Big Little Lies, a new hit miniseries from HBO, follows the complex inter-personal lives of three women via the narrative of resolving a murder mystery. In the breathtakingly beautiful setting of Monterey, California, “Big Little Lies” reveals the ugliness hidden behind seemingly perfect lives. The show opens the dialogue about a number of important, yet sensitive, topics pertaining to intimate relationships.
As college students, the majority of us are amidst the journey of selecting friends or significant others who might be in our lives for years to come. It is beneficial to be contemplative about the choices we make in our relationships, as well as about why we make them, in order to ensure that we live healthy, fulfilling lives. The relationships portrayed on “Big Little Lies” serve as great tools to contemplate human interactions in a critical manner, and this may assist us in understanding our own relationships. While watching the show, I came up with two questions which might provide clarity when reflecting on one’s own experiences.
Do you feel yourself walking on egg-shells?
While watching the show, one will notice Celeste participating in this behavior in nearly all her interactions with Perry, her physical abuser. One indicator of relational-disorder within a relationship is a person’s need to “egg-shell walk.” What this means is that you might find yourself filtering your words, altering your stories, or omitting certain feelings altogether so as not to trigger an unpleasant interaction. Of course, being sensitive and attempting to avoid hurting another’s feelings is required of all relationships. “Egg-shell walking” is different, however, because it can serve as a method of self-protection when interacting with someone who might be emotionally or physically abusive.
Do you feel guilty that you’re not receiving the emotional comfort or pleasure your significant other or friend is trying to provide for you?
While I believe there are a variety of other issues at play within their relationship, Ed and Madeline’s relationship on the show serves as a good example of what well-intentioned misattunement might look like. By this I mean that just because someone is acting in a way that outwardly appears “nice” does not mean it is not always helpful or right for you. Sometimes a person is trying to make you feel better or doing what they believe would make them feel better, but it is not having the effect that they seek. They desperately want to connect, to take care of you, and to make you feel at ease with them, but sometimes they just don’t know how. This might be a more complex issue than I can fully tackle here, but a simple way to address this problem is to communicate openly about what you need from the other person. Human beings cannot read minds, and some might not notice their misattunement. In these cases, the best thing to do is voice discomfort or dissatisfaction in a tactful, but constructive way.
As a general rule, the best way to ensure your relationships will be beneficial, healthy, and long-lasting is to be as clear and open as possible when communicating. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable at first, but true intimacy does not entail any smoke and mirrors. When you’ve found relationships in which you feel that you’re both able to speak and able to be heard, you will find that you have the basis for maintaining a strong connection that can survive the changes and challenges life presents.