Everything I Know About Relationships I Learned from The Dick Van Dyke Show

By , Columnist

TV Land is celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Dick Van Dyke Show. I have watched 38 of the 158 episodes that will air, and have seen several of them a few times each. I'm not insane, just a huge life-long fan of the show who has been battling the flu. I just hope I don't run into anyone named Rob in the near future because I might involuntarily bleat, "Oh, Roooooooooooooob!"

I feel like I have been in the Petrie School of Relationships all week. Even though it was the early 60’s, and Laura is the stay-at-home mom, theirs is a pretty modern marriage. They both come off as equally strong. As often happens in real life, they take turns being weak, and generally when one falters, the other picks up the slack pretty quickly. When they both succumb to frailty, they know they both need to rally and they do.

mary_art2.gifI’ve had this lovely give-and-take emotional dance in most of my relationships: “Your turn to be weak! Remember, I was a heap of insecurities last week when I was finishing that project so you go ahead now, darling.”

The only dance I haven’t been good at in my relationships is the dance of discord. The art of arguing had eluded me until I registered with the Petrie school. I had no memory of how much Rob and Laura fought, nor how many jokes Millie, Buddy, and Sally make about them arguing. “Did you have another argument?” is a recurring question. If I was Laura, I’d probably start having a complex about my relationship.

Some of the fights the Petries have are very realistic and un-sitcom-like. I’ve had some of these fights. They both get very passionate, obstinate, and like in real life, you think, “How on earth will a compromise be found?”

Of course, Laura and Rob have a team of writers sitting around a table hashing out their issues. I think we all have a good team of writers behind us in life, tapping away at keyboards in our heads. Sometimes we just have to go through many drafts in real time rather than being handed the perfectly solved 23-minute life interlude. We stumble through words, trip on emotions, and run into doors that don’t open, alleys that lead nowhere.

Most of my long-time married friends have learned how to dance through their differences, some awkwardly, but most damn elegantly as far as I’m concerned. Rob and Laura Petrie were both great dancers - on every level. Thanks to them, I now see that when my partner and I are doing two different dances, or even step on each other’s toes, it’s all still just a dance. On TV, they just wipe away the sweat between takes.

To inspire you to check out the TV Land Petrie relationship retrospective, here's a clip of Rob trying to seduce Laura via dance:


This is a clip of Rob trying to get out of a sticky situation by asking her to join him in an impromptu dance:


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Bridget Fonger is the co-author of “The Lazy Woman’s Guide to Just About Everything,” a book that helps women become happier, more passionate and fulfilled by living the “Lazy Way,” aka with less stress and more joy! Ms. Fonger has been featured on HGTV several times with her home décor and…

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