This week, I encouraged amy clients to tune into Downton Abbey — and not for the fabulous clothing, the witty dialogue or the historical intrigue. Couples — married, engaged, or in committed relationships — can learn a great deal from the way that two of the key protagonists, Mary and Matthew Crawley, have fiercely disagreed over money.
Money is one of the most common topics couples fight about, and season three's opening episode depicts a stellar example of the way healthy, open communication can enhance a relationship. Open, honest communication does not make disagreeing easy, but it can allows couples to save their union simply by agreeing to disagree.
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For those of you who may have been living under a rock, here's the gist: Matthew is a distant cousin and unlikely heir to Downton and Mary is the daughter of Earl of Grantham. They have been madly in love since they met, but they didn't know it at first. They spent most of season one fighting and most of the season two engaged to others and secretly (but obviously) wishing they could turn back the clock and find a way to be together.
Toward the end of season two, Matthew's fiancé, Lavinia, dies of the Spanish flu and from her deathbed she admits awareness that Matthew's true love is Mary, and she urges him to make a life with her. She even goes so far as to say that her death is a blessing in a sense, as she knows that Matthew would be too loyal to back out of a wedding; but she also knows that his true affections lie elsewhere.
Instead of taking her dying words as a blessing, Matthew is tortured by the thought that sweet Lavinia left the world feeling unloved. He eventually pulls it together and proposes to Mary during the season two finale; and with their magnificent passion, genuine friendship and palpable chemistry, there is no question that these two are meant to be together.
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When season three opens, Mary's family learns that they have lost their entire fortune by investing in the wrong railroad company. Facing financial ruin, they realize they must sell Downton Abbey and leave their many servants to lose work they depend upon and fend for themselves in the bleak economy of the 1921 English countryside. Times are changing, and the family is struggling to face the reality of a rapidly modernizing world. Mary was raised to believe that her destiny is to become the next Lady of Downton, and now she must prepare to say goodbye to this lifelong dream. Keep reading ...
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