One of the most common pieces of marriage advice out there is to fight fair. It's okay to disagree, but maybe don't bring up that random thing that happened years ago and isn't relevant to the conversation. Don't use exaggerations, like "you always do this," and actually listen to the other person.
We don't always get to see couples fight on TV, and especially not in movies. But This Is Us' Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) and Rebecca (Mandy Moore) are no strangers to arguments. And in last night's season finale, they had their biggest fight yet. Jack stopped Rebecca from pursuing her singing dreams, and it was her first chance to do so since the kids were born.
Now, in this case, we could forgive Rebecca for not fighting fair. She just spent two hours driving her drunk husband home after he singlehandedly destroyed her band's tour. Rebecca has every right to be angry, but she doesn't yell at her husband during the drive; she doesn't even talk to him at all. And once they're home, she gives him a bag of frozen peas for his hand before the fight begins. It's showing she cares, without letting him win; it's very effective.
Rebecca isn't accusatory when she asks Jack how long he's been drinking. She doesn't lash out; the first thing she does is ask whether he's driven the kids while drunk. Her first thought isn't how Jack's issues are impacting their marriage; it's her concern for her children's safety.
What Rebecca does tell Jack is that she's disappointed he's drinking when she's doing something for herself for "the first time in years."
"Go ahead and say it out loud, that we don't fulfill you," Jack tells Rebecca, amid her admission that she wants to pursue a singing career, now that the kids are grown up. It's a role reversal from a previous conversation the two had, before the kids were born. Rebecca didn't want children, and expressed her concern that she wasn't enough for Jack. He assured her that she was; eventually, she decided that she did want kids.
Of course, wanting to pursue a career doesn't mean that Rebecca doesn't love her family, or that she doesn't find their life together fulfilling. But the kids are growing up, and they don't need a parent at home as much as they once did. She tells Jack that she feels like she doesn't have a life anymore — she's a "housewife," in her words, while the kids are at school and Jack's at work.
Throughout the scene, I was continually impressed that Rebecca wouldn't back down. She didn't bring up the past, or overreact; by all accounts, she was fighting fair. Rebecca shoots down Jack's suggestion that he didn't support the band because of Ben; it's just an excuse for the fact that he doesn't want her to do something on her own.Even in the morning, Rebecca is even-keeled as she suggests Jack spend some time at Miguel's.
Before the finale, I'd thought of Rebecca as a long-suffering wife who had to live with the decisions Jack made for the Pearson family. But last night, we met a different version of Rebecca: a strong woman who wouldn't be pushed around. We saw a young Rebecca continue to pursue a singing career when her friends suggested she wouldn't be successful. And, most importantly, we saw Rebecca defend herself against Jack during their most painful fight yet.
There always seemed to be thinkpieces going around that said we'd "finally" seen that Jack wasn't the perfect family man we'd thought he was. But the thing is: Jack was never perfect. We were privy to his issues with alcoholism pretty early on, and he didn't always make perfect parenting choices. (Who does?) Jack can be pretty controlling. And while Rebecca made some poor decisions about Randall and Kate, she was also doing her best to keep her family together through a marriage that had its ups and downs.
I never sympathized with Rebecca when she lamented Kate's not wearing a shirt at the pool to cover up her body. And it was easy to hate Rebecca when she kept William's identity a secret from Randall for all those years. But I truly felt for Rebecca during this fight. Her dreams were, in the grand scheme of things, pretty achievable, but Jack still managed to mess things up. And everything she said during the fight was true.