The oversimplified process of ‘falling in love’ depicted in movies can leave us not only disappointed, but confused as to why it didn’t work out with our significant other in the real world. Despite all obstacles in movies, love prevails. Rachel gets off the plane for Ross, Baby and Johnny dance together at the end of Dirty Dancing, Rose is still in love with Jack, who died saving her (even though there was space left on that door). Meanwhile, it’s hard to even find someone our age that is genuine about their feelings and knows what they want. We find ourselves constantly swiping left on people (yes, this is a Tinder reference). Why? Movies give us unrealistic expectations about relationships, and I will describe ten of these false beliefs below:
- That we should all search for ‘The One’.
Why haven’t you met your absolutely perfect significant other? Where is the Marge to your Homer? Why haven’t you met the Jim to your Pam in the office yet? The idea that finding the ‘right’ person for you will completely change your life is plain misleading. This makes us think that if a person is truly meant for us, it would all just work out. Real life is not like that. Even when someone is worth it and ‘perfect’ for you—soulmate material—a relationship is still hard work.
- That it’s alright to cheat.
Many people don’t realise how movies romanticise cheating. The Titanic sees the main character cheat on her fiancé as does The Notebook too! In movies, we excuse it because they are clearly not meant to be with their current partner, and are destined for a greater love story. In real life, cheating has been so normalised that almost every person I know has either cheated or been cheated on, or both. The reality is that people need to end their relationships if they realise that their other half isn’t the right person for them before they resort to cheating!
- That there will be a grand romantic gesture.
It’s nice to do romantic things for your partner, but should it serve as a catalyst that helps form relationships? In real life, people could be disappointed by the perceived mediocracy of their relationships. People want an epic love story, and aren’t satisfied with their simpler, but perfectly fulfilling partnerships anymore. When did grandiosity become a fetish? A person can still be perfect for you even if they don’t serenade you or surprise you with a whole flash mob.
- That there are gender roles in place.
This is controversial as it is—so I won’t get into the feminist aspect of it—but the majority of movies present an attractive damsel in distress who is conquered by a man. Men, on the other hand, need to be testosterone-filled, or in other words, wear the pants in the relationship. Of course I’m just generalising the typical romcom. There are movies that definitely go against this, but if you really think about it, there is still a deep-seeded misconception held when it comes to the roles males and females should play in relationships.
- That someone will always reach out after a fight.
In movies, there is generally an interlude when the couple is fighting, accompanied by sad background music. The couple runs into each other somewhere, or one of them reaches out to the other, and eventually everything works out. In reality, objects of unsuccessful relationships can fill museums (i.e. the Museum of Broken Relationships). Fights generally end relationships in real life.
- That there will be an ‘epiphany moment’.
After a fight or time apart, there is that one scene where the person realises what they are going to do to get their partner back. They run through the rain, travel overseas, follow them to their wedding, or to the airport in a hurry to profess their love. More often than not, in real life, it’s just too late. Sometimes, you’re not entirely sure why things ended and never will be.
- That your significant other will change for you
Some fall in love with the idea of fixing their significant other; healing their wounds, or being the one that they finally settle down with. Of course, people can naturally change and improve, but if your partner is forcing that change upon you, then you are probably not in a very healthy relationship. Movies will make us think that if we go back to the person we are so clearly not meant to be with, and change for them, things will work out. Or, conversely, that our partner will change their ways if we just stick with it.
- That you will experience all-consuming love.
All-consuming love is not hot, or healthy! Is Romeo-and-Juliet-die-for-you-love the epitome of romantic relationships? What if you just want to be low-key with someone? Everyone should get to form the type of relationship dynamic that they are comfortable with, and should not be forced into the idea of having to find that one person they are now 100% committed to.
- That you need a partner to complete you.
This is the idea that we need a partner in order to reach our full potential. Even though people are relational beings, and we need social connectedness to thrive, this doesn’t imply that being single diminishes your worth. I’ve heard individuals say that they need a partner, and they need one now! Movies emphasize that being alone (single) leads to loneliness. This is false. If you are unsatisfied with yourself, does it seem like the solution is to get into a relationship? Probably not.
- That there will be a happily ever after.
It’s naïve to think that the smooth sailing begins when you finally find yourself happy with someone. The end of a ‘chick flick’ is often when a couple finally find their way back to each other and are seen enjoying their time together. What most movies don’t show is the ugly parts after that. Relationships, no matter what kind they are, cannot always stay easy.
These ten points aren’t seen just in romantic movies, purposefully watched when you want to see an unrealistic version of your current, sad, love life. They are seen in all genres! Of course, if you want to change things for your partner, by all means, do it. If you live for the sole purpose of being with your partner, then that is completely your choice. I can’t speak for everyone.
I’m not negative. In fact, I hope everyone finds a love worthy of the big screen. The narrow-minded manner in which relationships are portrayed in movies should in no way dictate the way that we live our love lives. I know people that could fill the pages of a book with one-night stand experiences and strangers they made out with in a club, just as I know individuals who engage in less conventional, open relationships, or are strictly monogamous. Tailor your love life to what fits you best!
My primary point is that most relationships in movies are not realistic. Perhaps the point to take home is for us to watch films that will help us dream a little.