All My Children and I go way back. I started watching as a doctoral student, when the standing-room-only crowd in a TV lounge attracted my attention. That was during the time that Palmer Cortlandt held Daisy captive in the attic at Cortlandt Manor. Although my viewing has been intermittent - until I discovered SOAPnet - two things kept me coming back: All My Children had a sense of humor and progressive story lines.
During my doctoral internship, I taught an undergraduate psychology class on relationships and, early in the semester, learned that 112 of 120 students regularly watched All My Children. Jackpot! The comically psychopathological residents of Pine Valley provided glowing examples of various personality disorders (Erica Kane - Narcissistic; Palmer Cortlandt - Paranoid) as well as compelling models of how not to behave in relationships. In fact, I suspect that all those highly relatable examples from All My Children may explain my students' excellent attendance. Later, as a postdoctoral fellow, I occasionally joined hospital staff who gathered around a tiny black-and-white TV over the lunch hour to follow the tragic love story of Greg and Jenny.
Emotional immaturity makes for dramatic complications
A hallmark of daytime and primetime serials and, more recently, reality TV is letting it all hang out - freely venting negative emotions. Of course, fans tune in precisely because of the angst and uproar, to follow the dramatic complications brought on by emotionally immature behavior, to relish those inevitable moments when penalties are paid. Case in point, Erica Kane. Her persistent emotional immaturity and unparalleled narcissism resulted in countless divorces. Spoiler alert!
And in the closing moments of the final episode, Erica not only paid the penalty by losing Jack but also appears to have taken a bullet meant for Adam Chandler.
What not to do in relationships
Interestingly, soap characters and many real-life people approach relationships in similar ways. Both confuse venting with being assertive or authentic. Both base expectations about relationships on conventional wisdom and fairy tales. Both hold romantic partners responsible for their happiness and unhappiness. Both blame partners when things go wrong and try to change partners to better suit them. Soap characters and real-life people differ, though, in at least one way. Real-life people, for the most part, prefer to avoid angst and uproar.
Practicing mature love
Regular readers of Everybody Marries the Wrong Person
know that the key to relationship satisfaction is practicing mature love. This means growing ourselves up emotionally - accepting responsibility for our own happiness and unhappiness, insecurities and dark moods, managing our unrealistic expectations, taking command of our negative emotional reactions. All My Children
had a couple of emotionally mature characters - Myrtle Fargate and Stuart Chandler. Oh, and, arguably, the grown-up Bianca and Angie Hubbard, too.
Notably, everyone in Pine Valley admired and loved them, as did All My Children fans.
For more about the book, visit: www.everybodymarriesthewrongperson.com