From the idea you do not have to work at relationships to the myth of ‘The One’
If Hollywood was anything to be believed, women would be stumbling along ‘unlucky in love’ while the non-committed man enjoyed his single life until they both found “the one” and became swept of their feet and lived happily ever after.
Of course, these depictions are not reflective of real life (and often wildly stereotypical) and often fail to convey the true nature of relationships.
It does not make a good story to see a relationship that began with a ‘honeymoon phase’ settle into something long-term and comfortable, even if the happiness is still very much there. Nor does it make a good blockbuster to see madly-in-love couples who, believe it or not, from time to time bicker about who is taking out the bins or what to watch on television.
The Independent spoke to Arabella Russell, a counsellor at the relationship support service Relate, to get her thoughts on those Hollywood myths we should probably all be ignoring.
Myth: That relationships are always perfect (Titanic)
Arabella says: “If relationships were always perfect there would never be any divorce. There is no such thing as perfect – there’s good enough. Hollywood often portrays this image of perfect relationships but this can be very dangerous. Your partner cannot be wonderful all of the time and neither can you. Sometimes things can feel perfect and it is great to have moments when things are brilliant but it does not mean there is something wrong with you or your relationship if you do not feel that way all of the time.”
Myth: You have to change your appearance to find love (Grease, She’s All That)
“Changing your appearance won’t help you to find love. If you want to change it for your own self-esteem and sense of self-worth then go for it but don’t do it for anyone else, otherwise you are making somebody else entirely responsible for the way you feel about yourself. That may be tempting but it’s also unhealthy. Before entering into a relationship, you ideally need to like yourself enough to think you are worthy of somebody else’s love and affection. If you don’t have a good relationship with yourself, this can cause all sorts of issues, and we see evidence of this in the counselling room every day.”
Myth: An argument results in a break up and happy couples don’t argue (Notting Hill)
“Happy couples argue because they communicate: Arguing is a form of communication. It is not about whether you fight but how you fight that is important. Agreeing to disagree sometimes, finding a compromise, and getting to a place where you understand somebody’s position even if you don’t agree with it are all positive signs. If you find you keep on arguing more often than not or over the same issues and nothing gets resolved then you may want to consider seeking support such as counselling. Counselling with an organisation such as Relate can help you to unpick what’s not working and improve the way you communicate with one another.”
Myth: Relationships do not require work (Every Disney film)
“Love is a verb, not a noun. It’s a doing word and that’s what gets forgotten. Love isn’t just a seed you plant in the ground and watch it automatically grow. You have to tend to it. So you may think, I’ve met this wonderful person, they’re the one and that’s it. From then on it’s all plain sailing. Of course it’s not. Living with another person and managing your differences, children, job changes, house moves, that’s not going to be easy but it doesn’t mean the relationship isn’t right for you. So if you prepare for dodgy weather ahead, you’ll actually be in a much stronger position. It is important to see it as a strength, not a weakness, to work a relationship.Hollywood sells us this image that work stops once you’re with someone, that it’s all plain sailing and it’s not. In fact if your relationship doesn’t change it’s not growing.”
Myth: That love is only fun and interesting when you’re in your 20s/30s (All of them apart from Something’s Gotta Give)
“That wonderful feeling of headiness and crazy love doesn’t last forever but it’s often replaced with something much deeper and more conscious. A relationship that has gone on for years and had gone through difficult times can feel amazing because you know each other better and have overcome so much. It is important to point out that you can find love at any age and that with a bit of effort, it is perfectly possible to keep things fun and interesting. Love is not the domain of the young and can happen at any time.”
Myth: ‘The one’ (The Notebook)
“The myth of the one can lead to feelings of loneliness because you are always left feeling there’s a soulmate out there and that you haven’t met them yet. This is a hideous game of hide and seek which can lead to a lot of unnecessary disappointment. The myth of The One can also make you question whether the person you are perfectly happy with is right for you just because they don’t fit that perfect image that you have in your head. The secret is that you don’t find The One, you make The One. There are many people who could become The One for you. But that right person only becomes the one through living with them, experiencing them and building a relationship with them.”
Myth: Sex will always be mindblowing or intensely passionate (Friends with Benefits)
“Sex might be mindblowing all the time or a lot of the time but chances are it will change and develop in the same way that a relationship changes and develops. Sex is a form of communication like any other. If the relationship is going well then that tends to be reflected in your sex life. But children, job and other stresses and illness are inevitably going to have their part to play because your sex life isn’t removed from everything else in the relationship. It’s part of it. Sometimes if a couple think they have a problem with sex what they may really need to address and look at first is the relationship. Sex can be the canary in the coal mine – the indicator all is not well between a couple. So it’s often a relationship issue rather than a sexual one. Which is why counselling may be the best option to look at first if a couple isn’t happy with their sex life.”