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What we can learn about Intimacy from The Gilmore Girls

What we can learn about Intimacy from The Gilmore Girls

I have a little dirty secret to share with you…I am a Netflix binger.  Sometimes when I need to relax, I will just pull out my computer, I don’t own a TV, and start binge watching a Netflix TV series.  This is how I fell in love with the Gilmore Girls a few years ago.

Given how much I looked forward to watching an episode of this show, I made it my “dessert”, a special treat for when I had a good day or just needed a pick me up.  Going at this pace it took me a whole year to finish the series and I’ve yet to find anything else to equal it.

So you can imagine my sheer delight at hearing that Netflix was producing a whole new season, 10 years later, with all the same characters, except for Richard Gilmore, due to the untimely death of Edward Hermann.  And it did not disappoint!  It had the same snappy dialogue, quirky story lines, and interesting characters as the original.

For those of you new to Gilmore Girls, the two main characters, Lorelai and Rory Gilmore, are a mother and daughter living in a small town in the Connecticut suburbs.  Lorelai raised Rory as a single mom since she got pregnant in high school and could not pursue her dreams of attending Yale, her father’s alma mater.

Lorelai’s very well to do blue blood country club family practically disowned her over her decision to have the baby.  Much of the series is about the antagonistic relationship between Lorelei and her parents, especially her mother, Emily Gilmore.  The other main story line is around Lorelai and Rory’s love lives, and the mess they both make of them.

What really struck me though as I was watching this new series is how intimacy and the blocks around intimacy is a huge theme in the show.  Our relationship with intimacy is part of our sexual blueprint and is formed during our childhood.

While the attachment style that we had with our parents or primary caregiver is an important factor in how we view intimacy as adults, there are also several other factors as well.  Key among them is how much we were encouraged to express or suppress our emotions as a child.

In the case of Lorelai Gilmore, while we did not see any childhood flashbacks, we learn from observing her interactions with her parents, that emotions were never expressed in the Gilmore family.  We can imagine young Lorelai.  A precocious, only-child being raised by a nanny, having to “dress up” for dinner with her parents where she was seen, but never heard.

The abandonment that Lorelai felt when she was sent away to have Rory and her pent up anger and frustration with her parents is part of the fuel that feeds the emotional arc of the show.  The stoic, New England, Emily Gilmore rarely shows an authentic emotion.  In fact one of my favorite moments of this new series was the scene of mother and daughter in therapy and no one saying a single word.

The consequences of all of this repressed emotion shows up dramatically for Lorelai in her intimate relationships with men.  She pushes away every man who gets too close to her, including Rory’s father, gets engaged twice,  walks away from each wedding, and almost loses the love of her life. Lorelai is a classic “avoidant” in attachment style lingo.

Rory is the saving grace in the Gilmore Family.  She embraces everything that her mother did not…from attending Yale, to participating in Emily’s weekly Friday night dinners, to dating and falling in love with Logan Huntzberger, the heir to a publishing empire.  In Rory, Lorelai finds a soul mate, and infuses her daughter with her values of independence, hard work, and play.

Rory has her own set of issues around intimacy based on her upbringing.  Learning from her mother, she also has a tendency to push men away from her and then cry over the split milk..a very common strategy for avoidants.

But Rory also has anxious tendencies, stemming from the over attachment that she had with Lorelai growing up.  At times they seemed like sisters rather than mother daughter, mostly due to Lorelai’s challenge with creating healthy boundaries.

Rory’s anxious avoidant attachment style caused her to decline the proposal from Logan after graduation but consequently (SPOILER ALERT) conduct a secret ongoing romance with Logan despite his being engaged to another woman. As things are going south in her career and in her life she keeps on running back to him for rescuing despite his complete unavailability for a long term relationship.

All is not lost for the Gilmore Girls.  In the last episode of this season we began to see more self awareness on both of their parts and healing of relationship and intimacy wounds.

Lorelei finally ties the knot with Luke and has her first honest emotional conversation with her mother.  Rory sees the light of day, both figuratively and literally, and leaves Logan for good.  It seems like everything is wrapped up into a tight little ball until the surprise ending which pretty much guarantees that we will be seeing more of the Gilmore Girls next season.  I’m smiling!

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