List: 5 Life Lessons ‘How I Met Your Mother’ Has Taught Us

By Troi Watts

From the surprisingly detailed rules of the Bro Code to the quietly observed rules of everyday life, How I Met Your Mother can teach us all a thing or five about getting through relationships and adulthood. Warning: this article contains spoilers for the entire show.

  1. There are exceptions to every rule.

Throughout the series, viewers learn an abundance of rules, but one of the first rules to stick out is “Nothing good ever happens after 2 a.m.” Ted explains that his mom taught him this rule and encourages his kids to just take the advice. This is accompanied with the story of the time he stayed out past 2 a.m. for the chance to make his move on Robin, the woman he’d been in love with since the first episode. His mom’s rule proved to be right that night. Ted ended up cheating on his then-girlfriend, Victoria, with Robin. While this was the exact opposite of good, Ted, in the future, explains that there are two exceptions to that usually true rule: the birth of his son and the moment he met his wife.

Even some of the best, most logical rules have exceptions. So while rules may help people move through their lives nonchalantly, they may also hold people back. The trick is to not break the rule. You can’t force a certain moment to be the rule’s exception. Have patience and let things happen the way they’re supposed to (call it “fate” if you want, like Ted).

  1. Or not…

Later seasons bring viewers addendums to set rules. One of these is the fact that while some rules do have exceptions, some rules do not. Take the Platinum Rule for an example. The Platinum Rule is “never date someone you see frequently/every day,” like your neighbor, the waitress at your local bar, or a co-worker. This rule is introduced when Ted’s friends learn that Ted is going out on a date with his doctor. Each friend recounts a time when they thought they would find the exception to the Platinum Rule, but they really didn’t… Ted chooses to ignore them. He goes out with his doctor, dates her for a while and even gets engaged to her. But Ted isn’t an exception to the Platinum Rule. The doctor leaves him at the altar. Ted is devastated.

The point is that there are times when rules should be followed. It’s just for the best. Like I said, you can’t force an exception to a rule. If it’s meant to happen, it’ll happen.

  1. Even the best couples go through rough patches.

We’ve all been there: that awkward spot where something bad suddenly happens in our relationships. You guys seemed perfect for each other, everybody said so, and yet you’re here either in a fight, broken up or about to be. But if you take HIMYM’s advice, you might make it through this. Lily and Marshal are HIMYM’s perfect couple: together for 10+ years, they are compatible in pretty much every way, or at least that’s what we think until we get to the first season’s finale. Lily and Marshal break up as Lily tries to find out who she really is. It’s a heartbreaking scene since we’ve been rooting for them this whole time. Don’t worry though! They do end up getting back together. It is just a matter of figuring out what they really want, talking things out and working hard to get back what they had lost.

Sometimes TV shows set us up to believe that love is clean and wonderful, but this is real life. Relationships are hard, messy and a lot of effort. Don’t fall for Hollywood’s perfectly edited relationships, because even when you’re meant to be with someone, you’re going to fight and have things to work on.

  1.  “You order pancakes and get waffles. That’s good enough.”

This great life lesson is brought to you by Ted as he explains to Robin that letting her husband move away to Hong Kong instead of divorcing him is not “good enough.”

Ted’s point is that there are times, like when you get waffles instead of pancakes, where you should be happy with what you’ve gotten. The other side of his point is that there are definitely times when you shouldn’t be happy with what you’ve gotten, like when someone simply answers “Because” when you ask them  “Why?” Sometimes this can be an important distinction, like when Ted determines whether or not his girlfriend is actually married (she’s not, by the way). Choose carefully whether or not something is “good enough.”

  1. Real life doesn’t always have a happy ending.

Like I said, TV shows have a habit of making the world seem way happier than it really is. It shows perfect couples living happily ever after, problems being solved by simply talking and people miraculously surviving accidents. The real world is way more complicated than this. HIMYM continues to showcase that fact through its final episode, when we learn the fate of our favorite characters. Barney and Robin, who absolutely seemed meant to be together and whose wedding we watched for a whole season, get a divorce. After that, Robin is alienated from her friends. Also, that soulmate Ted spent the entire series looking for? Well he finds her, but she ends up dying while their kids are still teenagers. This ending had fans in an uproar. Was it because HIMYM didn’t give them the happily ever after they wanted and expected? Absolutely!

Life is full of plot twists and disappointments. Now that doesn’t mean to be negative all the time and expect your life to end unhappily ever after. You just need to be aware that anything can happen. This is real life, not a TV show.