House of Cards' leading lady isn't perfect, but she can teach important things about success, love, and fitness
Real-Life Takeaways from the Fictional First Lady
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If you’ve spent weekends binging on Netflix’s House of Cards, you aren’t alone. Over the past month, millions have tuned in to see (spoiler alert!) Congressman Frank Underwood, Kevin Spacey, ascend first to the office of Vice President while his loyal wife, Claire, Robin Wright, navigates the power-hungry halls of Washington.
Despite the viciousness of Frank’s professional climb, Claire is arguably the show’s most compelling (and controversial) character in Season 2. She stands up for personal issues that hit home, like sexual assault, and works hard for a nonprofit.
Watching this anti-heroine navigate personal and professional speed bumps coldly and precisely is fascinating, frightening, and also a little enlightening. Claire is flawed in many ways, and her circumstances are exaggerated and unique, but her personal and professional missions are relatable—and can help you in your own life.
Find Time for Fitness
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Claire lets off steam and spends some quality time with her husband during twilight jogs, and if the Second Lady can find time for a run, you can too. Whether you're into lifting, Pilates, or (like the Underwoods) rowing, studies have shown working out with your man helps build togetherness. Try some of these eight active date ideas designed to strengthen your bond and your body, or if you’re exercising alone, tell your guy or a friend. Letting someone know of your commitment ahead of time can be enough to hold you accountable and get you on that treadmill.
Don't Burn Bridges
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Early in the show’s first season, Claire asks her office manager to fire a number of employees. When the deed is done, that office manager receives her pink slip as well—a move that comes back to bite Claire when the manager leaks information about Claire’s romantic affair.
Emotional intelligence, or knowing how you and others will react to situations, is a key to workplace success, and not being able to appropriately read people is almost as dangerous as not appropriately knowing yourself. [Tweet this fact!] “Claire’s emotional intelligence when it comes to maintaining her composure is high,” says health coach Elizabeth Rider, “but she doesn’t recognize that other people, like her office manager, can be significantly more reactive.” If you need to let someone go, stick with honesty and empathy, not the funny business that Claire enacted. You never know where people will end up or if you’ll need them in the future.
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There's a lot of talk throughout House of Cards about Claire’s history of pregnancies and her always-changing desire to have kids. (Remember when she visited the doctor on her own?) But Francis is clear: He doesn't want a little Underwood.
While one shudders to think what cold-as-ice Claire would be like as a mother, she clearly feels some semblance of regret for not trying. Having a child is something men and women need to discuss before they get married, says psychologist and relationship coach Karen Sherman. Be sure to discuss all the big things prior to your vows.
Challenge Your Man
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Claire knows Francis is an imperfect man (come on, she appears aware of her husband’s murderous streak without having any desire to stop him). But when he seems about ready to give up on his intricate scheme and reveal all to the president, Claire gives Francis a pep talk for the ages that changes his mind.
Assuming your relationship is a little more conventional (and that, you know, you’re not trying to psyche your husband up to destroy the most powerful person in the world), knowing when to challenge your guy is important. Sherman says calmly asking him if he’s considered alternative decisions is the best way to give him that push. [Tweet this tip!] Just remember: Validate him before questioning him by telling him you admire his passion or thoughtfulness.
Choose the Right Partner
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The biggest disagreement Frank and Claire have occurs when Frank finds himself politically motivated to pass a bill that would damage Claire’s work at the firm. He’s unwilling to consider her position, so she goes behind his back, recruits a few willing defectors, and defeats the bill. She and Francis have a major blow up, and she disappears for a few days into the open arms of a former lover.
Is Adam the photographer Claire’s true best match? Not necessarily. (He’s arguably too emotionally needy.) But Claire, who shows emotion when she’s alone, might have been better served had she made these considerations before tying the knot. No matter how compatible you think you rare, eally think before you say yes to that engagement ring. A guy's work history, and relationships with friends and family are big indicators of how he’ll be as a life partner, and if you think he's "the one" bring up these questions you should ask a potential husband.