"You're the Worst" On Love
A popular television show demonstrates what we get wrong about love.
Posted Nov 24, 2015
There is a television program that is growing in popularity called, “You’re the Worst”. The show centers on two characters that lack standards and morals and results in the two being considered the worst type of people. The characters enter a romantic relationship. In this post I’ll discuss how their view of love and relationships, despite being “the worst” people, reflect typical relationship dynamics.
The show begins with a song called, “7:30am” by Slothrust. The lyric that plays repeatedly is, “I’m gonna leave you anyway, I’m gonna leave you anyway”. No one wants to believe this when a relationship starts, but it is no secret that the vast majority of relationships end. Marriage, a relationship that wants to be the epitome of committed relationships, ends in divorce at least a third of the time according to conservative statistics (Miller, 2014). There are no statistics for those that remain married unhappily, or at least fall far short of true monogamy through infidelity (but remain seemingly happily married). Added to this number would be relationships where one or both partners believed the relationship would last, but it ended. So, in the case of the vast majority of relationships, the show is correct in choosing an opening song that reflects the overwhelming reality of relationships ending.
A second aspect the show gets correct is its approach to honesty. The characters are brutally honest with one another and others, often to the point of rudeness. However, honesty in communication is one of the hallmarks of a healthy relationship. Too often people choose having harmony over expressing their true feelings. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it depends on the motive. It is fine to let things go, to choose harmony, and feel good about that. It is another to do it because one does not want to rock the boat, or for fear of conflict, only to walk away seething. A good piece of advice is to look at your part in the conflict, and then consider if you can let the issue go with no residual feeling. If so, harmony is a good choice. If not, it must be honestly discussed.
The show gets features correct about how a majority of people behave in a relationship, though exaggerated for comic effect. The two main characters are incredibly selfish, if not diagnostically narcissistic. In one episode, a good friend of one character whose husband is divorcing her says, “Paul defined love as putting another’s needs before your own” (Falk, 2015). She and her friend then have a scoffing laugh at that thought.
Unfortunately, though many know this is a good definition, many have difficulty living by the standard. As I’ve written (see “Love’s Tug of War”) love is often a struggle between our desire to demonstrate metta or agape love and our ego needs. Many keep track, albeit unconsciously, of what she has done for her partner, and conversely, what her partner has done for her. This is commonplace, and has become a natural part of couples’ dialogues about their relationships; if not between them, then with their confidants.
Although this is the norm in typical American relationships, and is demonstrated in the television show, it falls short of what Maslow identified as B-Love. He describes this love as something those self-actualizing endeavor for with their partner. It is love for their being, without expectation of anything in return (Feist, p.271).
Maslow described what most couples experience in relationships as D-Love, or deficiency love (Feist, p.271). Deficiency love comes as conditioning brings one to be attracted to those who are believed to complete, balance, or otherwise fulfill what is needed. In an upcoming post I’ll discuss attraction and the pull it has over the conscious mind, but for now it is only necessary to understand there is an unconscious component to whom one finds attractive and eventually loves. This love, which some have described as addiction, (see my post “You’re Not in Love, You’re Addicted”) is an unenlightened love, and one that contributes to psychopathology.
The love that the main characters have on “You’re the Worst” is absolutely D-Love. What is more intriguing is how the viewer is rooting for them. Because they initially come off as cynical, saying they can’t have relationships, viewers begin to hope they can have a healthy relationship. Each character seems to make the other a little better. Eventually this falls short, the hope of B-Love dwindles, and D-Love becomes evident.
What most perceive as a healthy relationship isn’t, at least as it relates to working toward enlightenment and self-actualization. This is evident in our popular culture. Although “You’re the Worst” exaggerates the pathology found in relationships, it still offers a reflection of both what is often true (separation after hope dissipates) and what is typical in relationships (a selfish attitude and what amounts to Deficiency-Love). This type of love is unfortunate, but can be overcome simply by working toward enlightenment, mindfulness, consciousness, and, of course, self-actualization. The obstacle to this, unfortunately, is remaining content with our own D-Love, not doing the work, and laughing at the exaggerated versions of ourselves on television.
Copyright William Berry, 2015
Falk, S. (Creator, Writer); 2014; You’re the worst (Television Series), FX Productions.
Feist, J, Feist G, Roberts, T; 2013; Theories of Personality, 8th Ed.; McGraw Hill; p. 271 & 272
Miller, C; 2014; NY Times; The Upshot: The Divorce Surge is Over, But the Myth Lives On; retrieved from: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/02/upshot/the-divorce-surge-is-over-but-t...