All romantic comedies follow a similar plot line: Boy gets girl; boy loses girl; boy wins girl back… and then what? Where does the newly reunited couple go from there? We are left to imagine that they simply live happily ever after: no more arguments, and no more difficulties; they are happy, content, and have worked through all of their issues. Are we to believe that the hard work that it takes to make a relationship flourish, is over for them? Do these characters experience deeply fulfilling, blissful relationships that last forever?Have romantic comedies warped the expectations we have for real life relationships?
I had a great romance; one that I believed in the depths of my soul to be the one I had searched for all of my life. It was intense, inconvenient, passionate, and loud. It was a movie love; a movie romance. My last relationship followed the plot line to a romantic comedy almost perfectly. We spotted each other in a busy coffee shop, had run-ins at the same place for months before he spoke to me, went on romantic dates, shared a very intense intimacy and connection, couldn’t go a day without meeting in a stairwell at work to kiss, went to Paris, spent time with our children (who are the same age, and have the same name) who quickly became inseparable friends, spent hours in bed talking and kissing, and from my vantage point we shared a connection that was deeper and more intense than anything I’d ever known. And just like in a movie the problems crept in: the uncertainty, vulnerability, the fear of how I felt about this man who could leave at any moment, and take with him the exact sort of love that I had been waiting a lifetime to find. Where did I fit in to his perfect life? His perfect house, his perfect job, his perfect face: they all were crippling reminders of just how imperfect I was: a mess of blonde hair, someone who smokes when she’s stressed, a person who had experienced more than her fair share of hurt and difficulty, and someone who was emotionally, just a little girl stuck in the body of a woman.
As our problems as a couple made their way to the forefront of our relationship, and the romance faded, the breakups became more and more frequent. The reconciliations were always pushed by me, making promises to be different, taking responsibility for all of our problems, and promising that things would be different. What the hell is this? This is nothing like a movie! This wasn’t how things were supposed to turn out! We were supposed to work through things in the second act, and live a blissful life together! I wasn’t supposed to beg for him to come back to me – he was supposed to show up on my doorstep and proclaim that I was the only person in the world for him! He was supposed to prove his love for me in this way, by allowing himself to go after what he wanted… which was supposed to be me.
I don’t blame romantic movies, tv shows, love songs, and love stories for my blind love and optimism, but I certainly believe that they have warped my view on the reality of relationships and love. Yet, how do we stop believing in things like this? True love? Love at first sight? Love that does not back down in the face of difficulty? How do we give up on something that is ideal, especially when we think we’ve found it?