I met my husband in August of 2011 the first night in Rome while vacationing with friends. It was incredible. I spent every day with him while in Rome riding on the back of his scooter. We visited the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps and I ate the best gelato I’d ever had among other things. In November of 2011 while visiting me in NY, we got married at City Hall. Yes, it was crazy. But it was so romantic, just like in the movies.
And in large part because of television, & film, I had such a high expectation and distorted view of how our relationship should continue to be. When we fought, I interpreted it as a sign that we just weren’t meant to be together. Not that we were from two different cultures and had only known each other for 3 months before marrying.
But I wasn’t the only one, there’s research that found an association between romance media habits and dysfunctional relationship beliefs. Specifically related to beliefs in relationship destiny, that mind reading is expected in a relationship. The assumption is if two people are meant for one another they should understand and predict each others wishes and desires with little effort or communication.
And another study showed that viewing romantic genre programming, like romance comedies and soap operas, was positively associated with idealistic expectations about marriage. So there you have it, romance media greatly affects our relationships.
It’s not just movies
Now in the day of Facebook & Twitter, you don’t have to watch a 2 hour long romance movie to develop idealist expectations about relationships, you only need to turn to your feed.
Never mind that people usually post the most flattering pictures on social media. No couple’s posting a picture of their last fight. Displays of insecurity and conflicts are often hidden on social media and it’s difficult to truly see the qualities that define deep, intimate relationships.
And yet, just search #relationshipgoal and you’ll get countless results. It shows couples at some of the highest points of their relationship. But what about the other times? The moments that allow them to grow as a couple so that they can reach those relationship goals? Where are those pictures?
True relationship goals, I believe, are hard to capture in a picture. It’s being able to effectively communicate in a healthy way when you’re frustration, hurt or upset. It’s trusting your partner, respecting differences of opinion, pushing each other to grow into not just better partners, but better people.
And not to single anyone out, but I recall a few celebrity marriages that were referred to as relationship goals and their relationship isn’t quite working out now. So we have to be so careful of the perceptions of people and their relationships. And we have to work hard to not idealize expectations of relationships.
We can change it!
To help in this process, it’s important to have people in your life who you trust and get support from. Especially other couples who can assist you in your growth and bring you back to reality when you need it. They can remind you that we all have issues, that no relationship is perfect and will never be exactly like those portrayed in the media. We can’t let the media continue to affect our relationships.
And it doesn’t matter how much you’ve read or studied relationships because when you’re involved in the situation it can be difficult to be biased. I can personally attest to that.
So if you’re married or in a relationship, be open and honest about it with the people in your life. Help others to gain a more realistic understanding of healthy relationships. We can’t leave this up to the media any longer. And lean on friends and family you can trust to help you maintain your understanding of a healthy relationship.
And if you’re single take all the romance media you consume, be it television, film, or social media, with a grain of salt. Remind yourself that that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship and never forget the love we see in media can create unrealistic expectations.