The ‘Normal People’ Guide to Not Screwing Up the Best Relationship You’ve Ever Had
Normal People, the Hulu and BBC adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel of the same name, is getting viewers all over the country hot and bothered. At the center of the story are Marianne (Daisy Edgar-Jones) and Connell (Paul Mescal), a sizzling Irish couple who meet, hook up, and fall in love in high school. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t last, but the duo keeps bumping into each other (and bumping uglies) for years to come. The show sets up a will-they-or-won’t-they dynamic that keeps viewers hooked, but forgets to answer the question: Why exactly can’t these two stay together? They have stimulating conversation, great sex, and genuinely admire one another. So…what’s the problem?
The stakes of Marianne and Connell’s involvement are low (yes, they’re from different socio-economic backgrounds, but neither of them seems to care) and the obstacles to being together are non-existent. It seems as if their story is only tortured because they – or the author who wrote them –want it to be that way. Indeed, these are two completely normal people who could have a healthy relationship – if they only bothered to try. That’s why we created this Normal People guide to not screwing up the best relationship you’ve ever had. Don’t be a dolt like Marianne or Connell; when you find something good, hold onto it.
Cover Photo: Hulu
Prepare your watchlist: TV Shows Returning in 2020 That We Can’t Wait to Binge On
Define the relationship early on.
Yes, “the talk” can be awkward. But it’s a necessary step in taking a relationship to the next level. If you’re into her, don’t play hard-to-get or act like a playboy keeping his options open. Lock that shit down. Tell her you're into her and don’t want to see anyone else. Ask if she feels the same way. Hopefully she does. Exclusivity is sexy. You'll see.
Don’t keep your sweetheart a secret.
Hiding a love interest is such a high-school move. No, make that junior high. If you’re bold enough to share your genitals with a woman, don’t you dare be too shy to hold her hand in public. If you truly care for and respect her, you’ll want everyone to know how wonderful she is, and that she’s yours. When you keep someone a secret, they start wondering why – and will eventually conclude that you’re only in it for the sex, you dog. (Which you aren’t, right? Because that’s lame.) Unless you both have explicitly stated that this is a sexual arrangement only, you’re doing her a disservice by keeping her hidden in the dark.
When you mess up, apologize as soon as possible and in-person.
Hey, we all make mistakes in relationships. The real fuck-up happens when you refuse to take responsibility for them and don’t apologize – or apologize too late by crying into her voicemail (we’re looking at you, Connell). Own your mishaps and make amends immediately – not with an emoji-laden text but with honest, vulnerable, face-to-face conversation. It’s what adults do.
Don’t give up.
Conflict is inevitable in relationships. That doesn’t necessarily mean something’s “wrong.” Not every argument is indicative of “the end.” If she’s worth it, you’ll work through it.
Alcohol isn’t helping you figure things out. Clarity and sobriety go hand in hand. If you're confused about what's going on, start by putting down the beer.
Stop saying 'I miss you' and do something about it already.
“I miss you” is the most useless phrase in the English language. If you miss her, go to her! This is the 21st century. If you want it bad enough, you can find a way to get it.
If you break up, cut off communication.
Sometimes we can’t make it work even with the best of partners. It’s OK. But don’t prolong the misery by keeping in touch with your ex. If you’re done being boyfriend and girlfriend, for godsakes, stop texting and calling her. Don’t stalk her on social media, either. In fact, block and delete her from every single avenue imaginable. It’s what’s best for both of you.
Give yourself time to grieve.
Life is lonely when you’re single. We get it. But don’t jump from one relationship to another just because you’re afraid of being alone (ahem, Marianne). Even worse: don’t parade your new relationship in front of your former love. It’s rude, uncomfortable, and likely won’t inspire the steamy jealousy you hope it will. Instead, take some time and just be single for a while. Go to therapy. Before you embark on a new relationship, make sure you know what went wrong in your last one.
Stop trying to be just friends.
We don’t know who came up with the “just friends” concept, but it’s total bullshit. If you were deeply in love with someone, there’s no reason you should be able to be “just friends.” Why? Because you have standards and relationships are hierarchical. (Hey, we didn’t make the rules; we’re just repeating them.) Partners have a higher standing than friends; making your ex your pal is a demotion, and a cruel one at that. Besides, that chemistry is always going to be there, taunting you, and eventually you will cave. The bummer is that you’ll probably do so when you have a new partner, and then you’ll be hurting three people with your behavior – yourself, your ex, and your new girlfriend.
If you find a woman you can talk to and have hot sex with, lock it down.
Commitment is a big step, and sometimes it even feels scary, but if you find a compassionate, sexy, smart woman with whom you have scintillating conversation and mind-blowing sex, put a ring on it! There isn’t anyone else out there for you to pursue. Don’t miss out on a lifetime of happiness (and hot sex – did we mention the hot sex?) because you’re a coward like Connell. If she makes you giddy, supports you when you’re down, and encourages you to be a better person, give her everything you’ve got. Take the leap and enjoy the endorphin rush. You won’t regret it.