Relationship Lessons We Can Learn from ‘The Affair’

Relationship Lessons We Can Learn from ‘The Affair’

American TV Drama The Affair, now on its fourth season, has taught its viewers a lot about love and relationships.

The television drama series follows the lives of Noah Solloway (Dominic West) and Alison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson) as the two engage in an extramarital relationship. Alison, a waitress, is trying to mend her marriage after the death of her four-year-old-son while Noah is married with four children but is having difficulty with how their family depends on their father-in-law. The story is told from each of their point-of-views, including their own memory biases. Later on in the series, we also see the perspectives of their spouses. Noah’s wife, Helen Solloway (Maura Tierney) and Alison’s husband, Cole Lockhart (Joshua Jackson.)

The multi-awarded series which is available on FOX+ has received praise from critics for its unique storytelling style and strong cast performance. Fans also have lauded it for its bold narratives and somber topics, exploring human desires and truth. The Affair has won the Golden Globe for Best Television Series (Drama), Best Actress for Ruth Wilson, Best Supporting Actress for Maura Tierney, and several others.

Currently on its fourth season, the series has evolved from psychological drama to exploring crime arcs and creating new points-of-view — but still focusing on the affairs and relationships that can happen around a marriage. Here are some relationship lessons fans can learn from The Affair.

1. In a relationship, the truth can be subjective
One of the main storytelling tools utilized by The Affair is the use of the different points-of-view of the characters. Each episode is divided in parts told by how it was remembered by a particular person. This emphasizes exactly how much our own biases color our memory and how we can interpret things differently from our partners. For example, Noah always remembers things as vibrant and sensual, while Alison remembers things as more muted and reserved. Each of them remembers the other flirting with them first. 

2. Loss has a great effect on your relationships
Alison’s original marriage was deeply impacted by the tragic and accidental death of their four-year-old son, Gabriel. This caused their relationship to slowly fall apart, a lot of it due to Alison pushing her husband away and feeling a tremendous amount of guilt. Whenever a huge loss happens to anyone, people should be careful in fortifying their own relationships and going on the journey to healing and acceptance together instead of apart. More understanding and patience should be present.

3. A good relationship needs validation and appreciation
On Noah’s end of the story, his own relationship was slowly becoming more and more toxic because he felt that his wife, Helen, did not validate him or appreciate him enough. He constantly felt put down or was made to feel that he was not providing for his family. This shows viewers that the longer a relationship goes on, the more important it is to actually show your partner support and confirmation in order for the two of you to stay as one team.

4. “Infidelity is a lot more about who you are than about the person you’re with”
This quote, as paraphrased by show creator Sarah Treem, is a guiding mantra in the writers’ room. It means that so much of cheating and affairs is a direct reflection of your character and should not be justified by whom you might be cheating with. According to an interview by the LA times, Treem reveals that this was a principal lesson given to them by psychologist and author, Esther Perel. Perel has written largely about sexuality, relationships, and marriage, and serves as a consultant on the show. 

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Jason Ho Head of Marketing Communications & PR, FOX+, FOX Networks Group
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