Wednesday, February 19, 2014

What Anna and Mr. Bates are Getting Wrong

Oooh, I am tearing my hair out! If only I were the marital therapist for Anna and Mr.Bates.  They are such an incredibly lovely couple but they are really getting this  all wrong.

The short version of the back story goes like this in case you are one of the few people on the face of the earth not watching Downton Abbey.  I understand such people do exist.

Anna and Mr. Bates are possibly one of the nicest, noblest couples on the face of the earth.  In a world fraught with secrets and civility, Anna and Mr. Bate's love and integrity is a shining example. I won't bore you with the details of how his ex-wife framed Mr. Bates for murdering her by killing herself and how Anna, with the help of the Crawley family, unravels the plot and saves Mr.Bates from hanging for a crime that he did not commit.

 From a clinical perspective, the trauma that this couple has survived helps explain some of the mistakes they make later in their marriage.  From a moral perspective, Thomas - the creepy butler-  is hellbent on collecting the dirt on the other servants. He considers Anna incorruptible.  You could say the same about Mr. Bates. In a world of good guys and bad guys, you know exactly where Anna and Mr. Bates stand.

When Anna is viciously raped by Mr. Gillingham's valet, Mr. Green, Anna is clearly traumatized, dazed and depressed.  It is not a bad depiction of the impact of rape on a woman.  Mrs. Hughes stumbles across Anna in the servant's quarters and finds her tattered and bruised. Anna tells Mrs. Hughes the truth but swears her to secrecy.  Here is where Anna makes her first mistake.  She does not disclose the rape to her husband.

She is clearly depressed, she goes so far as to move out of her home with Mr. Bates. Mr. Bates, obviously gets that something is amiss but he does not have a clue.  Exactly.

Out of fear that her husband will kill Mr. Green, Anna keeps the rape to herself.  It is a strangely protective strategy which does not work.

If only Anna and Mr. Bates were in marital therapy.  I would have encouraged her to disclose directly to Mr. Bates what happened.  They could have wept, grieved, gnashed their teeth and perhaps sought justice for this crime together. Talking in a safe context- always helps in marriage - especially when it comes to disclosing something huge that has violated the marriage and traumatized one of the partners. Surviving a terrible tragedy together can draw couples together and strengthen the bond.

 By not disclosing the rape to her husband,  the tension mounts between Anna and  Mr. Bates.  Mr. Bates finally wheedles part of the story out of Mrs. Hughes but in his own weird protective strategy does not tell Anna what he knows.  Meanwhile you can tell that Mr. Bates is seething with unexpressed rage.  Neither of them has disclosed the whole story to one another which - although incredibly painful - would have helped them to grieve and dissipate the rage.

Fast forward when Mr. Green, the rapist, turns up dead in the street on the same day that Mr. Bates has taken a leave from work, things are looking bad for Mr. Bates.  Has Anna's worst nightmare come true? Stay tuned.

The moral of this story so far is -- don't keep secrets.  I hate to speak in absolutes so I  will do my best. Secrets almost always come out- in one way or another. It is much healthier to disclose them directly.  Even well intentioned  secrets can wreck havoc on true intimacy in a marriage.

And talk.  Talking - in a safe context- is almost always a preferable alternative to keeping things to yourself. Anna and Mr. Bates are living proof of that. Gee- I hope he didn't do it.

1 comment:

  1. Well written and very helpful. Useful to think about the little (or bigger) secrets that couples keep from one another and the damage that they cause.