If you watch a good rom-com, your heartstrings will undoubtedly get plucked. As if by master cellist YoYoMa himself!
And for good reason – romance media evokes feelings of hope, it inspires us to enact grander romantic gestures, and it warms us with the healing powers of love.
But be aware – there are also unhealthy narratives woven through The Notebook, Heartstopper, and everything in between.
Since you were a kid, TV shows and movies (and culture at large) have implanted a system of beliefs into your psyche about how love, sex, and relationship work. Some of these beliefs are valuable, but others will set you up for codependent misery.
Below are 4 of the main beliefs about love, sex, and relationship that nearly all romantic media contains that are worth questioning.
Problematic Belief #1: “The one” is out there. Your one and only soul-mate.
If you take on the belief that there is a “the one” out there, a singular soulmate, it creates an unrealistic, perfectionist ideal.
Relationships are supposed to be messy and imprecise. But if you’re seeking “the one,” this can easily conflate into seeking the perfect partner.
And if you are dating someone you believe is your “the one,” this automatically mires you in relationship scarcity. If this person is THE one, how could you ever break up, no matter how sour things get? If they are “the one,” you’ll grip onto them for dear life, because there is nobody else.
50% of marriages end in divorce. Most people marry who then think is their one soulmate. The math doesn’t add up.
A more useful lens is to view your partner as an imperfect human who you love deeply, who supports and inspires you, and someone who you want to adventure through life with.
And maybe they are a soulmate. Perhaps one of many. Where a soulmate is simply a powerful connection that impacts you deeply – and perhaps not bound to the form of partnership.
Problematic Belief #2: Your soulmate is your other half. They will complete you.
This belief will undoubtedly lead to disasterous relationships.
Implicitly contained in this belief is the idea that “I am incomplete on my own.” That you are unwhole. That you need something or someone outside of yourself to cover whatever gaping wound is at the bottom of your humanity.
Taking on this belief gives wayyyy too much power to your partner. All of a sudden your emotional wellbeing is out of your hands.
If you want to feel empowered, a better belief might be “I am complete on my own. And my partner makes my life even better.”
Problematic Belief #3: When you feel infatuation over a new crush, it’s a sign that they are your soul-mate.
I think there’s a great power to the new-relationship-energy that comes with crushes.
But if you look at what creates that potent rush of euphoria when your crush texts you, you might find something like:
- You’ve put this person on a massive pedestal and turned them into an infallible god
- As a result their attention and approval feels like heroine
- All of your young wounded inner children who just wanted attention from an archetypal parent are finally getting it
But notice what happens when your crush stops giving you attention. Maybe you become anxious. You fret. You obsess over why they haven’t replied to your clever poop emoji.
In my experience, while crush energy can be fun, it’s just anxious-attachment dressed up like true love. And romance movies erroneously equate crushes with compatibility and distort our perception of what a healthy, lasting partnership can look like.
Problematic Belief #4: Once you’ve found your “the one,” you can just coast for the rest of your life and relationship.
Contrary to most movies, once you’ve decided to date a person, the story is not yet over. Once you’ve gotten married (if you choose to) the story still isn’t over. In both cases, the relationship has really just begun!
In all of our love stories the two protagonists meet, get over an obstacle, and finally they get to date. Happily ever after.
But…what about the rest of their relationship! Will they never have a fight? Will their life values perfectly align? Do they know how to communicate? Do they both want kids? Is one poly and the other monog?
Choosing to date someone isn’t the hard (or beautiful part). Building a relationship is.
As Alain de Botton puts it brilliantly in The Course of Love: After Rabih begins dating Kirsten, he is “of course, nowhere yet. He and Kirsten will marry, they will suffer, they will frequently worry about money, they will have a girl first, then a boy, one of them will have an affair, there will be passages of boredom, they’ll sometimes want to murder one another and on a few occasions to kill themselves. this will be the real love story.”
Bottom line? Question culture
At the end of the day, my hope is to further inspire in you the habit of questioning mainstream beliefs.
Media is one of the best places to notice the beliefs we’ve been fed about how life, sex, and relationship work. And once you see into your programming, you get to pick which beliefs you want to take on and which you want to ditch.
Did I miss anything?
I hope this post was valuable! Let me know if you think I forgot anything.
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