Everyone I know is buzzing about the recent, jaw-dropping season finale to Issa Rae’s Insecure on HBO. I saw the episode a day or so late, but it bowled me over, too. I don’t currently relate to the characters’ situation. But, there’s a lot to unpack about honesty, the misunderstood philosophy of “stand by your man through whatever,” and the mistake that ultimately cost Issa and Lawrence their relationship.
Note: I’m gonna start out assuming you’ve already seen the entire season of Insecure, including the finale, aight? Spoilers abound. Good? Good.
Sometimes the most important act of a relationship is knowing when to leave it.
Let me start out by saying that cheating is a cop-out. There’s no “But…” to the end of that statement. It is.
Really, the pivotal mistake in Issa and Lawrence’s relationship occurred not at the middle or end of the season, but at the beginning of it. That two-or-so episode arc where Issa contemplated leaving Lawrence? She should’ve left out of her boredom. Her first mind told her she was done and she ignored it. Could they have worked through their issues? Absolutely. But she wasn’t willing to have that hard conversation.
I’m no relationship expert by any stretch. Take this with a pinch of Lawry’s. But before things hit the breaking point, you can often identify a moment in which you decide to stay + improve, stay + keep the status quo, or leave. Issa elected to stay, but she maintained the status quo instead of working on the issues that bothered her. Going to crash with Molly for a few days was not the problem. Her mistakes were in 1) Not saying she wanted to leave 2) Leaving without word and 3) Returning without a plan.
Why did Issa really come back? Because she was comfortable.
Four years into a relationship, if you’re not subject to some measure of complacency, then you likely have a volatile relationship anyway. It’s hard to leave the safety and security of even a humdrum relationship. Starting over is scary and potentially intimidating. If the relationship isn’t terrible, just flawed, you have to arrive at a place where you’re fed up enough to make staying untenable. Issa wasn’t happy, but she wasn’t willing to inconvenience herself to improve her own happiness.Sometimes the most important act of a relationship is knowing when to leave it. Click To Tweet
Lawrence had deeper personal issues than just unemployment.
Over and over, I hear the sentiment from Insecure fans that Lawrence got a job “for her” so he could be the kind of person Issa needed him to be. That rubs me all kinds of the wrong way. The idea of Lawrence working “for her” insinuates Issa was his entire motivation for employment. In other words, he didn’t feel unhappy enough with himself unemployed. I believe that’s incorrect.
Lawrence seemed legitimately depressed at the beginning of the season. He was a couch potato, in the same position when Issa left for work every morning and when she returned every evening. That likely aggravated Issa. I’m not diagnosing him…but that scenario was deeply familiar to me.
I spent a stretch of time unemployed after graduation where all I did was go on interviews and receive rejection letters. Eating was a chore. My aunt graciously provided me a place to stay and I appreciated it. But I was also acutely aware of my tenuous position–jobless and relying on the good will of someone else. My then-boyfriend said he noticed I wasn’t handling the stress very well. I holed up in the room unless he came to see me or unless I was interviewing. Auntie worried so much about my mental health that she called my mother to ask for help about my potential depression.
That period of time was only three months.
Relatively, my unemployment wasn’t even that bad. I can’t imagine consecutive years actively trying to find a job without luck. It does a number on your self-esteem, confidence, and your view of the world. The outcome of my desperate search for a job? I gave up my idealism about finding a “good job” and settled into simply finding A JOB. Ten years later, I’m only now just recovering the notion of building a career vs. working only to pay bills. Lawrence probably battled all of that. The way he managed his mental health, separate from his rapport with his girlfriend, played a silent role.
Nonetheless, Lawrence doesn’t seem like he gave up that idealism of finding a fulfilling job until he applied to work at Best Buy. His tenacity for finding the right job for him both impressed and puzzled me. How do you hold onto app dreams when you’ve been mostly unemployed and relying on someone else’s income for years? Even his head hunter looked at him sideways when he balked at taking jobs outside of his skill set. Where they do that at, bruh?!
Getting a job does not fix the relationship problems that can arise during unemployment.
Lawrence’s mistake was in not realizing you can’t have idealism and support unnegotiated in a long-term relationship. Clearly, he saw Issa as a enough of an anchor for him not to feel rushed into accepting any old job. But he didn’t realize she also needed to be able to depend on him for something other than familiar dick and a Netflix buddy. Seldom in a relationship can you have one party opt out of contributing financially without a discussion. Unemployment is one thing. Picky unemployment is entirely another.
I don’t think he and Issa had that talk. A fair discussion might have given him a set timeframe to find a “great job,” then maybe time to downgrade the unfruitful search to a “good job,” and then to accept whatever was available. But it’s unfair to put the financial burden on your partner (unless it’s agreed upon) for an unspecified period of time. Issa might have been cool and supportive for a while, but that grace had expired–like his line-up–by the season premiere. She dealt with the resentment of having to support him emotionally and financially until she could only pantomime being there for him. All of that tension didn’t disappear when he became gainfully employed.
So when people say that he “got a job for her,” they really mean he sought a position he didn’t want, in order to get off the hot seat about extended unemployment. Sir. Ma’am. He doesn’t get Boyfriend Points for adjusting his expectations. Accepting the job at Best Buy was, at the least, what he needed to do to ensure his own basic shelter. Crappy jobs you’re overqualified for? I’m sorry, but that’s part of adulting. He should’ve done that for his own sake long time ago.
We often abuse the idea that a woman should “build” or “stand by her man.”
Lawrence was “broke,” but I wouldn’t call him a “broke n***a.” People often confuse character with circumstance anyway. Being “broke” can either be an indicator of character or an indicator of circumstance. It takes time and discernment to figure out which. If someone’s character is telling you they are the primary reason they can’t keep a job, then I see little honor in “holding it down” for 3 years. Don’t encourage women to “stand by your man” waiting for bad character to turn good. You can’t build on a bad foundation. Men are not Legos.
Also, can we dispel the myth that leadership means doing whatever you want without question or input? Support does not equal “yes woman” duty. I’d argue that Issa did in fact support Lawrence’s dreams by providing him realistic context.
But Lawrence wasn’t intrisinically lazy; he was despondent and deflated. He was demoralized. Broke, in his case, did not define who he was, but where he was. Issa simply could not carry him any longer. And maybe it wasn’t her responsibility to do so indefinitely. His being broke was a circumstance that proved too much for her character. She had only half-heartedly committed to him by the time she cheated.
Could anything have saved their relationship?
I think they could have used couples therapy. Their biggest mistake was refusing to admit either one of them had a problem. But because neither of them came clean about the state of their communication, they both ended up with a lot of hurt to deal with–separately.
Who do you think is to blame for the death of Issa and Lawrence’s relationship on Insecure?