By Delilah S. Dawson
Author of Wicked as They Come
I’m a steampunk vampire romance writer, and therefore, I’m a little crazy and awfully geeky. My husband has a Ph.D. in psychology and actually enjoys talking about feelings. We’ve been happily married for 10 years and know a few things about fighting fair. And of course we had to see The Avengers in the theater, stat.
Although the villain and his evil plot are important, the biggest challenge facing The Avengers is that they have a horrible time assembling into a cohesive team. After all, superheroes are by nature outsiders. They’re either super strong, super intelligent, or, as in The Avengers (for everyone but Thor), both. Watching them bicker and sulk reminded me a little bit of the early years of my marriage, when we were still figuring out how to fight evil on the same side.
Anyone in a relationship can benefit from taking a close look at The Avengers and the ways each character has had to put aside their flaws for the greater good.
1. Don’t be a thick-headed demigod, Thor.
Thor’s a demi-god prince who thinks he’s superior to everyone and therefore never stops to give anyone a chance. When you’re in the beginning of a relationship, it can be easy to sit on your high horse and assume that you’re always right. But Thor’s lack of perspective is always his downfall. It’s much better to really try to understand where someone is coming from and meet them in the middle. Learning to say, “I don’t agree with you, but maybe I’m not right, either” is invaluable. Beginning sentences with “I feel” instead of “You always” helps. And never hit anyone with a magical hammer.
VIDEO: The Avengers Official Movie Trailer
2. Don’t base everything on lies, Black Widow.
Seriously, everything out of this woman’s mouth is a lie. Very handy against enemies, but when can her friends trust her? Even one lie can set you up for constant misgivings. It’s better to say “I don’t feel comfortable sharing that right now” or “I don’t know” than to tell a lie to someone you love. And it’s safe to assume she’s lying to herself, too. Keep your ledger clean, and you’ll never have to worry.
3. Don’t bottle up your anger, Hulk.
I think we can all relate to the Hulk, an intelligent, altruistic man who turns into an uncontrollable monster whenever his anger gets out of control. But when you’re in a relationship, it’s possible for you to marinate in your own silent bubble of fury while your partner has no earthly clue that there’s even a problem. And then one day you discover that someone drank the last cup of coffee and you turn green and rip your favorite PJ pants. It’s so much better to let off the steam carefully by choosing the right moment to say, “Hey, could we talk? I’m having an issue.” For example, I now know to never bring up money right before bed. We only talk money in emails, and it stays short, sweet, and businesslike. Which means no more Hulking out.
4. Don’t wear a titanium shell, Iron Man.
Genius billionaire playboy philanthropist Tony Stark spends a lot of time building walls around himself. Titanium armor, Stark Tower, razor-sharp wit. But no man is an island, and when you go into a relationship, you have to lower your guard. Yes, you will both have bad days. Yes, you will get sick and have barf all over your shirt. Yes, you will sometimes be wrong. No one is perfect, and your partner can probably help you trim those insane eyebrow hairs. Let the person you love see you at your worst, and they just might surprise you by loving you anyway.
5. Don’t be afraid of change, Captain America.
After saving the world from alien Nazis and sleeping for 70 years, Captain America is reticent to join modern society, claiming that things have changed for the worse. Tough luck, kid. People are constantly changing, and one of the keys to a successful partnership is changing in compatible ways, or at least showing an interest in your partner’s new endeavors. If someone wants to go vegetarian, start working out, go back to school, you can’t be afraid of their new path or feel threatened by it—or at least, you can’t let that fear overcome you. Captain America will just have to embrace the Internet and low-waisted (or high, we’re a bit confused these days) pants like the rest of us if he wants to be happy.
Superheroes are so tragically flawed that we could keep this up for days. Batman’s trust issues. Wolverine’s rebellion, Wonder Woman’s blatant exhibitionism in that see-through jet. The good news is thatin the movies at leastthey always find a way to triumph. Even if you’re more of a Clark Kent than a Superman, learning from heroes can help you fight your own demons. Then, if you’re as lucky as I am, you’ll one day be wrestling a three-year-old into pajamas instead of wrestling an alien-supported demi-god for his scepter to prevent world domination.
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Photo by Zade Rosenthal