Growing up most of us had two models for what adult romantic relationships should look like. One, we had our parents or caregivers––which for many of us means we only saw, divorce, single parenthood, or unhappy relationships. And, two, we had what we saw on TV and in movies. No wonder we have so much trouble finding and maintaining a healthy relationship.
The majority of relationships on TV and in movies are dysfunctional. They have to be. Functional, fulfilling relationships are, well, boring. They are satisfying, steady, and committed. What makes for good entertainment is conflict, sparks flying, tension, or humorous misunderstandings. We want our entertainment to be full of heartache and hijinks, so it’s understandable that when it comes to our own relationships, we don’t know what’s what.
Here are a few lessons we shouldn’t take from our favorite entertainment, and a few lessons we should:
The myth of “You complete me”
It’s the line we all remember from “Jerry Maguire.” Long after we’ve forgotten what that movie was about (football, I think), we remember that classic, romantic line: “You complete me.” The thing is, though, that that’s a terrible thing to say. Our partners shouldn’t complete us. We should be complete on our own. If you can’t be happy without your partner, you’ll never be happy with them.
The problem with “You belong to me”
I love the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” right up until George Peppard as Paul Varjak says to Audrey Hepburn’s Holly Golightly, “I love you; you belong to me!” She should’ve left her response at “No, people don’t belong to people” then gotten out of the cab and walked away. Instead, you’ve got the kissing in the rain and the wet cat and the swelling sound of “Moon River” playing over the end credits. A generation of men and women left the movie theater believing that when you love someone, they belong to you. A healthy marriage consists of two complete individuals sharing a life together. A marriage doesn’t mean the merging of two unique beings into a new organism.
(Fun fact: deep-sea anglerfish do, in fact, merge with their mates. Trust me, the process is not romantic).