‘Real World’ tidbits: Idealizing a partner, forgiving family

This week on Real World, there were two interesting themes (surprisingly neither has to do with Dustin doing porn): idealizing someone you have romantic feelings for and mending fraught relationships. The former is all about trying to make a relationship work based on a skewed image of the person, and the latter is all about trying to make a relationship work based on a real image of the person, with it being difficult in either case to look objectively at the person in the present.

Ideal vs. real

It boggles my mind that anyone could actually idealize Adam, considering he has zero redeeming qualities, but Nany had idealized Adam and their relationship until he returned for a final visit with Nany. He came back, got belligerently drunk, and tried to get into the Hard Rock Hotel (which he is banned from). Nany didn’t stay the night with him and proceeded to ignore him for the next two days, obviously annoyed that his visit was not going as she’d imagined.

I was actually quite surprised that she so quickly turned against him, since he was constantly belligerently drunk when he was still living in Vegas. His behavior was classic Adam — everything you’d think Nany would expect. But I’m sure that Nany had a skewed and idealized memory of Adam. He wasn’t around to remind her that he is manipulative, out of control, and violent, so she could remember him exactly as she decided — and I’m sure that idealized memory disintegrated as she watched him drink vodka straight from the bottle.

We often and unknowingly stay in unhealthy relationships because we rely on these idealized images of people, suppressing the bad stuff and remembering the good stuff. It’s why people stay in and return to bad relationships, because they either forget or ignore the bad stuff in hopes it’ll play out differently. Nany was willing to ignore a lot of the bad, but eventually she reached a point where she couldn’t ignore how skewed her memory of Adam was and came back into reality.

So I say kudos to Nany, who didn’t try to keep “reforming” another bad boy, something she admitted in episode one that she likes to do. I disagree with her assessment that Adam is fine sober, but I do hope that she meant it when she said she was going to stop going after guys like Adam. Part of that will mean identifying manipulative, violent behavior and not brushing it off or excusing it.

Forgiving someone vs. forgetting someone

This week Mike’s mom and her boyfriend came to visit, and he hadn’t seen her in two years and didn’t know what to expect from the visit. He has detailed in past episodes that she wasn’t around during his childhood, frequently got arrested, and had substance abuse problems throughout his life. She was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, and Mike confessed that he didn’t know if he wanted to rekindle a relationship with her because she might just be taken away from him once again.

Mike’s dilemma was extremely difficult, and it was juxtaposed with Nany’s quest to find her birth father. Whereas Mike had known his mother all his life (though at one point did refer to her as his “birth mother,” implying his relationship with her is very minimal in scope), Nany never knew her father at all. She hired a private investigator to find him, who eventually revealed that her father had died in 2002.

Nany was desperate to form a connection with a father she never knew, and Mike was unsure if he wanted to form a connection with a mother he always knew (though not in a way that he wanted). Nany’s learning that she could never build relationship with her father led her to warn Mike not to take his mother for granted, and this seemed to resonate with him. It would be easier in the short-term to forget about her, but likely much more difficult in the long-term if she passes away and building a relationship with her is impossible.

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