The Atlantic just published an article titled, “I Learned Everything I Needed to Know About Marriage from Pride and Prejudice.” I’m not married, I love Pride and Prejudice, and I’ve learned nothing from it. About love, that is. I’ve learned a lot about awesome writing.
People worship Pride and Prejudice because it tells a love story that’s wholly satisfying, complete with relatable heroine and brooding, hesitant, lovesick hero. The problem is its lessons don’t hold up for single people. We don’t date the way Darcy and Elizabeth do, and I’m not referring to the Victorian-versus-modern discrepancies. I’m talking about relevant takeaways that just aren’t true for single people as they navigate the dating world.
Multiple Rejections Won’t Make Him Love You More
By the time Bingley throws his ball at Netherfield, Darcy is already pretty obviously in love with Lizzie. She meets his love with a healthy dose of raging cold cow. Later, they both find themselves at Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s, and Darcy proposes. Lizzie rejects him with a, “You’re the last person I could be imposed upon to marry.” He goes on to save her sister from ruin and in turn save her family.
This doesn’t happen. When you suggest even the slightest hint of rejection, guys are already running. No one likes to get rejected, and when he doesn’t have that much invested, the slightest hint of apathy means goodbye.
There’s No Attraction, It’s Over
When Darcy first meets Lizzie, he calls her “not handsome enough to tempt me.” He’s not attracted to her. And yet, just pages later (as Bingley’s sister rightfully calls out), he refers to Lizzie’s eyes as “bright” and is well on his way to falling in love.
We’re not going to be shallow, and there’s much more to dating than how someone looks. But if there’s no physical chemistry — there’s not that thing that makes him take notice — it’s incredibly rare that your wit will turn it all around.
Your Friends and Family Are Important
Almost everyone is shocked when Lizzie announces her engagement to Darcy, because they’ve “always thought him a proud sort of fellow.”
Your friends and family know you best and want the best for you. There are always extenuating circumstances, but they’re more often right than wrong. If they think it doesn’t make sense, they’re probably seeing something you don’t, but something you will after it’s too late.
Loose Women Are Often Successful
Bingley’s sister is a terrible human being, but she’s constantly with Darcy and often flirting.
These girls don’t always get rejected. In fact, they usually end up dating the guy. And you end up pining. Move on! We love to think that the witty girls win and the trashy ones lose, but there are far too many couples that prove the opposite.
Negging Will Only Do So Much
Lizzie calls attentions to all of Darcy’s faults, especially flaws that he is unhappy with himself.
Flirting involves a healthy dose of making fun, but when you pick at something he’s actually sensitive about, he won’t thank you for it. And he probably won’t chalk it up to a scathing personality.
Coming from Similar Backgrounds Matters
Darcy’s first marriage proposal is a disaster. He tells her that despite her inferior rank and circumstance, he loves her. They overcome the terrible proposal, but it highlights something that would end up plaguing their relationship. Elizabeth comes from a family peppered with lowly lawyers (yeah, different time), so much so that the “shades of Pemberley would be polluted” were they to marry, according to Darcy’s aunt.
The money and background issue would become a sticking point. When two people come from wildly different backgrounds — especially where one is much better-off — it creates an uncomfortable power dynamic. Parties with his friends are going to get weird and no one wants to feel like a serf.