Relationship goals I learned from ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’

A really fun way to get me bawling is pumping me with two glasses of Chardonnay and turning on It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s a Garis family tradition: every Christmas Day Eve, I watch the classic tale of the personification of small town goodness George Bailey, tears streaming down my face, start to finish. Those last five minutes is full power-crying, tbh. And why? Aside from the fact that it’s a masterpiece, seasonal or otherwise, I am forever touched by how George finds himself surrounded by love…especially the love of his incredible wife, Mary. It’s the kind of #relationshipgoals that warrant those happy tears.

With a love spanning decades, George and Mary a fortuitous force that nobody can break, even with the evil Mr. Potter’s best efforts. If you’ve fallen on hard times, you would want George Bailey to have your back. But if you’re a George Bailey, Lord knows that you would need a Mary by your side. So with that in mind, this is everything It’s A Wonderful Life taught me about love, kindness, and throwing rocks at old houses.

Hold onto those childhood crushes for dear life and it’ll pay off.

“George Bailey, I’ll love you ‘till the day I die,” whispers little Mary into George’s (fortunately deaf) ear. It’s the kind of promise you make when you’re like, 8-years-old and never follow through on, yet Mary commits to that statement. I mean, Violet likes him too, but she likes every boy (because she is a strong independent woman who is secure with her sexuality). Anyway. Mary sticks with these feels for another 10 or so years when her and George meet again, and clearly it works out in her favor.

Don’t fall for anyone who promises anything less than the moon.

There’s a very cute moment in George and Mary’s courtship where the two are talking about wishes, and a curious George (heehee) tries to get inside Mary’s psyche. Then he delivers this panty-dropper: “What is it you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”

First of all, those are pretty big words when most of the guys I date won’t even promise me a post-coital McGriddle, let alone the moon. I’d sigh dreamily at such a declaration. And while so he doesn’t exactly deliver the moon (I’m not sure if anyone got him a lasso), his words don’t chock up to empty flirting. George is giving to a fault, and I’m sure he’d gift the moon if he could.

Have cute little inside jokes that your love interest won’t acknowledge. 

So George and Mary reunite later on, and it turns out she’s still a little hung up on that moon line. She drew a little picture titled “George Lassos the Moon” and queues up “Buffalo Gals” (their song), all a-flutter that George Bailey has finally come to call on her. Except he’s a total Negative Nancy and doesn’t recognize these signals of her affections, leaving her reasonably miffed. Oh, honey. I’ve smashed many a record over the same thing.

A strong couple knows how to problem solve and make the best of a bad situation.

Immediately after getting married the Baileys divide their honeymoon money to keep the town afloat… and the Bailey business in business. Bye, bye, honeymoon. But Mary has a back up plan. Turns out she adopted the old Granville House and decorated it with travel posters, cooked a nice dinner…you know, she went full Donna Reed on the place. They romantically retire to their drafty old fixer-upper house where they probably make out and stuff. So that’s sweet.

If you’re perpetually selfless lifemate seems distressed, assemble the masses.

I think it’s justified that George loses it halfway through the movie. His entire life is categorized by rough breaks, and thankless selflessness, so by the time Uncle Billy loses hold of the $8000, his resentment explodes all at once. It isn’t pretty, but it’s fair.

You’d think Mary would have a hard time understanding this. Real talk: while George was giving up dreams, all of Mary’s came true. She married her childhood crush, had multiple babies that looked like him, and renovated a house they could live in. For a woman of 1940s, that’s peaking. That all said, she instinctively sees that something is wrong and she doesn’t just pray…she rallies.

It’s Mary Bailey who saves the day. The girl who recognized the greatness in George from the get-go is able to tap all the people they’ve helped over the years to return the favor. She’s the one who’s able to show George how loved he really is (though clearly loved by her the most). And with that flurried ending—dollars flung around, angels getting wings, and me crying again—you can’t deny how wonderful those two are together.

Raise your glass of Chardonnay, kids. To George and Mary Bailey: the richest couple in town.

[Image via MGM]