Written by Writer’s Corps member Julie Oltmann
NBC’s This is Us has captured our hearts, and it’s not just because of its uncanny ability to evoke our deepest emotions while keeping us captivated and eager for the next episode. As we follow the Pearson family each Tuesday night, it’s hard not to notice a central focus throughout the show: relationships. But we’re not seeing the all-too-familiar fairytale romances this time – these are relatable stories full of passion, turmoil, and all kinds of ups and downs.
While no relationship is perfect, and ALL relationships take hard work, it is important to understand the signs of a healthy one. Let’s take a look at some examples of how characters in This is Us display healthy relationship behaviors.
1. “You and me, we can do anything.”
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Randall and Beth are fan favorites, and their relationship is often one to look up to. They experience difficulties together, but seem to have a knack for complementing each other’s strengths and weaknesses in a harmonious way.
Randall wants to honor his own upbringing by giving a baby the opportunities he was given when he was adopted by Jack and Kate, so he becomes committed to the idea of starting the adoption process with his family. After some thought and introspection of her own, Beth has a new idea: they should adopt an older child. Randall has concerns, and doubts their parenting abilities; he’s just not sure that they are prepared to handle the issues that this child may bring into their home. Beth reassures him that while it will almost certainly be difficult, they can do it together: “Our girls came out good, it’s true, but we made them great. They make us great. We can do this.”
Randall and Beth work together to find the solution that is best for their family. This is really compromise at work – they consider the idea of adoption, and come to a decision through a process of mutual respect and consideration for each other and their children. Compromise in a relationship isn’t always easy, especially when it comes to major life decisions, so the existence of a respectful and trusting environment between two partners is essential.
2. “Get in the car, Jack.”
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We’ve followed Jack and Rebecca’s journey from the beginning, and their passion for each other is admirable. Their relationship has been far from easy, though, and they have endured tremendous struggles throughout their time together.
After an argument, the two decide that it would be best for Jack to stay with a friend for a short time. Shortly after, however, Rebecca shows up at his door to resolve their conflict. In the process, Jack reveals that he’s been struggling with alcohol overuse, will require serious help, and is worried about bringing any negative impacts back to their family life. Jack is prepared to deal with it alone, but Rebecca’s shows her support by saying, “You are my husband, and I am your wife, and if you have a problem, we will fix it together.”
Loyalty and trust are necessary aspects of a healthy relationship; it is important for each partner to know that they are part of a team and will be supported no matter the situation. Practicing behaviors that reinforce this dedication can go a long way in building a stronger, healthier relationship.
Important Note: Keep in mind that with all healthy behaviors, there’s a threshold for when it becomes unhealthy. For instance, Rebecca stepping forward and being supportive of Jack to help him with his alcoholism is great, but at a certain point it can become unhealthy if she finds it’s negatively impacting her life or her kids’ lives. We have not seen this behavior shift from healthy to unhealthy in This Is Us. Rather, since returning home, Jack has been committed to sobriety, seeking the help he needs, and communicating more with Rebecca about his day-to-day struggles.
3. Time After Time
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Early in their relationship, Toby hears Kate singing in the shower. He’s immediately impressed, and can tell that her gift is a special one. He encourages her to follow this passion, but she brushes him off in a moment of reticence.
Toby decides to surprise Kate with a day we all know she deserves: a limousine ride, complete with a red carpet and paparazzi. The limo’s final stop is a nursing home, where Toby has arranged for her to perform for the residents. While clearly nervous, she summons her courage and sings a beautiful rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” She beams with pride as she finishes the song, and Toby looks on in awe.
Knowing your partner’s interests and strengths and encouraging them in a healthy way to express themselves is an important component of compassion in a relationship. Healthy relationships are the ones that make each partner feel good about themselves individually; the ones that encourage partners to be better human beings. Partners should always be working to build a stronger relationship, and one way to do that is by inspiring each other to be the best individuals they can be.
An essential takeaway from This is Us is that while relationships have inevitable ebbs and flows, we can always strive to practice healthy behaviors. Randall and Beth, Jack and Rebecca, and Toby and Kate all show us ways in which we can work to build positive relationships through these behaviors. The above examples highlight the importance of respect, loyalty, and compassion; all of which are valuable characteristics in a healthy relationship. It all starts with education, and understanding the signs is the first step. Learn more about signs of a healthy relationship!