I will be the first to admit that I love romantic comedies, sappy love ballads, and romance novels. No matter how hackneyed the plot, I wait for the characters to fall in love and shed tears of joy when the fated moment takes place. I think I am not alone in my love for this genre. However, when you examine the plots more closely, the overall message is that finding “the one” leads one down the path of happily ever after. Your partner will grant your every wish, heed to all your commands, simply because you love one another. Although such story lines are “sweet” and entertaining, people often fail to remember that these movies, songs, or books are fictional or highly dramatized at best. In turn, Hollywood scripts are often held as the benchmark for a loving relationship. In fact, I would say that it sometimes contributes to Irrational Beliefs about relationships. Adopting the beliefs such as “If my partner loved me, s/he should do what I want him/her to do,” “If my partner loved me, s/he would understand how I feel” or “I can’t stand that there is conflict in our relationship,” means that one has adopted beliefs based on fictional ideas. These irrational beliefs not only contribute to unhealthy negative emotions when one’s partner does not act as scripted by Hollywood, it compounds the challenges involved in maintaining a relationship. Further, for people who are seeking to establish a relationship, their Irrational Beliefs about how a relationship “should be” may create unrealistic expectations, thereby limiting their chances of starting a relationship.
So, how can one maintain a healthy relationship despite media portrayal of romance? First, recognize that most romantic comedies involving “happily ever after” are fairy tales and are probably as unrealistic as fiction goes. Second, when you notice yourself experiencing an unhealthy negative emotion, such as anger, depression, or anxiety in relation to your partner or your relationship, check in with your beliefs about the situation. Are you rigidly holding expectations for your relationship or your partner that is derived from fiction? If so, modify your beliefs accordingly to reflect more flexible wishes rather than demands for how your partner must act or how a relationship should be. Third, evaluate whether it is worth communicating wishes for your partner to act differently. However, bear in mind that a discussion does not equate change.
Next up: Kristene Doyle, Ph.D. on Thanking My Bloggers