Hey, Benson…

Disclaimer: There’s a good chance I’ll nerd out a bit in this post. When I obsess over a character, I go all in. And she’s my favorite.

It’s so no secret that I’ve long time been a fan of Law and Order: SVU. I’ve loved the character of Olivia Benson from detective to captain. She’s the reason I watch the show. Given that the show has aired for almost 25 years, with Olivia as a solid lead, the writers have had opportunities to grow her character in slow and meaningful ways. She’s fierce and empathetic. She’s strong and she’s broken. She’s been hurt, but she’s healing. Like I said, I love her character. SO. MUCH.

And… maybe we’re a little alike. She had an alcoholic parent and wanted to get out and distance herself. She was parentified. She had seen and experienced pain growing up, which led her to want to help people who were hurting and vulnerable. She developed unhealthy relationships, alluding to codependency. And dadgum, she’s been betrayed and abandoned, making it very hard for her to trust.

I have to wonder if the writers are even aware of how accurate the writing of her character is. I found myself relating to her character all too easily and I started recognizing all of the little quirks of her character and how fitting they seem. She’s an adult child of an alcoholic. She’s one of us, navigating life with a less than stellar view of the world, but she’s learning…

From the start of the show, Olivia had a strained relationship with her alcoholic mother. There were many things her mother battled, but at the end of the day, her ways were the cause of oppressive weight and shame for her daughter. Olivia made her own way and created distance between her and her mother even from an early age, we find out. She takes care of herself and doesn’t turn to her mom for anything. Though she was independent, after her mom passed away due to an alcohol related incident, there were many instances where we saw her long for family and belonging… to be a part of something bigger than herself. There was a stark contrast between her and her parter, Elliot Stabler, as she went home to her empty apartment and he went home to his wife and 4, and eventually 5 kids. Her desperation for connection is seen the most when she finds her half brother and does anything she can to help this practical stranger.

Romantic relationships are a struggle for her, even to this day. In the show, her character generally has a hard time getting into deep, long-term relationships, and I’m left to wonder if it’s because she’s always chosen men who weren’t truly available. And then, even when things do seem to be working out, she doesn’t seem to be able to trust that it will last and ends up calling off relationships or… running away. It seems like she just can’t! She has a very hard time trusting that things will ever work out good for her. Even in good times, she’s waiting for that other shoe to drop. Olivia. Girl. I feel you.

And yet, despite all of this, she has grown so much. After her partner of many years (12, if I remember correctly), leaves abruptly, she is broken as the one person she felt like she could trust-“the single most important person” in her life-betrays her without so much as a goodbye. He was her partner and friend, but I also think she needed him. In my opinion, this is where the codependency sneaks in. They shared and fought like friends. They cared about each other as friends. But he had a life outside of her, but for her, Elliot and the job were all she had. She needed them. Until he “just disappeared” and they didn’t speak for ten years. Though this loss was heartbreaking, I fully believe that she would never have become the character she is today without this loss. In the wake of his absence, she closed herself off. And of course she did, she was wounded and couldn’t trust anybody because the person she had trusted with her very life had up and abandoned her. Yeah, he abandoned her too.

How long did she wait to hear from him or hope that he would return? How long did she want things to be restored to the way things were?

But… eventually, she learned to open up again and developed healthier friendships with her new coworkers. I say healthier because she began to trust them and could eventually be honest with them, but they did not become the most important thing in her life. She became her own person.

What I noticed is that in the ten years after Elliot left, Olivia began to trust herself. She learned to speak up and have hard conversations. She learned that she could be whole on her own… without needing another person. Even as she became a mother, she learned to make her own decisions and find her own way for her family without the opinions or need for approval from anyone else. She learned to reach out when she needed it. She learned to be strong and she learned to love. And she learned it’s ok to have needs. Ok, maybe she’s still working on that one.

But that’s what I love about her! You can still clearly see her changing, learning, and growing… and once again navigating confusing and uncertain waters as Elliot has returned to her life. But she’s a completely different person than she used to be. She’s not that little girl he used to look out for anymore. She’s become her own person. She’s moved up the ranks and now commands her own squad. She acts with authority… and yet, his presence still manages to flood her with overwhelming hesitancy.

Boo. I guess that’s just life. It will never be perfect, but we can be better. We can be healthier and stronger people. We can get through issues a little more easily than before, or at the very least we can learn from them for next time. We can love a little harder and learn to trust a little more deeply.

We are fierce and empathetic. We are strong and broken. We’ve been hurt, but we’re healing.

It will take time, but we’ll keep getting better.

4 responses to “Hey, Benson…”

  1. I just want to let you know that I look forward to your blog posts every week and really enjoyed this one today. I did not have the past or the upbringing that you had, but I love learning about other people and how they process things. Thank you for being honest and vulnerable in your posts. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That means so very much to me. Thank you for taking the time to share that. It really makes a difference. The whole reason I started this blog was to try to be as open as possible and process. I’m learning the balance of all of this while at the same time not making it my whole life. ❤️ Again, thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Also, I used to LOVE SVU a long time ago. With the way life has gone, I fell away from watching it, but I’m glad you used a character we all know and love for this story. 😆

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ve gone in and out, but came back pretty solid after Elliot returned. 😜 As for Liv, she only gets better with age. lol

        Liked by 1 person

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