with Lynne and Leslie

“Grey’s Anatomy,” cheating and who your person should be

by SweetMidlife

Leslie here. It’s been ages since Lynne watched “Grey’s Anatomy” regularly – the silliness of the romance-go-round, the increasingly dumb “ER”-esque all-hands-on-decks crisis plots (“Tonight: A UFO full of killer alien sharks lands on Seattle Grace!”) got on her nerves. But I couldn’t help but call her this morning to muse about last night’s episode, where our favorite doctors were preparing to take their medical board exams in the midst of personal emergencies, adorable babies with the stomach flu, cheating and the world’s fastest airplanes that can magically get a doctor back and forth between Seattle and San Francisco at will, in like 30 minutes.

The thing that struck me was the late-episode conversation between Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), trying not to puke her guts out from the stomach flu given to her by the aforementioned adorable baby, the blessed Zola, and prickly genius bestie Cristina (the brilliant Sandra Oh), through the closed door of Meredith’s hotel room so that Cristina wouldn’t catch any of her flu germs the night before the boards. The show has established that no matter what their romantic status – Meredith is currently happily married to Dr. Derek “McDreamy” Shepard (Patrick Dempsey), while Cristina is barely hanging on to civility with husband/professional brooder Dr. Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) – they are each other’s “person.” Sometimes this is good – I have a few incredibly close girlfriend soul mates who have been my brain and heart for ages, and who I go to in a different way than I go to my husband.

But…and I mean this…my husband is my ultimate person. This was not an easy transition – I got married at 38, almost 39, and my friends, many of whom I’ve literally known more than half my life – and it was an adjustment to rely on one person so much. But that’s the sweet, scary part about marriage and committed relationships – the awesome, crazy risks you take, and how vulnerable you are to the person you gave your heart to. Cristina and Meredith still have some issues with this – when Owen and Cristina were in counseling about their various issues, including the abortion she had that he was opposed to, he yelled “I should be your person!” (I think we can all agree that no matter what your feelings on abortion are, that they should be discussed before you, you know, get married. Ditto whether you want to have children. Right? Geez.)

Last night, as I said, the couple was as far away from each other emotionally as Pat Buchanan is from leading a pro-Obama rally. He admitted that he had cheated on her, partially because he was drunk and stupid, and partially because he was still devastated over the abortion and not being able to talk about it with her. And she pretty much checked out emotionally and hasn’t really dealt with him or consulted him about anything in her life, including where she’s going to move and go work after the boards.

Meredith found out accidentally about Owen’s cheating, because he assumed, her being his wife’s person and all, that she had told her. But she hadn’t, which, to me, pointed to the fact that Cristina was finally learning some boundaries, or priorities (or maybe she just completely didn’t want to deal with it.) And last night, even though Cristina went back and forth in the same conversation about whether she’d be leaving Owen and headed to Hopkins or some other far-off hospital, she said something else that showed that her reasoning, or maybe her personhood, had evolved.

Meredith, because she is used to always solving Cristina’s issues or at least at trying to, offered to let her move in with she and Derek, and was sort of stunned that Cristina hadn’t decided to be done with her marriage.

“He cheated,” she said – and let us remember that even though McDreamy didn’t tell her that he was estranged but still married to his cheating wife when they got together, there was some coupling going on even after that, and…hi…pot, kettle, blackness. But Cristina said something that was incredibly wise – not necessarily right, because right is defined by the couple, and their feelings and situations – but wise. She told Meredith that she realized that Owen, while wrong, had gotten drunk and had sex with someone once, and that she could even see herself doing that at some point, if pushed. And she wondered if that one mistake was worth her whole marriage.

That depth of analysis isn’t always a “Grey’s Anatomy” thing – for instance, they seem to have forgotten about Meredith and Derek’s origins – and it’s not always something you see on TV, where having the spouse of a more popular, established character cheat on them is a clear sound that the cheater’s getting written off. And Owen still might, because I can’t imagine where they’re gonna go with this – the doctors in that class are all applying to other hospitals and Cristina seems to want to go. Also, he’s way broody to an almost distracting extent, which is not fun to watch.

Their future aside, it’s interesting that the show is examining Cristina and Owen’s marriage in more than a surface way – they’ve provided more depth in the show’s friendships, which are more complex, than in the romantic relationships, which tend to be “You love me. You cheated. You lied. You bad. You die” or finite things like that. But here, Cristina is having to decide whether or not Owen’s one-time cheating is worth her whole marriage, which is something only she can decide. Meredith assumes that she’s leaving him, and doesn’t get why she wouldn’t.

And that’s because – and here is where the grown-up personhood comes in – she is no longer the most relevant Person in this scenario, as far as Cristina and her decisions go, because Meredith is not inside Cristina’s marriage. She is not seeing it the way Cristina is because she doesn’t have that vantage point from inside her head and her heart, weighing the hurts and the promise equally and making the decision. And Cristina doesn’t need her judgment. She needs her to chill and let Cristina handle it.

I have been on the outside of several relationships of people I have loved where there was cheating. Sometimes the relationships ended, and sometimes they didn’t. But I can tell you that in every single one of those relationships, the cheating was a symptom of some other issue, and it wasn’t the first sign of fissure. And the people inside of those unions had to decide – what is the more important thing here? Is there a pattern? Is this the final straw on the back of this particular camel? Or is this a one-time mistake that heralds a problem that through honesty and patience and some really hard work can be made right? Whatever decision those couples made was the one that was right for them, the one that was made from their unique vantage point, and nobody can really judge it but them because they aren’t them.

“Grey’s Anatomy” is not real life – the sheer number of craziness that happens at the hospital alone defies reality – but sometimes it does hit on some scenarios that echo it, like the fundamental damage bad parenting can do, or what it’s like to watch your friends have the marriages, kids or career you assumed would be yours, or just like hilarity that ensues when uber-driven Type A’s find they can’t control the universe. And even if Owen is eaten by an alien shark in the ER before any real, satisfying resolution is reached between he and
Cristina. I still enjoyed that one moment where Cristina said, out loud, that she was thinking outside of her own hurt and shock and ambitions, if even for 30 seconds, and wondering if her connection to Owen was more important and could be worked on. Cristina’s detachment is one of her trademarks, and even if she leaves him – she said in the conversation that she might anyway – it’s a decision that will come from consideration, and not just a knee-jerk reaction to what any Person besides she and her husband believe.

One Response to ““Grey’s Anatomy,” cheating and who your person should be”

  1. mtyree55@msn.com' Marcia says:

    I don’t watch Grey’s Anatomy, but thought this was a really interesting and well-written article.

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