Whether you enjoy romantic comedies snuggled on the sofa with your significant other, or reading a Nicola Sparks novel on a beach holiday, we are all aware of this genre. From Disney princesses finding their true love, to teenage dramas on Netflix, almost every story these days has to have a love angle. I can’t help but wonder how this affects us and our real world relationships. When was the last time you saw a movie or TV show in which one person was more selfish than the other? Or maybe a big life event has hit, such as a serious illness, which took a toll on both partners?
Popular TV shows often depict both partners having the same friends, the same interests and this makes them almost the same person. Rarely do you see couples argue but still stay together. These ideals depicted in almost every movie or television show are seen by young, impressionable children. As such, many friends of mine have held the belief that if a couple argues, then they are not supposed to be together. Then they split up. This isn’t right, especially during adulthood. You’re not going to agree on everything and it’s important to understand and listen to both sides in order to be part of a functional, long term relationship.
When I was a child, I believed in ‘the one’. Now I’m not saying that there isn’t that one person that you feel incredibly close to, and that you’ll want to spend the rest of your life with. What I am saying is that there is more than one ‘one’. Imagine if your perfect partner was out there. There are over 7 billion people on this planet, a large percentage of which you will never meet; it’s incredibly unlikely that you would find that one person. Surely, there must be more than one person who you can spend the rest of your life with. This is the reality. My parents gave me some great advice in this area. They said to me that ‘the one’ isn’t someone who you never argue with, or who agrees with you about everything. They are someone who is willing to put up with your bullshit; and you’re willing to put up with theirs. Big issues such as women’s rights, politics and where you want to live must be agreed on, but little things such as what to have for dinner one night or what you like to do on the weekend shouldn’t be a source of tension.
The idea that people in a relationship should spend all their time with each other is another expectation that is ridiculous and outdated. These days, both parties in a relationship will have their own careers, own colleagues, and own friends. It is important to keep this individuality in order to make sure you enjoy the time that you do have with your partner. Psychology Today talks about how marital couples should spend time both together and apart in order to reduce tensions within the family. They also argue how important it is to engage in shared activities, which should be done with enthusiasm. Otherwise you risk taking away your partner’s enjoyment of said activity.
Another area that the romance genre seems to avoid is safe sex. Very rarely when you watch a romantic comedy or read a romance book do the characters ever mention using a condom or taking birth control pills. Unless its part of the story (which it rarely is); there’s never an accidental pregnancy or an STD. Sex is always spontaneous and exciting. Psychologist Susan Quiliam found that only 1 in 10 romance books mention condoms; meanwhile there are many scenes of women actively throwing them away rather than using them. With so little repercussions in this area, the perception can often be that they are unnecessary. There is also this idea of a woman always being ready for sex, and for sex to play such a big role in a relationship. There used to be an element to this in real life as well. In fact, marital rape was only made illegal in all 50 states in 1993. In most western countries, especially with the #MeToo campaign, women are becoming more comfortable to make their own sexual choices. This means that society is finally grasping that a woman has a choice and that she is not an object for sexual desire. This however, means that the media industry should keep up with society and start showing relationships where sex isn’t always wanted and sometimes, the most intimate parts of a relationship are the late night cuddles on a sofa. The idea that you have to always feel rushes of love for your partner is rare, if it is possible at all. These misconceptions can lead people to feel like something is missing in their own relationships, even when it’s not possible to experience what he/she is looking for.
I am aware that books and movies need to have an element of escapism and perfectionism, otherwise there would be no interest. Why would you see a film that’s exactly like real life? I feel that in order to correct these misconceptions, there needs to be more mention of safe sex and what constitutes real parts of relationships in these books. Rather than aspiring to be like Cinderella, saved by her prince (that’s another story all together) and live happily ever after, maybe aspire to something more realistic. If films and novels can learn to capture the magic in normal relationships and bring that through to the big screen, then more relationships would be successful in our modern world.