OPINION: Real Relationships in a world of rom-coms

(Graphic by Catherine Eldridge)

Movie screens in February often portray unrealistic scenes of women getting swept off of their feet, overexaggerated romantic gestures and intense fights ending in even more intense make-ups. No matter how often viewers are told rom-coms are unrealistic, the expectation of grandiose love creeps into minds and hearts everywhere. What really goes into the making of a healthy relationship? 

Unrequited Love and Friendship

According to Time Magazine, “the science of love and relationships boils down to fundamental lessons that are simultaneously simple, obvious and difficult to master: empathy, positivity and a strong emotional connection.” This equation seems easily attainable when glancing over it. However, the biggest variable of this formula is missing — the other person. 

One of the most unrealistic expectations set in movies and media is the concept that when a person wants to form a relationship with someone, the feeling will be reciprocated. This begs the question: how does one deal with unrequited feelings? 

The easiest path to take is reflection, not redirection. Shifting unrequited feelings immediately to a new friend or partner doesn’t give that person time to heal. As much as it hurts to hear, focusing on personal growth can be the best way to get past this lack of reciprocation. 

Additionally, recognizing how common unrequited love is can be equally as important. According to Good Therapy, “a study of college students and high school students found unrequited love was four times as common as reciprocated, equal love.”

Attachment Styles and Love Languages

When cuddling up on the couch to watch “You’ve Got Mail” or “50 First Dates,” the relationships modeled seem virtually perfect. Disputes are always solved by a passionate argument, and the story continues with the actors still completely in love with the unwavering support of their friends. While this isn’t inherently unrealistic, learning how friends or partners function in relationships is the best way to keep relationships afloat and healthy. 

Attachment styles are formed based on previous friendships or relationships and can help one understand the motivations behind friends’ and partners’ actions. According to Simply Psychology, the four different attachment styles are defined as “anxious (referred to as preoccupied in adults), avoidant (referred to as dismissive in adults), disorganized (referred to as fearful-avoidant in adults), and secure.” 

People with anxious attachment styles are often described as self-doubting and sensitive whereas those with avoidant attachment styles are thought to be self-reliant, avoidant and distant. A disorganized attachment style can often manifest itself as a constant craving for attention, but — when receiving this attention — it results in fear. Finally, someone with a secure attachment style is self-assured and responsive in conflicts.

Love languages can be beneficial when learning how people best receive love. It is important for someone to communicate which love language best resonates with them to friends or partners so they understand how to reciprocate these gestures. According to 5 Love Languages, these five categories are physical touch, quality time, acts of service, words of affirmation and gift giving. 

Learning about these two studies can help one build a larger toolbelt for dealing with conflict as well as help show love to others.

Healthy Love in Partners and Friends

The most important components of any healthy relationship are communication and boundaries. Having healthy, respectful conversations about the positives or negatives of any relationship is extremely helpful in learning more about one’s partner or friend. Boundaries, paired with communication, can help a relationship withstand a lot of conflicts. 

Understanding physical, mental and emotional boundaries is important in a relationship and helps to avoid unnecessary arguments. This is also where love languages may play a part. If someone tells their friend their last-ranked love language is physical touch, hugging them on a daily basis wouldn’t be a good way to show them love.

While all of this information might seem to make relationships more complex, the most important thing to remember is relationships are supposed to promote well-being, not diminish it. While our favorite movies may romanticize conflict and the adrenaline rush that accompanies conflict, the healthiest relationships are ones based on trust and safety. Humans are not meant to be alone, and friendships and romantic partners help us to feel most like ourselves. 

Don’t let the air of seemingly unattainable love ruin day-to-day life. The most realistic relationships are those that are based on honesty, respect and the idea that connection is one of the most beautiful parts of humanity.