Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!

Lessons on Marriage from Downton Abbey

on February 12, 2013
Downton Abbey
Are you hooked on Downton Abbey? Like many, I’m smitten! I’ve always loved costume dramas, especially ones where the actors speak with British accents. I’m a lifelong Anglophile and this series feeds my love for England, beautiful homes, and history all in a moving family saga. Well you know Auntie Em– of course I had to look and find examples I could apply to marriage, and find them I did!
(Disclaimer regarding plot spoilers and details– I’ve watched all of Season 1; 3 episodes of Season 2 on DVD; and all 5 episodes of Season 3. I don’t have them recorded so I might misquote something but I’ll get the general idea. ALSO– I do realize it’s only a TV show!)
Downton Abbey Cora and Robert

1. Fight for your marriage.

When we attended the Weekend to Remember marriage conference, the presenter urged the men not to give in to their tendency to be passive at home. Many husbands will fight all kinds of battles at work; identify and solve problems proactively and face issues head on; but at home they withdraw when faced with problems they don’t know the immediate solution for. I used to see this in my marriage. My armchair diagnosis (corroborated by Mr X) says that many men don’t have the relational skill to figure out a solution on their own, and that makes them feel inadequate– and that’s the worst thing a man can feel. There is also the feeling that, bad as things might be now, if you confront them, they might get worse.

FAIL: After Sybil dies, Cora blames Robert. He gives in to her request that he move out of their bedroom and when he tells Mary how much he misses Sybil, she begs him to “tell Mama.” He says, “She doesn’t want to hear it.” Don’t give up without a fight, Robert! In the end, it’s his mother that fights for his marriage. (In Robert’s defense, he has also lost his beloved child. Sometimes you just don’t have the strength to fight!)
PASS: Anna searches tirelessly for evidence that will exonerate Mr. Bates. She moves way outside her comfort zone, involving “the master” and a lawyer, as well as spending some amount of her money to pay the unsavory witness for speaking to her. Her efforts pay off, finally! Lesson to learn: It might take a long time; it might stretch you; it might seem hopeless, but hold out and keep fighting. Your marriage is worth it.
Downton Abbey Matthew and Mary
2. Your primary loyalty is for your spouse, not your parent.
 This is nothing new for regular Auntie Em readers. (Leave and Cleave was one of the most-read posts.) Mary’s love and loyalty to her father are undisputed and a recurring theme.
PASS: As Matthew tries to budge Robert on new ideas about operating the Estate, he needs Mary’s support. “I love my father,” she counters. “Of course you do. But cheer for me.” And later he feels sure he can make his plans work, “Now that you are on my team.”
3. Encourage your spouse to be their best, what God would have them to be.
PASS with an A PLUS: Anna told Mr. Bates she would leave everything and “live in sin” with him if his estranged, conniving wife wouldn’t agree to divorce him. He gently told her, “That’s not the path for you.” I loved him for that!
Downton Abbey Anna and Bates
4. Be honest– Don’t keep secrets.
FAIL: Back in season 1, Robert and Carson got proof that Thomas was a thief. He resigned and so they didn’t have to face the unpleasantness of firing him. But they decided it would be better if Cora didn’t know– so later on, when she arranges for Thomas to return in a position of some authority, it’s rather too late for them to object.

FAIL: Also, when Mary must have a “small operation” to correct a female problem, she doesn’t tell Matthew until it’s over and healed. “That’s why I was putting you off.” Matthew’s response, “I thought you’d gone off me,” is probably what most men think when their wives stop being intimate with them. This could have led to much more serious problems.
I’m sure you can find more examples of passing and failing. If you haven’t watched the series, season 1 is on Netflix instant viewing and Season 2 is on Netflix DVD. They are also all available for purchase. Pour yourself a cup of tea and enjoy!
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19 responses to “Lessons on Marriage from Downton Abbey

  1. I love this! Just shared it on Twitter.

  2. GC at Calm.Healthy.Sexy. says:

    Great points. The main thing I have noticed is how Matthew has changed since he and Mary got married. I definitely noticed his comment about Mary “playing on his team now.” He has become more alpha/assertive without in any way becoming obnoxious. I think he has to do that, or Mary would run circles around him!

  3. Good points, great correlations!! Nice :-) And hello, I am a total Anglophile! I do appreciate being able to label myself in this manner, hahahaha.

  4. Great illustrations! You’ve hit on one of my favorites – I’m constantly barking with laughter at Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham. (not the best role model, I know – but her zingers are priceless.)

  5. I like Downton but haven’t been an avid fan for much more than a year, so I’m still trying to keep up with the multiple story lines. And you’ve dug up some great gems that I’ve noticed along the way during this current season–that keeps me coming back for more! Thanks for this creative and thought-provoking post, Auntie Em. And consider linking it up with Wedded Wednesday over at my blog, Messy Marriage. :)

  6. I am hooked now too. Actually I did not know it was on until a friend told me. I too just purchased the first two DVD’s and watched some of the season 1 today, I am watching season 3 on PBS but will buy that season too. I love history especially European history and that era is one of many that always intrigued me so I am enjoying myself completely. I guess you can say I am also an “Anglophile”. :)

  7. Scott says:

    LOL good one but I had to pass over some of it because we haven’t seen Season 3 yet! :) We love the show too… in fact I wrote a blog for my work called ‘Four lessons job hunters can learn from Downton Abbey.’ :) http://www.ppsstaffing.net/2013/02/01/four-lessons-job-hunters-can-learn-from-downton-abbey/ It seems there is a lot to learn from that excellent show!!

  8. I have never seen Downton Abbey so I can’t follow that part of your post too well. I was raised on British accents, having British, Scottish, Australian, and New Zealand teachers. Your marriage advice is always the best and fighting for your marriage is wonderful advice in a day when we are being told to leave not cleave to our marriage.

    Thanks for blessing WholeHearted Home again this week!!

  9. Cherry says:

    Linking up after you at Thought Provoking Thursday – fun to read your post! I love Downton Abbey, too – lots to learn about marriage from it, and you did well with your assessment.

  10. Thank you for linking this post up to Saturday Night Stars. It was one of my favorite posts! I remember reading when you wrote it and I love it.

    My hope is that Saturday Night Stars will take off and we’ll all get to meet some new bloggers through it. Thanks for being part of the very first Link Party. You’re shining bright!
    ~FringeGirl

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