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Kurt & Blaine, Glee
LA Shrinks' cognitive therapist Dr. Greg Cason (inset) characterizes the off-again high school sweethearts — a.k.a. EW.com readers' pick for Greatest TV Couple of All Time — as being in a relationship phase ''when romance ideal turns to relationship reality.'' He continues, ''They're the beginning of an idealistic relationship where neither of them has experience and so they have all those ideas of what relationships can and should be.... They have a lot of rocky roads ahead but they can really succeed if they just face the reality of what relationships really are and don't hang on to the ideal.''
''At the beginning of a relationship, most couples are not very dysfunctional,'' according to Dr. Cason. ''They don't usually show their dysfunction until they move in together and then maybe have a kid and then the real dysfunction comes out.'' He admits, ''My problem with Kurt and Blaine is their age — simply that people who are young often have a lot of growing up still to do. [Right now,] all they see is future promise and hope, so they could get married and stay together — many couples do — they just have to again get out of that romance idealism and get into the reality of what relationships are. By them weathering [Kurt's] texts to another guy and living apart and Blaine sleeping with somebody else, all of that does start to move into reality.''
Doctor's orders? ''I would suggest pre-marital counseling for them. If they want to move forward in their relationship, they want to be able to establish ground rules that aren't based on what society wants but on what they as a couple want...if they stay having very realistic views, they can hold on for the long haul.''
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Elena, & the Salvatore brothers, The Vampire Diaries
''I like this relationship because...we see a switch,'' says Dr. Cason of the supernatural love triangle. ''With men and their attraction to women, we often talk about Madonna and the Whore — that men want to marry the Madonna (the woman who's just the perfect person) and sleep with the Whore. It's very difficult to find a relationship or a woman who really meets both of those things. What we see with Elena is, she finds the saint in one brother, Stefan...who's a vampire with a heart of gold. She finds her sinner, the lover, in Damon. So she's able to experience both of those things with two brothers.'' He continues, ''But then what's so wonderful about this, is these brothers both have her best interest in mind. They're both willing to give up and sacrifice the relationship for her best interest. They want her to be good again so they want to make her human again, even though she doesn't want it.'' Dr. Cason notes, though, that ''Elena not wanting [to be human again] is the difficult piece here.''
The Salvatores' own relationship, of course adds an extra layer of complication: ''I think the problem here is that these are two brothers. They have to have a relationship too. If Elena goes with just one of them she's going to screw up that familial relationship. I just don't see it working if she picks one.''
With a little out-of-the-box thinking, Dr. Cason sees long-term potential here — and not strictly in the eternal-life sense. ''These two men represent two sides of a coin, and the only way she could really have those two sides is to have both of them at the same time. My advice to them would be, to the brothers and to her: Either they share her and they find a way to live with this, which would be the most unconventional relationship I could possibly imagine, or they do the very most sacrificial thing in that they go without her and let her find somebody else. Because, if either one of them is with her, she'll always experience a hole in the relationship. She'll always be missing something and always be looking at the other. So they either go with her together, or they split apart from her.''
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Hannah & Adam, Girls
''These are like two control freaks but on two different sides of the spectrum,'' says Dr. Cason. ''Her OCD is really all about controlling her environment...and his S&M is really the same — he's trying to take control and have power over someone else [because he's] completely spiraling out of control. These are difficult relationships because they have a lot of sexual chemistry, but the emotional stability of the relationship is dubious at best.'' He continues, ''It almost seems like in some ways they're both settling.''
Interestingly, Dr. Cason sees reality in season 2's rom-com-esque ending: ''It certainly is a fantasy of almost anyone who is suffering, to have somebody come and rescue them. I think all of us, even men, at times want to be a damsel in distress and everybody, even women, at times want to be the knight in shining armor. So that can be helpful but the problem with being a damsel in distress is that moment is short-lived. Great relationships have to go back to reality, and if she starts to want that behavior again than she's going to have to become a damsel in distress again.'' Though he warns, ''She may start to try other things in the future to re-enact that damsel-in-distress dynamic, and that could eventually break the relationship. Because you can only be a damsel in distress so much before the knight in shining armor gets tired of always rescuing.''
Summing up, Dr. Cason notes, ''They both have pretty severe mental health issues...[which can] tear the relationship apart. This is a couple's therapy where they need to be educated about what each one is dealing with and they need to come up with different ways of reacting to each other's stuff. And then they can make the relationship thrive. It's not really the disorder but the partner's perception of the disorder that makes the big difference.''
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Don & Megan, Mad Men
''This is where the puppeteer becomes the puppet,'' says Dr. Cason. ''Don really met his match with [Megan]. She really plays it just perfectly to seduce him and then get exactly what she wants. She's playing him with this persona of the good wife, and then when she gets him it basically turns around and becomes the mistress. [In the past,] he always was manipulating people and getting what he wants, now the tables are finally turned.''
Regarding Don's recent return to infidelity, Dr. Cason suspects, ''Maybe he's starting to feel a little bit out of control in the relationship and wants to assert some more control and manhood on his part. It's hard for a leopard to change his spots.'' He adds, ''Most couples can recover from infidelity. In fact most relationships can be stronger after infidelity. It really depends on the couple and are they willing to work it out. If they're flexible they can work it out. If they're rigid than it's like a rigid branch, it breaks. So that's really the key, but, again, I think he's met his match with her.''
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Liv & Fitz, Scandal
''Here, power is attracted to power. [They're] like two live wires that need to be grounded,'' assesses Dr. Cason of the relationship between the fixer and the (married) President. ''It seems to come down to Fitz's choice about what he's willing to do, and her choice about how she's willing to live. If she's willing to live behind the scenes and have a relationship with him even though he has a public persona with a wife, then she can do that, but that's going to cost her a lot in terms of her identity.''
Concerning the intrusions of Liv's gladiators and Fitz's advisers, Dr. Cason says, ''The sad truth of outside intervention is people are saying they have the best interest of the couple in mind, but usually they have the best interest of themselves in mind and they just feel threatened. So if they're intervening on Liv and Fitz, it's because they believe that somehow their power will be compromised...or if they support the relationship, there's some personal benefit for them.''
Dr. Cason does give a warning for the paranoid POTUS, who sent a Pentagon minion to spy on Liv: ''The problem when people get paranoid is they often create the very thing they're afraid will happen.'' He advises, ''[They have to] make a hard choice together. The common problem with these couples is they they keep going from different agendas. If they agree on that, they can make any relationship work. But trying to make the relationship form into their own mold rather than dealing with the relationship at hand [will end it].''
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Owen & Cristina, Grey's Anatomy
Dr. Cason defines the two surgeons' complicated relationship as ''trauma and guilt sharing the same bed.'' He explains, ''They're both suffering from PTSD. They both have trauma, and they both have guilt. This is going to make strange bedfellows because they can feed each other's [issues].'' On the other hand, ''They can actually do very well in their relationship if they support each other absolutely. [For example,] when Cristina found out about Owen getting a divorce from her because he thought it would help her lawsuit [from the plane crash]. Even though it was a silly thing to do...he's trying to do it because he wants her to be helped no matter what, even if it costs him their relationship. That kind of thing is what's going to make this relationship thrive.
He thinks Owen & Cristina unconventional relationship trajectory shows, ''You need to loosen your grip to tighten the relationship. Because both of them have PTSD, both are characterized by uncontrolled emotions...so if you loosen the grip on the other person, it will help the relationship. [Before, their] marriage was too tight, like a noose. So it really goes to that saying: If you love someone, set them free. And if they love you, they'll come back. And that's what it seems like both of them have to do and have to continue doing. It might be silly for them to fall into society's conventions that they should be married instead of just allowing the relationship to thrive in the way it best possibly can. In this case, that may mean being divorced but still being together.''
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Jason & Chardonnay, The Game
''This is Alpha Diva meets Alpha Dog,'' says Dr. Cason of the former NFL star-turned-sports anchor and the brassy bartender — yep, the ones who got drunk and married in Tijuana but have decided not to follow up on an annulment. According to Dr. Cason, this might a case when an accident turns into a blessing: ''He really wants a girl to call him out and put him in his place, and she's probably just the one to do it. He is kind of an uncontrolled person, he wants to do what he wants and he wants everyone to worship him — very narcissistic. But she's going to call him out. That can actually work. The problem will be in the future of the relationship when he starts to not respond to her Alpha as much anymore. That can create real tension in the relationship. So the work that would have to be done actually is for him to correct his ways now and not depend on her just to call him out.''
As for Jason's decision to mix business with pleasure by buying Chardonnay her own day spa, Dr. Cason notes, ''That was actually something I was concerned about because he got her fired [from her bartending job when they first met], so you could see his guilt probably was at work in buying that. It's a bad move to tangle the two. It seems like a move to also have ownership over her — unless he gave her full control — but that also speaks to both his guilt and insecurity about who he is that he has to throw money at her to try to prove his worth.''
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Juliette & Dante, Nashville
Dr. Cason sees ''doom'' in the future for the Music City minx and her new manager. ''It would be rare if ever that I advise someone to break up immediately, [but this couple is] my biggest problem. Even though they may have a functional relationship right now, I would be concerned for Juliette's future unless Dante comes clean about who he is.'' That said, Juliette's loss could be our gain because, as Dr. Cason notes, ''Bad relationship decisions make good country music. It seems like some country singers are really attracted to tragedy because it may actually make good music. She's signed on for a lot of trouble with this guy.'' He notes that, given Juliette's history with her drug-addicted mother — for whom Juliette originally hired Dante as a sober counselor — ''She's obviously trying to work out something. She's trying to get that person who lies and manipulates to change. You often see this in relationships that we're attracted to the relationship problem that we're trying to solve.''
His prescription? ''I would have to say you can't prevent this from going on. Maybe a recommendation is she needs to back off quickly, I would say that it would be foolish of anyone to think that she's gonna break off this relationship. He has the power here, because she's gonna be very attracted to him no matter what. And what she offers him of course is position and money and power and probably opportunity that he wouldn't get otherwise. There is a bit of a symbiotic relationship with the two of them, but this is gonna be a rocky road ahead with lots of problems and lots of tragedy. She'll probably get some good music out of it.''
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Brody & Carrie, Homeland
''This is like a 'sleeping with the enemy' dynamic,'' says Dr. Cason about the bipolar CIA renegade and her triple-agent lover. ''They both have this intense passion for each other, but they also have suspicion and paranoia — and it's justified on both of their parts. This is going to make a great sexual relationship with very intense passion. But it will make a very difficult ongoing relationship if they try to settle down into the future.''
There is a (sexual) silver lining! ''The good part is, with her bipolar disorder, and his PTSD — if they leave them uncontrolled — they're going to have a lot more nuclear passion in the future. They'll have an intense sexual relationship, they'll have lots more drinking, lots more sex, and a lot more explosion in the relationship.'' Though things could quickly turn dark: ''It could probably erupt into violence as well. With this kind of couple it would not be unusual to see something like that.''
In case Brody's flight to Canada wasn't enough of an obstacle, Dr. Cason sees deeper challenges working against the taboo affair. ''Both have to deal with disorders that are characterized by having uncontrolled emotions, and those uncontrolled emotions can lead to them to misperceive reality,'' he says. ''But, yeah, this would be a relationship that I would say has all kinds of doom written on it — except from the sexual standpoint: I'd say thumbs up there. It's going to be very hot and heavy, and there will be a lot of pining for the other person, but they'll have difficulty hanging out and watching TV on a Sunday night while ordering takeout.''
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Jess & Nick, New Girl
As it stands now, the roommates-turned-romancers are ''too close for comfort,'' says Dr. Cason. ''There's tension in that relationship, and it's unfortunate that they live together. They might be a very interesting and compelling couple. Her optimism and his cynicism can balance each other out [and] help each one have a more realistic view of the world. But the fact that they live together is actually going to repel them...because they can't get space away from each other or have time to decompress, ever.''
As for the loftmates' opposition to Jess and Nick's blossoming relationship, Dr. Cason deems that ''a very bad sign.'' He predicts, ''They're going to have a tough road. My recommendation for them, if they want to succeed in their relationship would be to move out, to live separately. On the upside, oddly enough, couples who've lived together before they get married often do better. So by having that practice of living together, they basically have one of the biggest skills down already, so there's that going for them.'' He finds Jess and Nick's long-term potential perhaps the strongest among this list: ''There's a lot of possibility there. They just need to give the relationship room to breath. And once they do, they'll find their stride.''
Based in Beverly Hills, Dr. Greg Cason specializes in cognitive psychological therapy for individuals and couples, both gay and straight. His own marriage ceremony, to his partner of 23 years, will be broadcast on tonight's season 1 finale of LA Shrinks, airing at 10 p.m. ET on Bravo.