Viewers got more than just hijinks and a pre-Disney Channel Raven-Symoné from The Cosby Show. Nestled in their infamous Brooklyn brownstone, Cliff, Clair, Sondra, Denise, Theo, Vanessa, and Rudy offered up timeless relationship advice episode after episode. Almost thirty years later, the Huxtables’s lessons about love are completely applicable, and humorously so, even today:
1) Presentation matters.
Vanessa’s biggest faux pas was to assume that she knew her parent’s reaction to a premature, pre-20’s engagement. The lesson in this is to simply not assume. When it comes to introducing your boyfriend or girlfriend to family or friends, present them in the way you see them, not based on how you think they’ll be received. If you have an idea or a suggestion for your partner that may not go over well, give them the benefit of the doubt and present it with fervor and confidence at the very least. Trust yourself and trust those in your life to be respectful.
2. Love is earned.
Rudy, guilty of prior bossiness, hits the nail on the head and this is pretty simple. Don’t forget that love isn’t a guarantee. A relationship is always a work in progress and like respect, love is always earned.
3. Relationships are equal opportunity, equal responsibility enterprises.
As Clair so famously described to Elvin, you should not expect your partner to fall into a prescribed role or function in the relationship. This is particularly true if it’s based on gender or other arbitrary delineations. Some roles are naturally occurring, but realistically each person should be contributing pretty equally to the overall functions of the relationship. You certainly should not rely solely on “because you always do it” or “because that’s your job” to dictate who does what. You may end up with something extra in your cup of tea.
4. Keep your promises and be on time.
a. Cliff’s plan to set Sondra up with another man aside, the point here is if you say you are going to do something, do it. If you say you’re going to be somewhere at a certain time, you better try your hardest to be there. We’re talking about everything from not showing up to the in-law dinner on time, picking up the organic, grass-fed chicken from the grocery store, to being at your new girlfriend’s grandmother’s 90th birthday. It shows commitment and respect and let’s your other half know they can trust you. We all know trust is the cornerstone of all functioning relationships. And if you don’t? Well, you risk losing your boyfriend or girlfriend to someone else. Or in this case, to your younger sister’s future husband.
b. If you find yourself in Sondra’s place (and in your room crooning faux ballads) more often than not, it’s probably a good idea to look inside yourself, know your worth, and exit stage left.
5. It’s okay to grovel.
Cliff describes the steps Theo has to take to show he’s really blue after screwing things up with Justine. The takeaway is this: don’t be too proud to ask for forgiveness, even if it takes a dramatic turn. In a couple, pride often dictates a person’s behavior when things go wrong. If you’ve done something wrong, big or small, own it, ask for forgiveness, and bellowing out the blues is usually a good first step.
6. All anniversaries are a big deal. It’s okay to act like it.
It’s not just the big ones ending in 5’s and 0’s that matter; your 49th or third anniversaries count, too. The same goes for birthdays and other special dates you’ve both recognized as important. Buy a card, or make one. Gather family members to lip synch and bust a move for your SO. Just honor the day, even if it means deciding that you want to share a pint of Ben & Jerry’s in your footed pajamas together on the couch. Do something. The point is not, however, to lose sight of the why you’re celebrating an anniversary. Ditch the entitlement and spoiled demands. “Fuss” is relative and should be agreed upon as a couple. Being intentional about acknowledging how far you’ve come as a couple will usually remind you how far you want to go as a couple.