Love, Lies, and Misunderstandings: Do Don and Megan Have a Chance?

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MAD MEN REVIEW: Season 7 Episode 3 — Good relationships take trust and trust allows relationships to strengthen over time. As we’ve watched Don Draper over the years, we know he’s lied to the people in his life for complicated reasons. After suffering a series of humiliating defeats in Episode 3, it’s painfully illuminated to Don that the people who know him – from his wife Megan to his partners at SC&P – don’t trust him. Don is forced to face the reality that trust is hard to gain and easy to lose.

Trust (and love) require being open to the hard work of understanding another person; their histories, the reasons for their behavior and their pain, what they bring to the relationship from the past. The way Don has “pushed Megan away with both hands” hasn’t made it easy for Megan. But, he’s trying to give her a chance to know him. Will she be able to let him? Or will her hurt and feelings of rejection interfere?

We know Don is insecure and ashamed and doesn’t expect love. In other posts, I’ve discussed his need to control women. In his affair with Sylvia, particularly, Don set the stage for a woman to be at his beck and call, existing only to provide for his needs. Something he could never, for even a moment, count on his surrogate (step) mother to do. Yet, with Megan, he’s made very few demands. And, we haven’t seen much evidence in their marriage of allowing any human need for her. He’s too frightened of rejection and of not being loved. It appears to us (and even to Don, himself, until the end of Episode 3) that he doesn’t need Megan at all. This kind of turning away from need is evidence of the pseudo-independent neglected child-self I wrote about in my last post. Needing each other and being there for each other’s needs is crucial for a relationship. Neither Don nor Megan has been successful in doing that for each other.

Megan has been quite preoccupied with her career and aspirations. Free of the humdrum duties of being a housewife, Don’s needs have figured very little into her plans. On his part, Don’s problems have created their own blockade. He hasn’t been able to recognize how important it is to put love first. He can’t. He’s too scared. He begins his flight to LA with some excitement about rekindling his relationship with his wife, but runs into trouble almost as soon as he’s landed. Rejected by a distrustful Megan after she learns his real reasons for “surprising” her, Don must accept that he’s long missed his opportunity to truly be there for her when she needed him. Because neither Don nor Megan have had any real help overcoming their insecurities, they’ve become receptacles for each other’s unwanted feelings of rejection.

In the psychoanalytic world, we call this projective identification – when unpleasant feelings are given to someone else. Projective identification happens in all intimate relationships. Can such difficulties be worked out? It depends on whether the two people involved can weather the difficulties, learn to listen to each other, and acknowledge their unconsciously hurtful mistakes. Don, to his credit, is trying not to push his feelings away and finally comes clean to Megan: “I shouldn’t have lied to you, I’m sorry. I just thought if you knew you’d see me differently.” Megan, offended, retorts: “Then you don’t know me.” Knowing each other isn’t so easy. It takes honesty and openness to form strong relational bonds that bring people closer together. Instead, Megan feels Don’s “pushed her away with both hands” and now, in a self-protective move, she’s doing the same.

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