The World of the Married took K-drama fans by storm when it streamed into the different online platforms. Everyone talked about it. Everyone loved it specially so that narratives with cheating husbands, mistresses, catfights, failed marriages are so ingrained in our viewing culture that it was so easy to relate to that trope. As it was phenomenal here in the Philippines, it was also a huge success in its homeland of South Korea. In fact, it set a new viewing record as the most viewed Korean Drama of all time. It’s lead actress, Kim Hee-ae even won Best Actress in the recently concluded Baeksang Awards. It was a well-deserved win.
As an audience of the series, the narrative and the thematic elements resonated with me that after watching it I was able to take away four important lessons that are universally true and that all of us can learn from.
1. Love is not enough to keep a marriage
Love, for the most part, is the basic principle that binds two people in marriage. It allows one to commit himself or herself to the person that he or she loves. However, to keep a marriage work, other key elements must come into play. At the start of the drama it seemed that Seon-u (Kim Hee-ae) and Tae-oh (Park Hae-joon) have the perfect marriage. Seon-u is a well-respected doctor and Tae-oh works in the film industry. But this too good to be true atmosphere at the beginning becomes a portent of the dark turn that their marriage will take. Seon-u’s opening lines “Everything was perfect” as she unwraps their family portrait is a foreshadow into the troubles their marriage will encounter. The use of the past tense of the line itself was a big tell-all. Tae-oh, it happens was having an affair and this mistake had caused their marriage to break.
The love they had in their marriage was not enough to keep them together. Marriage, like anything else, needs a lot of work for it to sustain against marital trials. From what I had seen in the series, the characters lacked the necessary amount of respect for each other as well as personal respect. For with respect you understand that every action that you make within the marriage affects your partner since marriage is a two-way street. Tae-oh is a very insecure character. His insecurity towards his overly successful wife compelled him to lose that marital respect regardless that he loved her. Secondly, is the value of communication. Sun-woo and Tae-oh had been married for years and when one is in a marriage for years one can get too comfortable thinking that everything is fine; that nothing is wrong since you think you know each other so well being in such a relationship for so long that you forget to constantly communicate. The trust that she believed was solid was actually crumbling in secret. Love is not all there is. Work is necessary for a marriage to succeed.
2. The people whom you trust the most can hurt you the most
Trust is a prerequisite in any relationship and once that trust is broken it will cause a strain in that relationship. In episode 2 of the drama there was a revisit of the past during the wedding of the characters and in that scene Tae-oh professed his never-ending love for his wife saying: “You’re in big trouble now because you’ll be the only woman that I’ll ever love. Forever.” Seon-u, like any wife or wife to be banks on these words. It became the reference point of the trust that they have for each other. However, she soon realized that all those words were lies; that everything was a lie when she finally discovered that Tae-oh was truly having an affair with a younger woman. The evidence of the affair that mounted up in episode one was made even worse when she found out in Tae-oh’s cellular phone that the people she trusted all knew all along about the affair as evidenced by the photos.
She was surrounded by people who were so good at keeping things from her. In that instant, the foundational trust where their marriage was built upon suddenly crumbles. It was also in episode two that Seon-u confronted Tae-oh about the affair saying that she is willing to forgive him if he simply confesses the act, but Tae-oh like most cheating husbands denied the affair. His lie was his ultimate betrayal. This part of the story tells us that trust is a very volatile thing. It can easily be taken away and more often in the most excruciating way by the people whom we trust the most. This springs from the idea of our level of intimacy with them. The more we are invested in a relationship, the more pain we will receive; that’s why the people closest to us holds the greatest power in hurting us. It is scary but the intensity of this paradox is what makes loving even more exciting and powerful. Loving is allowing pain to be part of our everyday stories. Moreover, the narrative is telling us to be careful on whom we put our trust. In our individual stories, we may be the one to break that trust or we may be Seon-u who was the receiving end of that pain.
3. You can get out from a troubled marriage
After learning the affair, Seon-u started paying visits to a divorce attorney. In episode 4, the divorce lawyer advised her that secrecy is key in filing for a divorce; that she should act as if nothing is going on. It was also in this episode where Seon-u had a conversation with Mi-yeon, Tae-oh’s employee and the mother of her son’s classmate, about the latter’s life after her divorce where Mi-yeon answered that it is actually ok at present and that her daughter does not even look for her father anymore. From these scenes, it is established that Seon-u’s contemplation of a divorce is really strong. She is not putting-up with the pain of Tae-oh’s betrayal. As can be seen in the succeeding episodes, they did get divorced which in turn created emotional and psychological problems for their son as any typical divorce process would.
However, regardless of the consequences of the divorce decision, the show conveyed a strong message to its viewers that marriage when turns unhealthy and damaging can be broken; that one can get out from it. Seon-u became the symbol of the idea that divorce or separation is a logical and viable option. Whilst this decision might be very hard to achieve here in our country since divorce is not yet institutionalized, but it is the idea of getting out from a troubled marriage is what this show is trying to get across among other things. Marriage should never be hailed as an infinite union when physical, emotional, and psychological aspects are put in danger. Getting out can sometimes be the best solution.
4. There is life after a marriage ends
What made A World of the Married a good series was the fact that there was hope at the end. From episode one up to the climactic points, the series was centered on revenge, pain, and a ballistics of emotional distress. However, towards the end of the show, the characters were able to take different hopeful paths. It wasn’t a perfect life after, but the series was able to paint a picture that there exists life after experiencing so much pain. Each characters were given new beginnings and new chances and that’s beautiful because that’s what life is about. We will never be stuck in the mud forever; we will get through, and move forward, and take on life anew. While pain demands to be felt, it doesn’t last forever. Life is a big metaphorical masterpiece. Each of us goes through different seasons. Seasons where we will feel sad, pained, torn, alone and seasons where we will be happy, fulfilled, and at peace. The show was able to capture this beautiful life paradox and it resonated with every human narrative that life goes on.
I enjoyed this drama so much. If you are one of those who haven’t watched this yet, watch with caution for this will frustrate you, annoy you, stress you and put tears in your eyes. If you’ve watched it already, you can watch it again in a new light. Enjoy!