However, from my perspective this patient will have a hard time proving that ME is incapable of taking care of patients, especially after this series has been chock full of patients he has treated and whose lives he has saved. Moreover, she did not follow his medical advice and there are plenty of witnesses to that.]

5. Despite the assertion that they don’t want to repeat themselves, they have been doing just that. Here is a quick list of the many repetitious scenes they have used this series:

  • A contagious disease that affects a group and ruins a party
  • A professional woman self-medicating and becoming crazed. This one, in particular, bothers me. Is this such a pervasive problem in UK that we have it appear so often in this show?
  • A wedding that is called off and the bride leaves town
  • Bert serves tainted food or water
  • Bert lies about where he’s sleeping and how his business is doing
  • Ruth has to warn Al and Bert about her lack of confidence in them
  • A woman uses shells and other “detritus” to create jewelry
  • Mrs. T acts the fool around Martin even after recommitting to her marriage
  • An older woman malingers in Martin’s surgery

6. There are glaring gaps. For example, who buys the farm? Why does James never say another word? Who the heck is Ken Hollister or Hannah Butler or Trevor Dodds? We’ve seen a lot of characters come and go, but these seem to be regular members of the town that we’ve never met before yet everyone knows them. And why isn’t Hannah more upset about the loss of her tent, much less the safety of her guests?

We would wonder about the farm because it has been in the Ellingham family for many years, it’s been a fixture in this show, and we would suppose that whoever buys it would be important to them and the show; we would expect James to say more than one word by now; and we have been introduced to many of the townspeople throughout the show, but Ken owning the pub comes as quite a surprise.

How did Martin’s foot tendon heal so quickly? And Angela Sim’s compound fracture of her clavicle? She doesn’t seem to be in much discomfort when we next see her. How did Mrs. T suddenly become more capable of functioning without therapy? Whatever happened with James and the biting at school?

7. With so many new characters appearing constantly, the show has become choppy with little connection between one episode and the next. Only Angela Sim has returned for a second episode, and then very briefly. I could have imagined her nephew Toby appearing again.

8. In their effort to have some sort of excitement in each episode they have gone to extremes to find medical conditions to take up the time. There are so many incidents in each episode that nothing is fully explored and it’s easy to lose track of what each episode was about. As mentioned before on this blog, plot requires conflict. Where’s the conflict in this series? It’s fine to show Martin and Louisa having a calm home life, but let’s have some spats that typical couples have, and they used to as well. Everything has gotten too sedate. It’s only in S7 that we see the beginning of some action that might not be resolved so quickly.

9. The dog on the bed is particularly inexplicable to me. Louisa has now gone from wanting Martin to get the dog out of the bedroom to allowing the dog on the bed; Martin has gone from throwing the dog out of the bedroom window to ignoring it. Once that takes place, the whole dog issue falls by the wayside very quickly. The only practice he continues to do with the dog is wear gloves to handle it. Is that a gag that is supposed to be funny every time? Even when the dog chews James’s teething ring, nothing about the dog develops.

10. Finally, the routine behavior of the key members of the cast has now grown stale. Some of you find Morwenna and Al more grown up and Penhale somewhat more capable. I don’t see that so much, and I definitely don’t see a change in Mrs. Tishell or Bert at all. Their comedic gimmicks are the same old stuff and they are no longer funny (or even pathos inducing).

I have held Jack Lothian in high esteem for many years and had hoped his larger role as show runner this series was going to add all sorts of enlightened storylines and humor. It is a particular letdown to me that that hasn’t happened. This blog has been my way of admiring the show through analyzing it. Writing the above is painful for me.

Social Anxiety, Happiness, Fixing People You Love, etc.

Over the past few months I have been collecting articles that relate to many of the topics we have been discussing on this blog. I don’t think they merit individual posts so I am collating them here in one post. Please respond to whichever ones take your fancy.

I’ll begin this collection with the topic of social anxiety and other related subjects:
ME certainly does not like to socialize, and there have been several times when it was clear that speaking in front of a group was unpleasant for him and he was incredibly bad at it. He rarely wants to attend social events like parties, and he turns down all offers to have a pint or have a friendly interaction with Joe (or Mark from earlier series).

An article I read made me wonder about the origins of social anxiety and whether the humorous set pieces in DM where he unequivocally turns down an invitation to a wedding or an opportunity to join a group could also be associated with other events in his life and shed some light on the plight of people who suffer from social anxiety.

The article quotes, Stefan G. Hofmann, the director of the Social Anxiety Program at Boston University: “Social anxiety is a result of the fear of a possibility that we will not be accepted by our peers. It’s the fear of negative evaluation by others, and that is [part of] a very fundamental, biological need to be liked.”

“Social anxiety is a very normal stage that children go through, [along with] separation anxiety and stranger anxiety.”

Also, “Social anxiety disorder is the most common form among all the anxiety disorders. It actually is also ranked, in comparison to all the other mental disorders, as one of the most common disorders, next only to depression and substance use disorder. Thirteen out of 100 people meet criteria for social anxiety disorder [at some point in life].”

“The definition of a mental disorder is that it causes either significant distress, and/or significant interference in one’s life. So you might be able to perform normally during daily life, but you’re terribly distressed around these social situations, such as meeting people, giving speeches, or doing things in front of people.”

We have a pretty good example of this disorder in the character of Martin Ellingham. (BTW, I wouldn’t say that negates anything I said about him as a superhero. Because superheroes need to hide their identities they harbor a higher than average need to be alone and often do not socialize unless it helps them capture the villain.) He would rather stay at home, especially with Louisa and James, than attend any of the community events in Portwenn.

This sort of avoidance of social interaction also connects to another article that was in today’s NYTimes. This article brings up both being in social settings and how to achieve happiness. We might say that both ME and Louisa could use more of what we might call networking or perhaps associating with others on a personal basis. Like many people who work, they have plenty of interfacing with colleagues and clients/patients/students/parents while having very little with someone in whom they can confide. Along those lines there is a humorous article, also in the Times, about complaining. The author loves to complain and says, “Being a person is terrible. And complaining about it is the purest, most soothing form of protest there is. Complaining feels so good. It’s like casting off the oppressive wool coat you’ve been buried under since October on that first truly beautiful warm April day. Pointlessly yelling into the void about some minor injustice you’ve suffered is the perfect relief for the giant wave of anxiety crashing against your insides, a balm for the wounds that riding public transportation with people who don’t use headphones while they listen to music can inflict upon your weary soul. It doesn’t even have to be verbal. The shared grimace and eye roll between me and the other woman who was inconvenienced by the oversize suitcase the man in Seat 3B tried to sneak past the flight attendant can feel better than a long hug. Complaining is a hot bath for your feelings.” Obviously she would not recommend anything close to repressing one’s feelings. In fact, she might consider ME’s outbursts about the townspeople very healthy for him. Not only that, but the occasional shared eye contact between ME and Morwenna or Louisa connects them in a somewhat intimate way.

That leads me to another article that recently appeared in the NYTimes. In this article the wife of a married couple, Peter Pearson and Ellyn Bader, who have established a couple’s therapy institute is quoted as saying,“he’s lots of things that my best friend isn’t, but my best friend is lots of things he’s not.” Her point is that having a close connection to one’s spouse does not satisfy all of our needs in terms of having someone to talk to and divulge intimate thoughts to. Sometimes those thoughts might be about one’s spouse! This pair also challenge “the notion that you shouldn’t get married to change someone.” ‘I think that’s what marriage is about,’ Dr. Bader says. ‘It’s where some of the juices come from, and it’s also how you get the best out of the person you marry.’ Of course we know that part of the reason ME and Louisa don’t have personal friends is the constraint of the show. Whereas they bring in all sorts of outsiders during each series, and in S8 we seem to have at least one new addition in each episode, most of these are “one and dones,” as they say. We will never see them again and they do not develop into anyone who becomes a confidant. Louisa has had Holly and Isobel, but they did more confiding in her than she did in them. Martin has had Roger Fenn and Chris Parsons very briefly and not often. With them he listens and rarely reveals much, especially after S1.

The change comments are interesting. We might argue with that position; however, there is certainly some indisputable validity to them. If we don’t acknowledge that we change throughout our marriage, we would be denying the truth, and I doubt any of us has never tried to change something about our spouse.

In regard to the notion of changing someone you love, there was another article in the NYTimes that engaged with that topic. They distill their argument by saying, “To make us feel loved and valued, our spouse must convey appreciation for the person we currently are. To help us grow, he or she must emphasize the discrepancy between that person and the person we can ideally become, typically by casting a sober, critical eye on our faults.” They admit that this balancing act is very demanding and hard to achieve yet extremely gratifying. Their examples appear to recognize that it usually falls to one spouse (or partner) to fulfill this task. In the case of ME and Louisa, we could say that ME is fairly comfortable in his role as GP and the sense of accomplishment it gives him and that it’s Louisa who is still searching to find that level of satisfaction both at home and at work. We might actually want to applaud ME for pushing Louisa to raise her competency both at home and at work, and even in her new endeavor to become a child therapist, if it weren’t for the fact that he rarely demonstrates any affection or loving support for her. He’s more in the territory of belittling her and showing off his own abilities and knowledge. She could use more expression of love and appreciation!

I am clearly always thinking about what we see in this show while I read the newspaper. These articles also appeal to me on a personal level. I’m interested to see what kind of reaction I get from all of you.

If You’re Happy and You Know it

The theme of Louisa needing to be happy returns in E1, E2 and again in E3 when Louisa tells Martin she’s not unhappy as they head to the church for the wedding, next when Martin asks if Louisa is happy that JH is in a daycare setting and then when he asks her if pursuing the idea of becoming a child therapist will make her happy. These three moments relate in kind to what I see as the times when Louisa can be identified as being happy.

I have written many times about the concept of happiness, the inborn desire most humans have to be happy, and how nations have written the importance of happiness into their laws. This time I want to approach the subject of happiness from another angle, a much more practical one. Now that we have heard Martin claim to care very little about his own happiness, or at least found the notion of happiness to be overrated, and Louisa note in S6 that she’s not happy and isn’t making Martin happy either, I am going to stick to the show to see how we can make heads or tails out of this.

We know that being happy is important to Louisa, but what do we think makes her happy? By all appearances she was very happy when Martin first asked her for a date and walked off with a bounce in her step, but she was also enjoying herself with Mark at the local dance. She was quite happy when Martin asked her to marry him and she told all of her colleagues. She has also appeared happy when she told off Adrian Pitts at the hospital, when she thought she had found a solution to Roger Fenn’s employment issue, when she and Danny were stepping out together (although that was complicated by the likelihood that she was trying to make Martin jealous), at various moments when she worked with some of the students (e.g. Peter Cronk, some group events, and finally with Astrid), and when she was hired as the headmistress for the school. She was quite pleased after Martin told her he thought she’d make a fine mother (when they were dealing with Anthony Oakwood and his family next-door to her), and when he gave her the engagement ring. Another prominent time when she appeared happy was when she returned home after an evening out with friends to find Martin having a nice moment with James. There have been several occasions with James when she displayed pleasure at being around him. One that stands out in my memory is in S6 when she and Martin are getting ready in the morning and she sets James down on the bed while telling him he’s gorgeous.

When we distill these moments we are left with Louisa mostly being depicted as happy in response to Martin and related matters, and to some degree with James, and to an even smaller extent when she is involved with students. She has very few friends despite having spent most of her life in Portwenn. Pippa and Caroline (the radio personality) have at times acted as friends, she has seen Danny as a friend and perhaps Roger, but otherwise her friends have come from outside of Portwenn, e.g. Holly and Isobel. It may be hard to include friends in a show like this since that means adding more characters, nevertheless, it is unfortunate that Louisa doesn’t have a confidant or a mother with whom she has regular interactions. If she did, we might know more about her inner thoughts. We got more of those when her mother was around. (BTW, it seems a bit strange that after she spends some time in Spain with her mother while thinking about her marriage to Martin, she has never mentioned her mother again.)

Apparently she is looking for happiness in her close family circle which mostly consists of Martin and James. Apart from that she is anxious to find an outside job that can fulfill her and allow her time at home. She had thought she could get that from being headmistress at the local school, but even that seems to be too demanding of her time. The fact is that being in charge of a school, even in a small village, requires that she deal with all sorts of difficulties encountered by her students as well as filling in for absentee teachers. (I can vouch for the reality of that because my daughter is a principal of a private elementary school and that is exactly what she does all year long.) It’s hard to know if being a child therapist would give her more time at home, but we’re about to find out what it might take to reach that point. In a nutshell, to the best of our knowledge she derives happiness most from her immediate family and from her abilities as a teacher.

Martin may say he isn’t concerned about being happy, but his words are a cover-up for actually needing happiness in his life after all. I say this because when he is rebuffed by Louisa after the concert, he has a sleepless night, can’t concentrate at work, and ultimately proposes to her by telling her he can’t bear to be without her. This sort of reaction recurs several more times throughout the series, e.g. when she is giving birth to their baby, when they rescue James from Mrs. T, and when he operates on her AVM. It’s crystal clear that he needs her in his life. One could argue that the entire S7 is about him being miserable without her (and James). If he’s miserable without her, does that mean he’s happy with her? Well, he’s not unhappy.

We also see him almost smile at times when she kisses him, even if the kiss is only a small peck on the cheek, or when he takes her hand as they’re walking.

We can’t expect too much expression of emotion from this self-contained man because that’s not how they have developed his character nor how MC wants to portray him. However, in his own way we know he’s at least content that Louisa isn’t going anywhere. At this point I would argue he has decided that keeping her happy is what is important to him and what the therapy has convinced him he should do, and he is following many of Dr. Timoney’s recommendations. He is scheduling dates with Louisa; he is empowering her to be in charge by agreeing to the day care, accepting the Rota she prepares, and agreeing to keep the dog; and he is making some effort to be more social. It remains hard for him to stifle his tendency to act superior, but again this would be out of character.

Like Louisa, what makes him as happy as he can get is being with his family. He has no friends unless we count Morwenna and Al. He gets a sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction out of diagnosing and treating the various medical cases he’s presented with, but the only real sense of pleasure or subtle joy comes after he has given Louisa something to gladden her (think deciding to name the baby James Henry).

Ultimately, therefore, I have reached the conclusion that both Louisa and Martin are depicted as finding happiness in their own family unit. We could also say they both find fulfillment in a job well done, which often means helping others. It is also for this reason that I think they are compatible as a couple. Would it be nice to see them get involved in an activity that they could both enjoy? Sure. Will they? Probably unlikely, although I think that would open up all sorts of humorous situations.

[Dale, I hope this post is what you were hoping for. If not, please feel free to give us your thoughts.]

Love Actually (I Know, Not Original)

[Something weird is going on with my blog right now and I can’t figure out how to change it. Please do not click on any links that have the green circle with arrow. They should not be there. I’ll keep trying to remove them.]

As has happened many times in the past, the NYTimes published an article last Sunday that can be applied to this show. (I first learned about it from Santa, and I thank her for bringing it to  my attention. I rarely miss articles in the Sunday Review of the NYT because there are often so many good ones. I’m glad I’ve taken this long to publish this post because the Sunday NYTimes from this week contains several letters in reaction to the article.) Anyway, the article was written by Alain de Botton, a Swiss-born, British-based philosopher who has been elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature (FRSL), which appears to be quite an honor. He has been writing novels based on the philosophy of love and marriage for some time. This particular article precedes his forthcoming novel The Course of Love and is titled “Why You Will Marry The Wrong Person.” He has some singular ways of viewing marriage.

Botton covers several pertinent issues related to what we’ve seen going on between Martin and Louisa that I want to take on individually. (This article will also give me a chance to reference several of my previous posts and I hope it won’t appear presumptuous if I call your attention to those whenever it seems appropriate.)

The first thing that jumped out at me was his use of the adjective “normal.” To quote him: “We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well.” I’m pretty sure his use of “normal” here is the common usage that each of us goes about the day fitting into society. And it is generally true that most of us aren’t walking around muttering to ourselves or making strange gestures in public. But, as a philosopher, Botton must be aware that the word “normal” is loaded, as Dr. Timoney says.  [As you probably remember, I wrote a post on what the term “normal” means on Jan. 12, 2016 named “Normal Is A Loaded Word.”]

Nevertheless his concluding paragraph begins with: “Romanticism has been unhelpful to us; it is a harsh philosophy. It has made a lot of what we go through in marriage seem exceptional and appalling. We end up  and convinced that our union, with its imperfections, is not ‘normal.’” In this case Botton is using the term to connote some form of happiness that comes from an idealized notion of how a marriage should look. [ I wrote a post on 11-04-2013 called “Marriage As An Institution” in which I looked at all the reasons why Martin and Louisa would want to marry as well as some of the reasons they might have problems being married. In some ways that post is a companion piece to this one and you may want to read it. I’ve also written 6 posts on “Happiness.” After the subject of change and all of its manifestations, I’d say the topic of happiness is the next most frequent that comes up in the show.]

Although I think that when most people fall in love, they can’t help being blinded to some of the faults in their lovers, and it’s nice to have that period of time when love is blissful, lately we are becoming less likely to rush into marriage. Once you’ve been around your intended for a year or so, it would be surprising if you didn’t pick up on a few of their idiosyncrasies. We still make mistakes, of course, and sometimes that can be due to being a bit starry eyed; nevertheless, I think couples generally don’t miss those foibles in each other; they just believe they can overlook them or overcome them. In Martin and Louisa’s case, they have known each other and lived with each other over a fairly extended period of time. By the time they decide to marry they have had plenty of occasions that should have given them enough opportunities to recognize the potential areas of conflict. Despite all of these moments, we are supposed to believe that Louisa doesn’t realize yet that Martin is inclined to be unwilling/unable to share his innermost thoughts and fears with her. (Interestingly, one letter to the NYTimes notes that “marrying the right person…requires the strength to lower your walls. All of your walls, all the way down.” Apparently there are many people who erect walls and have to find a way to lower them.) We’re also supposed to believe that Martin continues to have trouble knowing what makes Louisa happy. She has explicitly told him at the end of S5 that she wants to hear him say “nice” things to her, and she has been pretty clear that it matters to her that he join her in some school activities. Moreover, they have both stated they plan to do their best to prevent James Henry from becoming as introverted as his father (if we remember what Martin says to Louisa during that conversation at the end of S5, and what Louisa says to Martin when she asks him to take JH to the music group).

Botton’s title for the essay refers to marrying the “wrong” person. What he really means is that people may have an idealized notion of what marriage should be like, and how a marriage should unfold. Botton relates our tendency to have false expectations to the circumstances we experienced during childhood, which definitely plays a role in how  Doc Martin  has been constructed. Botton asserts “we marry the wrong people because we don’t associate being loved with feeling happy.” This takes place if we have had troubled childhoods in which we’ve experienced feelings of “wanting to help an adult who was out of control, [or] of being deprived of a parent’s warmth or scared of his anger, of not feeling secure enough to communicate our wishes.” In Doc Martin Louisa has had to deal with parents who are out of control in the sense that her father’s gambling led to debts and possibly to problems between him and her mother. Martin has definitely been deprived of any warmth from his parents and on the receiving end of unjustified anger. He must have felt insecure. Thus, there is a sort of disconnect between the notion of love and that of happiness.

If Martin has no idea why it’s so important for people to be happy, and why he thinks happiness is overrated, it could be because he has never really known actual happiness. Now when he has brief flashes of happiness, they don’t seem to last, and Botton would consider this expected. Yet Martin is aware that Louisa finds being happy important, and we know that Louisa has had moments of happiness in her childhood (e.g. when her father took her for ice cream). Somewhere buried in Louisa, according to Botton, is that good sensation of happiness during her childhood that she wants to recreate.

But Botton is reassuring. He goes on to say “the good news is that it doesn’t matter if we find we have married the wrong person…We need to swap the Romantic view for a tragic (and at points comedic) awareness that every human will frustrate, anger, annoy, madden and disappoint us — and we will (without any malice) do the same to them. There can be no end to our sense of emptiness and incompleteness. But none of this is unusual or grounds for divorce. Choosing whom to commit ourselves to is merely a case of identifying which particular variety of suffering we would most like to sacrifice ourselves for.” And we can make a case for this point of view using the show as a guide. As a dramedy, Doc Martin uses both the tragic and comic aspects of marriage and shows us that some of the tensions arise out of situations we can laugh about. So when Martin wants Louisa to keep the baby quiet during his workday or when Louisa keeps the house less tidy than Martin would like, it’s amusing and these are very common problems.

By the end of S7, we have arrived at something akin to Botton’s view that “rather than some notional idea of perfect complementarity, it is the capacity to tolerate differences with generosity” that is the key to making a marriage work. Martin is willing to endure more noise and mess while Louisa has decided that she can accept Martin’s quirks. Botton concludes that “we should learn to accommodate ourselves to ‘wrongness,’ striving always to adopt a more forgiving, humorous and kindly perspective on its multiple examples in ourselves and in our partners” and believes that “compatibility is an achievement of love; it must not be its precondition.”

If we agree with Botton, then we can drop any difficulties we might have with whether Martin and Louisa are compatible, and should be married, and recognize that now they have reached a nexus point. Hallelujah!

[Some quotes from Alain de Botton:

“We fall in love because we long to escape from ourselves with someone as beautiful, intelligent, and witty as we are ugly, stupid, and dull. But what if such a perfect being should one day turn around and decide they will love us back? We can only be somewhat shocked-how can they be as wonderful as we had hoped when they have the bad taste to approve of someone like us?”
― Alain de BottonOn Love

“If cynicism and love lie at opposite ends of a spectrum, do we not sometimes fall in love in order to escape the debilitating cynicism to which we are prone? Is there not in every coup de foudre a certain willful exaggeration of the qualities of the beloved, an exaggeration which distracts us from our habitual pessimism and focuses our energies on someone in whom we can believe in a way we have never believed in ourselves?”
― Alain de BottonOn Love

Do you love me enough that I may be weak with you? Everyone loves strength, but do you love me for my weakness? That is the real test.

Alain de Botton]

 

Originally posted 2016-06-05 18:01:51.