Downton Abbey, Season 3, Episode 4 – Marital Conflict Between Lord and Lady Grantham and Mary and Matthew

by Lyndra on February 2, 2013

Spoiler Alert: This will give away some scenes if you haven’t watched the episode! 

Image credit: Carnival Film & Television Limited

In this episode, we’re shown the beginnings of serious marital conflict between Lord and Lady Grantham, and between Mary and Matthew Crawley. Two important questions are raised: Are there some mistakes that are unforgivable by a spouse? And how do you balance your allegiance to your mate with your allegiance to your parents?

In the first episode, Lady Grantham did an exemplary job of supporting her husband when he screwed up and lost their – mostly her – fortune. But now, his arrogance in insisting on listening to an elite doctor instead of their lifelong general practitioner, may have resulted in his youngest daughter’s death. Is this something Cora will be able to get over and forgive?

With a great deal of work, marriages can survive all kinds of challenges including infidelity. Relationships can also be turned around when they’ve been neglected. 

Is there anything Lord Grantham can do to encourage his wife’s forgiveness? If I were providing relationship coaching, this is what I would suggest:

  • Be patient and give your wife the opportunity to be furious with you for as long as she needs.
  • Accept full responsibility for allowing your arrogance to cloud your judgment.
  • Offer Cora comfort in your shared grief. (She will likely refuse at first but you can continue to offer it.)

This tragedy raises another important question: How do you make a decision when you’re receiving conflicting advice? In his defense, Lord Grantham is advised by a reputable doctor. What happens when the experts disagree?

Fortunately, most decisions we face are not “life or death.” But they’re still important. We hear all kinds of conflicting information about dating and relationships from our friends and “experts.” So what do you do? It’s helpful to listen to your own internal guidance or intuition.

So how about the dilemma Mary faces? Her husband believes that her father is unintentionally mismanaging Downton Abbey and all their assets. Matthew takes his responsibility seriously: to keep Mary’s beloved home solvent for generations to come. In previous episodes, Mary’s done a good job of staying out of if. She’s simply told Matthew that he should “talk to Papa about it.”  But with the recent tragic loss of Sybil, Mary’s protectiveness of her father is taking priority.

Dealing with other family is a challenge for most couples – whether it’s parents, siblings, or children from a previous relationship. The only one-size-fits-almost-all piece of advice I can share is that it’s important for the marriage to be the top priority. We’ll see how Mary does with this in future episodes.

What do you think?

Are there unforgivable mistakes? Do you know couples who’ve overcome great adversity? And what about the conflict between a spouse and family – how can you keep the peace? 


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