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4 Things You Can Learn About Marriage From 'Mad Men'


Jon Hamm of Mad Men

Actor Jon Hamm arrives at the Premiere of AMC's 'Mad Men' Season 5 at ArcLight Cinemas on March 14, 2012 in Hollywood, California.

Photo: Frazer Harrison / Getty Images
The unpredictable, "meticulously researched", and rather mesmerizing television series about the advertising business and its blatant sexism, Mad Men, reveals a few things about marriage.
  • 1. Striving for perfection in your marriage and having unrealistic expectations can lead to disillusionment. Being unfaithful, focusing too much on your career, feeling unhappy and repressed, and trying to be picture-perfect are just a few of the sure ways to sabotage your marriage.
  • Eleanor Clift: "Madison Avenue did a lot to create the show’s other main female character, housewife Betty Draper, with her handsome husband, adorable children, home in the suburbs, and all the appliances required for a happy existence. The fact that she isn’t happy is Betty’s story, and the story of millions of college-educated women who were sold what turned out for many to be a bill of goods. Betty epitomizes “the problem that has no name” that Betty Friedan wrote about in her 1963 book, The Feminine Mystique."
    Source: Eleanor Clift. "'Mad Men' Goes Back to the Office." TheDailyBeast.com. 3/19/2012.
  • 2. The past is always with you. Your past and family of origin issues will impact your marriage. The character Don Draper shows you can't run or hide from any baggage in your past.
  • John Elia: "... Don's life is not nearly as charmed as others think. His objective success is tarnished by constant fear and guilt, which he self-medicates with women and drink. As a result, his marriage suffers; his children hardly see him; his coworkers know him more as a myth than a man."
    Source: James B. South, Rod Carveth. Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing Is as It Seems. 2010. pg. 172.

  • 3. No-fault divorce has lessened domestic violence and wives' suicide rates. Ending a dysfunctional marriage today does not require lies and proof of blame. In the Mad Men era, divorce was still a disgrace and scandal. Additionally, back then a divorce could be quite difficult to obtain.
  • Maria Sciullo: "In the early 1960s, the post-Camelot era in which Mad Men is set, amicable couples had to participate in a charade before the court. Often, husband and wife had to pretend to have participated in bad behaviors such as adultery, physical or psychological abuse in order to 'prove' grounds for divorce."
    Source: Maria Sciullo. "'Mad Men' series inaccurately depicts difficulties of divorce for women in '60s." Post-Gazette.com. 3/25/2012.

  • 4. One size doesn't fit all. Although Mad Men shows the beginning of the decline of traditional marriages, they still work for some couples. Although today most married couples both work outside the home due to financial needs and a desire for companionate marriages, there are couples who believe in the traditional roles for husbands and wives.
Courtney: "That's my job and I love it," she smiles. "I believe our marriage is successful because I give my husband everything that he needs and in return he gives me what I need."
Source: "Real Life Mad Men Marriages." RachaelRayShow.com. 11/6/2009.

Quotes About Mad Men Marriages

Raymond Angelo Belliotti: "The marriage [with Mona] has never impeded Sterling's roving eyes and roaming hands. He admits on several occasions that passionate commitment was extinguished early in the relationship, and he has remained married largely because of social expectations, not because of a passionate, internal commitment."
Source: Rod Carveth, James B. South. Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing Is As It Seems. 2010. pg. 70.

Robert White: "Betty is angry at Don's betrayal of their 'perfect marriage.' Yet Don and Betty never had a perfect marriage ... Betty discovering the truth [about Don's real identity] cannot end that which never existed. Draper's betrayal does not consist in ending their 'perfect marriage' but in having built their marriage on a foundation of lies."
Source: Rod Carveth, James B. South. Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing Is As It Seems. 2010. pg. 87.

Ada S. Jaarsma: "Betty is staying with Don because she seems content with deceiving herself about his evident infidelity, maintaining an illusion of comfort and success."
Source: Rod Carveth, James B. South. Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing Is As It Seems. 2010. pg. 101.

Andreja Novakovic, Tyler Whitney: "It reveals the basic structure of their marriage, in which Don lies to her and treats her like a gullible child."
Source: Rod Carveth, James B. South. Mad Men and Philosophy: Nothing Is As It Seems. 2010. pg. 114.

Alessandra Stanley: "Amid all these ruminations on modern-day matrimony, Mad Men on basic cable’s AMC stands out as the control, a reminder of what marriage was like for previous generations.This Madison Avenue drama, set in the advertising business at the dawn of the 1960s, recreates middle-class life in the pre-Friedan era, when graduates of Wellesley and Bryn Mawr wore girdles and aprons as they raised the children and waited for their husbands, who stayed in town late, drinking and smoking and carousing with compliant secretaries. Mad Men has a satiric edge, but it is a stark reminder of what the battle of the sexes looked like before women’s lib, civil rights, the Pill and legalized abortion." Source: Alessandra Stanley. "Say, Darling, Is It Frigid in Here?" NYTimes.com. 8/19/2007.

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