HIMYM was uncomfortably realistic about love, marriage, and friendship, and that’s why it was legendary3
April 1, 2014 by Alex Johannigman
Last night I watched the finale of one of my favorite shows of the past decade, How I Met Your Mother. The show is centered around the lives of a group of 5 close friends as one of them, Ted, searches for the love of his life. Although the show was wildly successful and ran for 9 seasons, the finale left a bad taste in a lot of peoples’ mouths, much like the ending of Lost did to us a few years ago. People were mad and let the world know, like this person, this person, this person, and this person, just to name a few.
Although it’s not the popular opinion, I thought the finale was incredible, so I’m going to write about it. This is your official SPOILER ALERT.
The final episode of How I Met Your Mother told an honest, and realistic story about what happens in marriage, love, and family life. The reality is that few people get the storybook ending that many viewers wanted to get out of the ending of the show, and usually even the good endings have a messier road than you’d probably hope for. But it wasn’t the absence of a fairy-tale ending that made me love it. I’m not a sadist who delights in the pain of other people. I found the story of the future of one particular character very interesting because of the valuable truths that it revealed.
And the character that I’m talking about isn’t Ted.
I loved watching the story of Barney.
Let’s start by talking about Barney and Robin’s failed marriage, which was perhaps the most frustrating and controversial part of the whole episode for many people. Everyone was mad that the entire last season was setting up for a wedding scene for a marriage that didn’t last. The writers made us love Barney and Robin as a couple and then tore them apart. How cruel. But what I saw in addition to the developing chemistry between them in the last season was how both Robin and Barney are still struggling with a lot of issues that are going to cause problems in a marriage, such as Barney’s narcissism. It was a reminder that marriage isn’t going to cure us of our flaws and baggage. We need to take care of that ourselves. Our addictions, habits, and mindsets will continue in marriage, and can even cause bigger problems when we bring another person into them. We saw that played out in the finale, where we see Barney and Robin agree to get divorced.
Barney grew a lot in the last season, and had a major character development when he recognized the need to be honest if his marriage was going to work. Bravo Barney! Honesty is certainly important, and I’m willing to say that most marriages won’t survive without it. But something that they didn’t talk much about, and ultimately became the downfall of their marriage, was the need for sacrifice and wanting what is best for the other person. St. Thomas Aquinas stated that true love derives less from emotion and more from decision, and he defines love as “willing the good of another person.” Love requires more than just being honest as Barney and Robin learned, it’s an act of self giving that we must continue to do every single day. Robin didn’t understand that. She was more concerned about the success of her career, which was obviously tearing apart her marriage and making Barney miserable, than she did about how her ambition impacted her husband. And Barney didn’t get it either. He still viewed love in terms of what he was getting out of it, and not what he was giving.
This was in complete contrast to the experience of the other main couple in the series, Marshall and Lily, during the final season. Their marriage was in danger of going down a similar road during their fight about moving to Rome or taking the job as a judge in New York. But fortunately for them, Marshall understood what Aquinas was writing about. He recognized that if their marriage was going to continue to flourish, he needed to make sacrifices for Lily and put her needs and the good of her above what he wanted for himself.
The divorce was definitely a downer to witness, but then we saw both characters grow after that experience.
We see that Robin has realized that her career wasn’t making her happy when she ran into Ted with his daughter who knew Robin from seeing her face on the buses. She confessed to Lily at the final apartment party that she hated spending time with the group now. Although it wasn’t explicitly stated, I’d like to think that she recognized how much joy those friendships had brought her relative to how much joy her career brought her, and that true friendship ultimately was much more valuable than material success.
Although it took a while, Barney finally stopped being a boy and started being a man after the birth of his daughter. I loved that it showed how transformative the experience of fatherhood can be when our culture and our government are busy telling us that an unexpected pregnancy is one of the worst things that can happen to someone and must be prevented at all costs. On the contrary, for Barney, his unexpected pregnancy was his salvation and showed him that women have dignity and aren’t just objects for his own personal pleasure. He approached the two women in MacLaren’s and recognized that they were each someone’s beloved daughter, and then rebuked them and told them (in different words) to start dressing like women with objective worth who were created in the image and likeness of God! Barney (in his actual words) realized what it means for someone to be the “love of my life,” and to tell that person that “Everything I have and everything I am, is yours, forever,” even if that means making sacrifices like moving your bedtime from 2am to 9:45 to care for the needs of that person.
Say what you will about the end of the series, or whether Ted and Robin should have ended up together (I still have very mixed feelings about it myself), but I think the way that the last episode highlighted important truths about love, marriage, and friendship made How I Met Your Mother’s finale legen…
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