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What Mad Men Has Taught Us About Love

Mad Men may not seem to be the most obvious show when it comes to gleaning love lessons from television, but it certainly has a few negative object lessons for us to take to heart. Don Draper may be the coolest man on TV — Ask Men named him the most influential man in the world in 2009, ahead of real-life figures — but his love life is hardly desirable.

Here is what Mad Men has taught us about love:

 Despite appearances, no one has it all together.

Mad Men is eye candy for those who love ‘60s style. But behind every smooth line and perfectly pressed suit is an emotional and psychological mess.

Love lesson learned: Don’t assume that the people you meet who look confident, put together and on top of the world have everything figured out. They have broken hearts, painful histories and their share of insecurities, too. Take the time to get to know someone beneath that façade. (And don’t be intimidated by the appearance of perfection.)

That said, everyone looks better in tailored clothing.

Not sure what to wear to grab someone’s eye? Take a cue from Mad Men’s impeccably dressed cast. Tailored, structured clothing will make you stand up a little taller and command a little more presence when you walk into the room. Putting effort into how you look will actually boost your own confidence levels.

Love lesson learned: Keep your tailor on speed-dial.

Selfish choices are ultimately empty ones.

Mad Men can be frustrating to watch at times. As viewers, we can anticipate the consequences of the poor choices made on-screen, an awareness we need to apply to our own lives. Over and over again, characters make selfish decisions and give in to temptation only see their lives unravel and leave them unsatisfied and alone. Relationships take work. Invest in them. Because even though cultivating a lasting relationship can be exhausting at times, ending the relationship for the wrong reasons can leave you lonely and counting regrets. A relationship needs to be based on selfless love. Beyond damaging a relationship, cheating is ultimately self-destructive.

Love lesson learned: You can’t have both the wife and the mistress.

Handwritten love letters are underrated.

Email wasn’t an option in the ‘60s. Nor was texting. Write the object of your affection a quick handwritten note. Swooning will follow.

Love lesson learned: Put your feelings into words. And brush up on your penmanship.

A drink can calm the nerves, too many can ruin the night.

There may be a little too much drinking and smoking in Mad Men for our liking — alcoholism is certainly not being endorsed here — but sipping on your favorite cocktail just might do the trick on date night. Just watch your intake. Even Don Draper loses his appeal when he drives drunk.

Everyone has something to offer.

In Mad Men, Peggy, a secretary, climbs the corporate ladder (in a decidedly man’s world) because it’s impossible to ignore her impressive contributions in the office. In the dating world, be intentional about getting to know your date’s strengths, talents and passions. Don’t prejudge or overlook someone based on a current position or unassuming presentation style. You’ll often be pleasantly surprised.

Love lesson learned: Encourage the one you love to pursue their strengths and talents. Don’t limit someone based on current circumstances.

Even when the truth hurts, honesty is the best policy.

Don Draper spends much of the show hiding behind lies. He won’t let the people closest to him know anything about his past: that his real name is Richard Whitman, that his mother was a prostitute, that his father was abusive. His lies only make him distant and unknowable: “Draper? Who knows anything about that guy? No one’s ever lifted that rock. He could be Batman for all we know,” Harry Crane remarks in season three.

Relationships can’t be built on the unknown and elusive. Don Draper is an island, mostly because it’s almost impossible to get to know him.

Love lesson learned: Be honest and vulnerable with your loved ones. Running from the past — or denying it — will keep you from engaging in a relationship of substance.


Newly remarried, Don Draper appeared to finally be happy (and faithful). But old habits die hard, and his disrespect for her opinions and career decisions quickly put a wedge between them. Whether you’re embarrassing your date in front of his coworkers or telling your girlfriend her menu choice is the wrong one, inconsiderate behavior can irreparably damage a relationship.

Love lesson learned: Respect your significant other and take their opinions and perspectives seriously.


Images credits: Ron Jaffe/Jordin Althaus/Michael Yarish for AMC

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