Do you ever wonder about this? Do you wonder how you ended up in the life you are in right now, where things just haven’t turned out the way you thought they would? That your marriage is not how you dreamt it would be back when you were young, free and single. Do you reflect on your life and wonder what happened to being with the man of my dreams? What happened to being swept off my feet and saved by my Prince Charming? What happened to my aspirations of living with a great family life where the love for my husband effortlessly grows and blossoms every day? Why aren’t I living happily ever after? Do you then start to wonder that perhaps because your life isn’t like this, that maybe, just maybe, you’re not with the right person and perhaps you should separate so that you can start again and try and have that perfect, blissful marriage with someone else?
From the moment we’re old enough to understand fairy tales, we are sold a Disney fantasy of how life should and will turn out for us eventually. We will struggle, and then miraculously our Prince Charming will come along and save us. And we will live happily ever after.
As we grow up, we continue to be surrounded by movies and books that sell us the idea of a perfect romance and a perfect relationship that we all then end up aspiring to. And then when we do get married, we naturally start comparing our own marriage to this perfect standard. Unfortunately, as our marriage matures, what then can and does happen is that we grow bitter and resentful that the man we have at home, no longer looks like the man of our dreams and is not similar in any way, shape or form to the image of the man that we are consistently exposed to and which is being sold to us as the ‘ideal’. We may all too often sit there, silently judging our spouse for not living up to the perfect standard that has been subconsciously indoctrinated into us from such a young age.
But what are we really comparing our husbands to? We’re comparing them to something that does not exist. That is unfair, almost unjust.
These fairy tales, these romcoms that we watch or read in our spare time, are damaging, they are just the product of someone’s imagination. They’re not a reflection of real life. Because if they were more real and authentic, they would never make it into the mainstream, because real never sells, the director would be void of the money or success they seek. Stephanie Coontz, professor of history and family studies at Evergreen State College said, “I think that it’s absolutely true that the movies certainly overestimate the immediacy in which love develops.“
Our culture seems to facilitate an artificiality of relationships, Debra Merskin, professor of journalism and communication at the University of Oregon and the co-author of Critical Thinking about Sex, Love and Romance in Mass Media. Says she is critical of there being such a lack of substantial studies surrounding media and tabloid representations of love, and nothing more real, deeper, or substantial. “(Relationships are) one of the most important and long-term things that happen in our lives and that affect us. But they aren’t talked about except in tabloids,” she said.
According to the desert news, a social cognitive theory relayed that according to a 2009 study by Kimberly R. Johnson and Bjarne M. Holmes, “individuals may actively observe media portrayals of behaviours in romantic relationships for insight into how they themselves could behave in their own relationships.”
Now, this isn’t to say that real love and romance don’t exist. Because they do. And I’m sure we all have examples in our lives of healthy relationships that are based on true love.
But if we look at these relationships clearly and for what they really are, we will also recognise that they are far from perfect and that one partner is not being ‘saved’ by the other. That one partner is not putting such high expectations on the other in order to be happy and fulfilled. Removing unattainable expectations from our relationship and our partner clears the space for us to just be with each other, as two human beings. Instead of judging how imperfect our partner is, we can instead see and appreciate what they are doing for the relationship, which may not look anything like what the men do in the Disney stories and romantic comedies that we are exposed to. But it doesn’t mean that it’s not coming from that same place of love.
Let’s remove the veil that has been drawn over us for so long. Let’s drop the expectations we have had ingrained into us that our partner must be like this, or like that, in order for us to be happy and to feel as though we have a great marriage. Let’s not judge our marriage by Disney and Hollywood made-up standards.
Let’s drop all of that thinking and look at our relationship and our partner for what they really are. And if we can do that, if we can drop these unhelpful thoughts and beliefs that do nothing for our relationship, it’ll pave the way for more compassion, understanding and real love to take their place. By dropping these thoughts and expectations it also starts to become very clear that our happiness never came from these things in the first place. It removes that heavy burden off our partner and we can start to look at our relationship very differently.
We CAN live that happily ever after, one that is real, nurtured, healthy, nourishing, and safe. It just takes a slightly different route to get there than what we may have innocently, but incorrectly believed up until now.
If you’d like to learn how to drop these unhelpful beliefs and expectations of your relationship and instead open up your mind to more love and appreciation (and therefore a happier marriage); then access her free online webinar here.
Ptissem is a coach trained in the Inside-Out paradigm of psychology her areas of interest include, relationships, our emotional well-being. If you need help working through any other blocks to moving forward in your marriage and in your life, watch her free online webinar.
By Susan Alnajafi