This is such a great story, at least from my values perspective (more later on that). It’s really funny, too, but not ridiculous. It’s a very light couple of hours, nothing heavy. And, for most of us that’s a good thing, at least once in a while.
Frank and Helen, who were high school sweethearts, meet again, now in their 40’s, at a high school reunion. Both of their spouses have died, so they are each single. Frank surprises Helen because when she asks him if he has children, he confesses that he has eight. Helen shocks Frank because when he asks her the same thing, she responds with the number ten. They have 18 kids (yes, I said 18) between then.
The years-ago attraction to each other is still there in a big way. So, they decide that night to get married, and here’s the shocker, they do it without telling their kids. After the kids have been told, they all move in together. From the beginning, it’s chaos. Why? The kids from each family have been raised in totally opposite lifestyles.
Frank is an Admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard. He’s all about extreme order, organization and problem solving. But, all of his kids are so obedient, that there are hardly any glitches in their lives. On the other hand, Helen is a purse designer, very creative, and a strong proponent of “free expression” for children. If you were to visit Frank’s home, you’d want to take your shoes off just inside the door and also be sure not to touch anything while you’re there. It’s pristine. In Helen’s home you’d have to find a clear spot just to put your foot down on the floor and not on any of the kids or their pet potbelly pig.
All of the unexpected togetherness makes for ingenious pranks and a lot of hostility. When the inevitable trouble crops up, the Admiral’s idea of a solution is to make a very detailed organization chart and assign “duties.” On the other hand, Helen wants to pass her family’s “talking stick” and share feelings. Completely opposite approaches.
The situation comes to a head when Frank and Helen go out for the evening and the older kids have a party. The house is an unbelievable mess, the little kids are sick from eating so much junk, and Frank and Helen find themselves once again on totally opposite sides as to how to handle it.
Their differences really begin to show up after this party because Frank and Helen seriously disagree on how to handle disciplining the older kids. While the parents trying to work out their differences, the kids all get together and hatch a plot to undermine the marriage and make sure the parents split up. And, they actually succeed.
Helen hates order; she thrives on disorder and chaos in her workspace. So, the kids make sure that they “order and organize” her work studio so that she doesn’t even recognize it and can’t work in it. She accuses Frank of doing it; he, of course, denies that he had anything to do with it. She doesn’t believe him; she’s sure he did it for spite.
“I want a little bit of respect for the way I do things, Frank. Homes are for free expression, not for good impression,” Helen says. “In the military there’s little room for free expression,” Frank says. “But, we’re not in the military, Frank,” says Helen. “An organized ship is a happy ship,” says Frank.
At that point Helen says that maybe they aren’t meant for each other; they’re too different. Frank is hurt but agrees with her and tells his kids to prepare to move to Washington, D.C. He’s been offered a promotion.
At this moment all of the kids realize that they’ve actually come to like each other and want to stay together as a family. They confess to Helen that they’ve been the problem, not Frank. The whole bunch of them stop Frank from going, Helen and Frank kiss and make up and it all ends well. I love happy endings.
Now, for A Deeper Look.
Superiority people have very heavy and numerous goals. Here Frank is an Admiral in the U.S. Coast Guard and has been offered the Commander’s position. It was a pretty lofty goal and he’s reached it. One other important goal that we know about is that he’s raised his children to be good kids and goal setters themselves.
Frank definitely takes Control; yes, certainly at home but also at work. At home each of his children conforms enough so that the family system works pretty well. But, the kids also seem independent enough to have their own thoughts and be in charge of themselves most of the time.
At work Frank is all about Control because that‘s what he must do to make his ship and his fleet run smoothly. He’s an Admiral, for goodness sake!
Now Helen. She, too, is a high Superiority personality type but only in her work life. She’s a designer whose products are sold in high end New York retail establishments. But, at home Helen is definitely a mix of the Pleasing style and the Comfort style.
We can see her Pleasing in how she handles her kids but also in how she mostly defers to Frank, too. Pleasers tend to go along with those they love; they prefer not to have any friction. They worry that saying “no” or setting too many limits somehow threatens the relationship. So, we see that pretty much everything the kids or Frank wants to do is okay with her.
We see her Comfort the minute we see the outside of the house. It’s pretty much a mess. Then when we see the inside, it’s more awful than the outside. Comfort people don’t like to organize or clean because not only does it feel like work, it’s also seems unnecessary. Comfort people also don’t like expectations or pressure because they cause stress and stress isn’t comfortable. So Frank’s expectations that Helen will put the cap back on the toothpaste or learn to put her things away, are just not going to happen.
So yes, Frank and Helen’s personality styles are very different. But, two important things that save this marriage are that: (1) they very much love and appreciate each other. The other is that: (2) they have some identical values: (a) Children, (b) Cooperation, (c) Taking care of each other, (d) Responsibility, (e) Humor, (f) Hard work, (g) Having fun together, and (h) Commitment.
Warmest regards until next time,
Joan Chamberlain is an author, therapist, and life coach with over 30 years of experience helping adults, couples, and teens. She has a Bachelor's degree in Business and Finance, a Bachelor's in education, and a Masters in individuals, couples, and family counseling. Her book, Smart Relationships, has helped many people achieve the self-awareness needed to see themselves honestly. Its wisdom has helped them work toward improving their relationships with themselves, their friends, and their families.
To learn more about the ideas and concepts presented in her articles, please peruse her website: