What Arya Stark Has Taught Me About Relationships
From season one of Game of Thrones, we've known that Arya Stark is not the type of girl who gives much thought to romance. Her priorities lie elsewhere. When Ned Stark promised Arya that he would find her a suitable match to a kind lord, she refused and told him, "That's not me."
Before you continue reading, you should know that this article does contain season eight spoilers. If that's all right with you, carry on!
For those of you watching season eight, we've seen her stay true to that line. "That's not me." And for some of us - certainly myself included - we were half-hoping that she would change her mind about that after seeing her relationship with Gendry go to the next level. Still, despite her reluctance to engage in a committed, romantic relationship with him, I've learned a lot from her this season and appreciate her strength of character, how she stays true to herself.
Fiction is one of the greatest teachers. It might seem unlikely that Arya would have anything to teach us about love (as opposed to... well, killing, another area in which she has displayed remarkable talent). However, her gift of staying true to herself has much to teach us when it comes to the ways we compromise ourselves in hopes of being "worthy" of love.
Lesson #1: Give It Time & Be Friends First
Time - it's such a good answer to life's many conundrums. It has been said to heal all wounds. It can even make a difference if you started off on the wrong foot with someone, even if their first words of recognition of your true character were, "Pull out your cock and take a piss, then."
One of the things I love the most is how Arya and Gendry started off as friends. Perhaps she always had a crush on him, but this was allowed to develop slowly and over time.
When you start as friends, even if chemistry to be more is there, it can help take pressure off the relationship. With friendship, there are not as many expectations, and you feel more comfortable to just be yourself around a person. You don't have to worry so much about messing up or saying the wrong thing. You feel lighter and can laugh more. We all like to laugh, but for some reason, we worry about being "too silly" around those we wish to impress.
You can let the attraction blossom naturally by being your genuine self. Taking a friendship to the next level can sometimes cause us to become attached, which can add pressure that keeps the companionship from truly developing.
No doubt, it had to sting for Gendry when Arya turned down his proposal of marriage. I worry that the rejection and hurt he feels may keep him from continuing the friendship with Arya, but I truly hope it doesn't go that way!
Lesson #2: Don't Compromise Yourself
I've definitely been in situations where I accepted less than what I desired out of fear that I would miss my chance or not find a better option.
But not Arya Stark. She doesn't do that, not even when the Lord of Dragonstone is asking for her hand in marriage. Arya is a fighter; she doesn't want to sit by the hearth and knit, which is likely where her lord husband would feel most comfortable with her being (despite her clear ability to take care of herself in battle).
Women especially worry about not finding that special match early in life for various reasons - losing the ability to have children, aging, or societal pressure. They can fall into the trap of accepting the first halfway decent suitor to present himself, fearing that he will be her only opportunity, even if she is not in love with him or he mistreats her somehow.
Worst case, a woman will sometimes give up what she loves for her partner. It can be something big, like her job, or maybe she sacrifices nights out with her girlfriends to keep him happy. More of us need to get into the habit of saying, "That's not me."
I am in the process of learning not to do this to myself, of not letting others trample my boundaries and talk me out of doing the things that I love. I hold on to my ideals in love and romance, even when people tell me I am "unrealistic."
Arya's strength of will and refusal of Gendry's proposal - while disappointing because I love these two characters - is inspiring. Fiction has a wonderful way of presenting truth, and I found much of my own in watching this story unfold.
Lesson #3: The Right Moment Will Present Itself
We've all been there - really liking someone to that point of getting attached, maybe even needy, and acting more out of fear of loss than from a place of acknowledging the chemistry and moving it forward in an exciting and positive way. Instead of thinking about the best way to present our interest in the other person, we feel like we have to jump on the opportunity before it slips away.
In season eight, Arya's skill at flirting proves to be in equal measure with her skill at fighting and killing. There were several scenes where we had indication of the attraction between her and Gendry, but they didn't act on it right away. The flirting was kept to a subtle art. Arya waited until the night before the Battle of Winterfell to make her move.
I'm not saying that you should wait until death is almost certain before you make your move on that special someone. However, timing can make a difference, and there is a time and a place for everything. Adopting an attitude of fear - fear of missing your chance, fear of someone else getting the opportunity - only breeds more fear. It can mess up your presentation and the way you approach the person.
Take your time about it. Wait to approach until that fear is more under control, until you know beyond a shadow of doubt that you can approach the other person without neediness. If you're new to relationships, perhaps it will take some time to master this, but don't worry. What is meant for you cannot be lost. Go back and re-read my first point if you aren't sure about this.
What have you learned from Arya? Please feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments below!
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