Romance ain’t what it used to be, thank goodness. When I was growing up in the 80s, love was all about wailing love ballads, lame Disney movies and tragic tales of impossible love that were cured by sheer will or love itself. The messages that I took out of all of those – well, let’s just say I haven’t been all that skilled in the relationships department.
Our culture has become so caught up in some unattainable and romantic view of perfect love that it’s messing us all up when it comes to maintaining a real and healthy relationship.
And we need to stop teaching our kids these seven things if we’re going to save them from a similar fate.
- Love heals all. Yeah, it so doesn’t. Sure, love is wonderful and it can help us breach divides and heal rifts, but it doesn’t have the power to heal everything. First and foremost it doesn’t heal someone who isn’t interested in being healed. Our romantic ideals make us think that our love is strong enough to fix people that we share it with, but people aren’t DIY projects, and love needs to be a two-way street. Love is not a fix-all medicine.
- If it’s real, it’s effortless. No, no, and no. Creating a real and meaningful relationship requires work, and nobody is perfect. You need to find a way to live with each other and all your quirks and imperfections – and that’s what makes a relationship so rewarding.
- True love means always being together. Bleugh. Yes, being showered with affection and attention is lovely…for a while. But then it gets tiresome, and tiring for the person doing the showering. Having your own lives gives you something fresh to talk about with each other and a less dependent relationship, where you know you’re together because you want to be, not because you NEED to be.
- Refusing to take no for an answer is romantic. It isn’t. It’s harassment. We see scenes in movies all the time where the girl says no and then the guy pesters her and pesters her until she says yes. Sure, if it’s Ryan Gosling, it’s adorable. But it’s mostly not, and those scenes are teaching boys that when a girl says no she might really mean yes. And that is fraught with dangerous messaging. Make it clear: if you like someone, say yes to going out with them. If you don’t, say no thank you, then they respect that and move on.
- That the right person will know how to love you. People aren’t magic – not even the “right” person (if that is a thing). Everyone comes with their own back story and experiences that have led them to this moment, and it’s up to all of us to work together to understand our own and each other’s. We can help each other by communicating our wants and needs, rather than assuming our loved ones must just know. They don’t.
- All you need is love. Such a lovely idea, but no, there are so many other things we really need to build a good relationship. Trust, communication, respect, compromise, patience, stability…they might not fit into a catchy pop song quite as well, but you need all of those things too. Relying solely on love is the path to enormous disappointment.
- It’s your partner’s job to tear down your walls. Newsflash: we all go through stuff that makes it hard for us to love/trust/believe again. And yes, it’s natural to build walls to protect yourself, but it’s up to you to then deal with those issues and remove the barriers you’ve created around your heart. Nobody else can do that for you, and until you look your hurt square in the face, it will always haunt you and affect your future relationships.
If we want our kids to have healthy relationships, it’s time to leave those awful messages behind and teach them what it takes to make a healthy relationship. And if we can’t find those messages in songs and films, we’ll have to model them ourselves.