While “Man Men” creator Matthew Weiner is being typically tight-lipped about the season five premiere, we’re pretty confident we can expect at least one thing: relationship drama. After all, what would the show be without the bitter battles between Betty and Don and the wistful flirtations between Joan and Roger. But really, if the characters on “Mad Men” were actual people, they would be due for a big trip to Self-Help City to fix their relationships. Here’s some advice, taken from published pros, that might just do the trick.
To stop cheating, try to figure out why you are unfaithful in the first place.
Nobody’s perfect. Not even Don Draper, who bounces back from a bender with nary a wrinkle in his suit. All the charisma in the world can’t hide the fact that Don is a grade-A lothario who feigns monogamy to boost his image. In “When Good People Have Affairs: Inside the Hearts & Minds of People in Two Relationships” therapist Mira Kirshenbaum offers real questions for those dealing with a marital indiscretion, whether it’s a one-time slip or a repeat offense (ahem, Don). Not only does Kirshenbaum describe all the different types of affairs, but she also dissects the potential reasons behind them. We’re pretty sure Don Draper can relate to each and every one.
Betty (Draper) Francis
Anger is a powerful emotion that can be used to make positive changes.
Say what you will about Betty Francis, but the woman has lived her share of marital hardships. Her first marriage to a chronically unfaithful workaholic/liar officially fell apart soon after the birth of their third child. Unofficially, her relationship with Don was broken years before, and Betty ended up having her own illicit secrets to protect. Perhaps out of anger, she hastily remarried and her new life is not what she expected. Now she just seems pissed off all of the time. She could take a tip from Harriet Lerner, Ph.D., in “The Dance of Anger: A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships.” Stinging comments and suppressed, seething rage will get you nowhere. Figure out what makes you angry and take the time to work through it.
Joan (Holloway) Harris
Know when to hold ‘em, and know when to fold ‘em.
Joan’s problems are twofold. First, she’s married to a man who once raped her. Secondly, she’s consistently falling back on an old habit: Roger Sterling. In the past few seasons viewers have seen Joan’s character develop from a husband-hunting underminer to a fiercely intelligent and strong woman who is manipulated and abused by men. Robin Norwood addressed the issues plaguing Joan in “Women Who Love Too Much: When You Keep Wishing and Hoping He’ll Change,” a book that helps women recognize bad relationship habits while addressing their psychological roots. Obviously, many of Joan’s problems are not her fault (particularly with her husband), but Norwood’s tips are helpful to women lacking the confidence to identify and walk away from bad relationships.
Learn from the mistakes of the past, instead of repeating them.
Talk about a stereotype. Roger Sterling (an author in his own right, yes, his fictional memoir was actually published) dumped his wife Mona for Don’s former secretary Jane, who is notably younger than Roger’s first wife. While Roger claims to really love Jane, he probably should have read “Making Your Second Marriage a First-Class Success” by Doug and Naomi Moseley. Maybe then he wouldn’t have relapsed into his cheating ways with Joan again.
It’s not just about you.
Seriously, if we didn’t know better, we would think Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” was about Pete Campbell. Always looking out for himself, Pete has managed to alienate most of those around him, but he manages to stay afloat because of his professional reputation and manipulative skills. But if he’s to have any shot with loyal wife Trudy (Is it just us? Or does she look like she’s going to lose it soon?), he should really brush the chip off his shoulder. Sandy Hotchkiss’s “Why Is It Always About You? The Seven Deadly Sins of Narcissism” can help with that. Perhaps Pete should read it together with his wife, because the book also offers tips for people who have to deal with narcissists on a daily basis.
Keep calm and carry on.
While we don’t know too much about Pryce’s relationship with his wife (she went back to England shortly after their family moved to the U.S.), we do know that Pryce was unhappy and considering other options—one of those options being his girlfriend, Toni Charles, a waitress at the Playboy club. After Pryce’s father (rather violently) convinced him to ditch his fling and head back to his wife, he must have had a lot of explaining to do. Too bad he’s a man of few words and completely non-assertive. He can skip the big “relationship talk” and follow the more-than-words relationship repair tips offered by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny, Ph.D., in their book “How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.”
Please, whatever you do, just don’t settle.
Okay, we know that Peggy isn’t married (unless her character got hitched off-screen during the time lapse between seasons), but if she chooses to tie the knot, we hope it’s with the man of her dreams. So far her flings have been either heartbreaking (her affair with Pete, which led to her giving her baby to her sister to raise) or just lackluster (really, Peggy? Duck?). In the hope that Peggy can find what she’s looking for, we think she should take a peek at “Deal Breakers: When to Work On a Relationship and When to Walk Away” by Bethany Marshall, Ph.D.