Over the years, there’s become increasing awareness about how movies impact the expectations people have for their relationships. While our real life experiences as children set the stage psychologically (subconsciously) for future relationships, movies have a way of portraying and reinforcing society’s “standards” for what a relationship “should” look like. Unfortunately, movies generally paint a picture of relationships that is viewed as consciously ideal and is mostly unrealistic, leaving people frustrated that they’re not in a relationship like the ones they see on the big screen.
Here are some differences between relationships in the movies, and real life relationships:
1) Your relationship is not frozen in time. Movies classically climax at the end. Everything builds up to the stereotyped big moment where the two people either get together, or get back together (from an earlier breakup). They kiss, everyone’s happy, and the credits roll. This gives the illusion that the relationship is going to last in blissful happiness forever. They’ve put all the issues or courtship behind them, and they’re going to be happy in that moment for the rest of their lives. If only movies showed what’s next, after the big, climactic moment. They move forward, live their daily lives, have changes in moods, get in arguments, sometimes don’t want to be around each other, have good days, etc. Sure, arguments exist in the movies, but they’re usually either there to build the tension in the romance, or to feed a separate plot point. In real life, the arguments in relationships aren’t about creating a mood for an observing audience, leading to a climax.
2) Your relationship is not scripted. Movies have their own version of romance. As just alluded to, movies carefully script their courtships to increase the tension, creating this excitement for the viewers of when it’s “finally” going to happen. While sexual and emotional tension happens in reality, there is no pre-organized script of how your relationship is going to be, and what obstacles may come up. In the movies, there’s a greater agenda, and each scene is planned out to help get there. In reality, there are things that come up that couples need to deal with, and there’s no planned outcome. In a sense, life is a string of experiences and events, while the movies have a fixed goal that the preceding moments build towards.
3) Your life isn’t only about your relationship. Movies would have us believe that every moment is spent dwelling on the relationship. In reality, you have other things to deal with in your life — like work, friends, children, family, paying bills, running errands, cleaning your home, eating meals, etc. This is an issue that plagues many idealized relationship fantasies. Movies show only the scenes that are relevant to the plot, and leaves out all the irrelevant scenes. People who idealize relationships from movies tend to think that their partner needs to be constantly thinking about them, or acting with them in mind throughout their days. The movies would have us believe that every move we make is all about the romance.
4) Everyone has limitations and a history. Movies have this way of showing men as confident, relaxed, smooth, prince-like individuals who take the lead and pursue the woman in this manner. The men seem like they have no baggage, no limitations, no issues of their own. In reality, everyone has issues and limitations. Prince Charming in real life may have had a rough childhood, or may have significant social anxieties, or may not be good at expressing emotion, or have a short temper, and so on. People who idealize relationships see limitations and wonder if they should run from the lack of perfection. The reality is, everyone has limitations, and what’s important is being with a person whose limitations you can handle.
5) Movie romance isn’t always…romantic. How often have you seen a movie where the the woman is initially not interested, and then the man starts sending flowers and gifts to the woman’s home and work, and starts randomly showing up at various places and events in the woman’s life? Movies have a way of making this look romantic and pretend that the man is showing his commitment and positive desire to be with the woman. In reality, this is more like being a stalker. There’s an interested gesture, and then there’s stalking.
6) Women don’t need to be “saved”. Movies often symbolically and even directly imply that the man is saving the woman in some way, whether it’s an adventure movie where the man actually saves the woman from harm, or if it’s a romance where the man is saving the woman from her “empty” and “meaningless” life without a man. In reality — while movies have influenced many women to base their self-worth on relationships, and men to believe that they have to be a knight-in-shining-armor — women don’t need to be rescued any more or less than men do. Relationships based on rescue fantasies often end up unfulfilling for one or both. The rescuer may get sick of having to continuously rescue, and the one rescued may get sick of the dependency that comes with constantly needing to be rescued in order to maintain the relationship dynamic. Healthy relationships generally function around mutuality, respect, togetherness, support, unity, and partnership. In a sense, while sometimes two people equally rescue each other, the strongest relationships tend to be two people who have already rescued themselves (by working and learning to manage their own issues), and then come together.
There are more examples that could be included, but the overall idea is to be cautious of how movies portray love and relationships. Take mental note of what you see in movies, especially if they seem “perfect” or “ideal”. Odds are, the movie is splitting off from reality when we see perfection. Also, notice what the movies are not showing — such as life after the ending, or the in-between moments. If you want to have a healthy and mutual relationship, understanding yourself within the reality of daily life (emotionally and otherwise) is more important than trying to re-creation a story from a movie.