When it comes to relationships, are you in a rush to find “the one” or do you simply take life as it comes and believe your soul mate will come into your life when it’s meant to be? How I Met Your Mother’s characters, and best friends, Ted Mosby and Barney Stinson have these differing views on relationships. While Ted would rather settle down and find his soul mate, Barney despises commitment and sleeps around to avoid relationships. Although Ted and Barney have contrasting relational values and perform their masculinity in different ways, they do share one thing in common: their love for Robin Scherbatsky.
The CBS comedy sitcom How I Met Your Mother shares the stories of Ted’s ambitious search to find his soul mate and future wife. The show takes place in the year 2030, with each episode presented as a flashback in which Ted narrates to his children the events that lead to him finally meeting their mother. While Ted’s performance of masculinity reflects his desire to always be in a relationship and find his soul mate, Barney performs his masculinity in a way that shows he could care less about dating, relationships, and the feelings of women in general. Both of these contrasting approaches to masculinity are shared through many hilarious and comedic tales.
Throughout the duration of the series, Ted enters many relationships in the hopes of finding his true love. He is very impatient and always seems to be in a rush to settle down, marry, and start a family. In the very first episode of the entire series, he accidentally professes his love for Robin Scherbatsky on their first date. This of course scares her away for the time being, however Ted eventually goes on to date her in the future, as he believes she is “the one”. As Ted enters relationships with new women it’s hard for him to let go of the past and completely move on from Robin. When his relationship with a baker named Victoria in season 1 turns into long distance, he immediately calls it quits so he can get back with Robin. Nevertheless, Ted and Robin end up breaking up again as they go their separate ways.
Some of the other women Ted dates include Stella, who he actually proposed to, Zoey, and Jeannete. Although being in a relationship is the norm for Ted, there are times when he is single, and it usually results in him feeling very unhappy and helpless. For example, during the 5th season he goes off the rails and completely overreacts after the discovery that his mom is getting remarried. As he recounts the story to his kids he says, “I can’t overstate how horrible it is to be a single guy at your own mother’s second wedding” (“Home Wreckers”, 2010). Feeling behind in his life, he buys a house on impulse to serve as the home for his future family. His overreaction reinforces the fact that he has an inherent need to be in a relationship and find his future wife.
Barney, on the other hand, performs his masculinity in a very different and absurd way. While Ted experiences the many highs and lows of relationships, Barney does everything in his power to avoid commitment and dating. He is very self-centered, narcissistic, and doesn’t care about women’s feelings. Weinman describes him as a “playboy who cares more about his beautifully tailored clothes than the women he dates” (Weinman, 2006). Throughout the series, he is best known for sleeping with multiple women and feeling a sense of accomplishment for it. He often takes on ridiculous challenges, some of which include sleeping with his friend’s professor and picking up a girl by talking like a little kid.
One of Barney’s most famous and “legendary” techniques to picking up women is the use of his Playbook. The Playbook is a collection of crazy strategies, most of which include lying about his identity in order to sleep with women. He even goes as far as changing his identity to a brunette cab driver or a street performing knife thrower just to score more women. He has no intentions of getting to know the women he sleeps with and only treats them as objects or accessories.
Even though Ted and Barney differ significantly in how they express their masculinity through relationships and dating, they do share a love for Robin. During the 5th season in episode “Twin Beds”, Ted and Barney both realize that they are in love with Robin and they fight over which one deserves her. Barney offers his brilliant solution to the problem, which is “how about we share her. I’ll take her until she’s 40, and then you can have her after that” (“Twin Beds”, 2010). Ever since Ted laid eyes on Robin, he has never been able to let her go. And although Barney is known for sleeping around with women instead of actually dating them, Robin is the one woman who he would settle down for. You would think that Ted would successfully win over Robin based on his relational history and how he respectfully treats women, but Barney actually does and they become engaged in the 8th season.
How I Met Your Mother’s characters Ted and Barney choose to perform their masculinity in extremely different ways. Ted is eager to start his future and dates many women with the hope of finding his soul mate. He treats women with respect and truly cares about their feelings. On the contrary, Barney only cares about himself and chooses to treat women disrespectfully. His only objective is to sleep with as many women as possible and to avoid dating at all costs. But of course the one woman Barney can see himself dating and eventually marrying happens to be the same woman Ted is in love with: Robin.
How I Met Your Mother “Home Wreckers” (originally aired April 19, 2010)
How I Met Your Mother “Twin Beds” (originally aired May 3, 2010)
Weinman, Jaime J. "Why Barney Is The New Fonzie." Maclean's 119.51 (2006): 54. Film & Television Literature Index. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.