Marshall Erikson & Lily Aldrin — Make Romance Great Again
The discussion of How I Met Your Mother often ends in scrutiny; literally nobody asked for Ted and Robin to get back together, and the ending was more bitter than it was meant to be sweet. It is a shame that these scandals managed to eclipse a generational definition of onscreen romance, starring Jason Segel and Alyson Hannigan, better known as Marshall and Lily. As I wrote in my first HIMYM article, I described Barney Stinson “more popular than even the main character Ted Mosby”. The same could even be said about the show’s most iconic couple. In these two, I found a very adorable pair to root for, and also, a pair to truly understand the meaning of love. Come to think about it, how often do we meet TV couples that leave as strong of an impression, since the heights of Meredith and Derek from Grey’s Anatomy or Jim and Pam from The Office?
Standing at the forefront of protagonist Ted Mosby’s quest for his significant other, Marshall and Lily are usually the wizened ones who offer relationship advice to him. They’re sort of like the Yoda to Ted’s Skywalker in the ways of romance, and frankly speaking, who else would be better at this job? You certainly wouldn’t ask Barney and Robin to be the expert here. Love is unfathomable in all sorts of ways, the journey to endearment is long but rewarding, at least according to the two lovebirds. They are after all, the embodiment of what Ted wants.
Many people can accredit their first romantic experiences with someone from college. I met and moved in with my girlfriend during my third year and I am absolutely livid that we could not have shared each other’s company earlier. It takes a certain amount of luck to bump into your significant other, even more to bump into them young. It can be a scary prospect. Of course, this may not apply to everyone, but to commit yourself to another when we are still children feels daunting. Loving someone at a young age can provide strange instances. Let it be clear that the complications of young love affected Marshall and Lily, more specifically the latter. We get it. Women deserve rights and the right to career aspirations. For the longest time, Lily questioned her decision to surrender those goals: becoming an artist or living in Europe. Despite the reconciliation, it still took time to get over the mini breakup.
When marrying your first lover, you sometimes get lucky on the first try — and sometimes you are just settling for whoever came first. Sometimes, it is an ongoing honeymoon, and sometimes an illusory honey trap. Even when the relationship does feel like a kind of honeymoon, romantic regrets may exist. It’s worth remembering, though, that reducing romantic regret is easier than establishing romantic profundity. Such regrets can often be reduced with short and easy interactions. Establishing romantic profundity requires more complex joint activities over a much longer period. This is why, in the game of love, profound love usually wins over romantic regrets.
When Lily left Marshall for San Francisco, it realized the fundamental problem between their youthful coupling. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing grave about them dating. It’s just that when you have lingering doubts about sacrificing your career for your significant other, you will have to address them one way or another. The same applies to Lily. She wants to explore her options besides wifehood and motherhood. She wants to pursue a sophisticated lifestyle and maybe dabble in art on the side. Instead, she teaches kindergarten. That’s a pretty big contrast. Fastforward to the final season of HIMYM, Lily once again revisits these questions; she’s offered a job as an art consultant in Italy, whereas Marshall is offered judgeship. In the 21st century, it would feel old-fashioned for a woman to give everything up over a man, yet Lily ends up doing it. The story between Marshall and Lily is a match made in heaven, nobody can deny that. From the beginning, the characters were afforded time and experience to make their choices, to decided whether such sacrifices were worth it. It may not have been as obvious as the protagonist Ted’s conquest for love, or even Barney’s never-ending bimbo shenanigans, but these issues continued to persist (even fester inside Lily’s mind). The good thing is that once these hassling discussions are had, their romance can blossom into said gooey moments. Compare that to the romances of their friends, extending even to the other characters in lengthy sitcoms, Marshall and Lily seem to have everything under control most of the time.
Put aside the broken engagement and career dissatisfaction, there are many obstacles that Marshall and Lily faced that would be somewhat reminiscent to other day-to-day couples. The ups and downs of a relationship span wide throughout; the high including the introduction of their firstborn and the low including the loss of a family member. Although HIMYMis a comedy sitcom, the events surrounding its first couple were always important stakes. Marshall and Lily may have ended their honeymoon phase, but they face each difficulty head-on, be it financial or familial, which leads to them strengthening their bond further. The occasional argument or two will always happen among us couples, though it is the way these disagreements are handled which will push us further. Save all the messy interconnected love triangles scattered all throughout TV shows (ahem Ted, Robin and Barney or Rory, Jess and Dean from Gilmore Girls), Marshall and Lily remain in their inescapable bubble, fermenting in their absolute adoration for one another. It is evident in the dazzle in their eyes, it is evident in the way they address each other, and even more evident in how they genuinely smile at each other.
The brilliance of these two in HIMYM often ends up being overshadowed by the show’s other romantic ventures. For a show about a man in pursuit of his wife, the enduring love and affection seen in Marshall and Lily effectively proves how mangled the finale of the show was. After all the effort to make audiences invest in Barney and Robin’s happy ending, Robin somehow gets back with Ted via the death of The Mother. Imagine building up the final season with the promise of Cristin Milioti’s portrayal of Tracy, only to voodoo sickness her to death just to fit Robin back into Ted’s life, because the ending for the show was established at the very beginning of production. Idiots.
If the theme of the show was meant to be about love, then Marshall and Lily should’ve been the main characters. Throughout all the turbulent unstableness of the characters’ romantic interests, HIMYM’s greatest couple presented itself in the form of a tall, plain-looking guy and a short redhead. They are the real deal. Despite 18 years of each other’s company, their love continues to grow stronger day by day, still hot to rip each other’s clothes off. Despite all the relatively short relationships their close friends have had, they can claim to have spent more time together than apart. Despite the crash-and-burn finale, they’ve made further progress in their marriage: the introduction of another child and the added bonus of financial security. It has been a long journey to get to where they are. Together, they have not let any (barring the broken engagement but shit happens) disagreement hinder them, encapsulating the power of love against the harsh realities of well… reality. They are what today’s couples can relate to the most often, this kind of authentic romance is the best kind of romance because it grows on not just both characters, but us as well.
For nine years, fans of the HIMYM series joined a lonesome man on his quest to finding everlasting love, which he found, though not everlasting. And in the crosshairs of pinpointing true love somewhere across the boroughs of New York City, we forget that the sweet taste of mutual fondness has been presented to us all along. Few romantic titan couples of modern media can rival such spellbinding conviction, and possibly fewer, will depict love in its most truthful form. Marshall and Lily are a tribute dedicated to all the love clichés out there, their friendship, partnership and ultimately, marriage, indepthly analyzed.