The Danger of Relationship Messages

The Danger of Relationship Messages

I admit this weekend I watched a few too many Lifetime Christmas movies, which has me thinking about the messages women receive around relationships. These Christmas movies usually have some forlorn single woman who is once again alone for the holidays and is dreading spending the holidays with her family because they will once again belittle her for still being single.  The main character is usually portrayed as a super strong independent woman and that is the reason why she hasn’t found a suitable partner because she is too career-focused, too stubborn, too independent, etc.  Eventually, she meets some wonderful man either through a magical Christmas list, Santa wish or some form of interference from the pesky friends and family.  Thrown in some misunderstandings, the woman being too independent, the guy being too nice and then the happy ending where the guy saves her from her loneliness and we have a movie. This from my research on my couch is the formula for an appropriate romantic Christmas movie.

So the messages we receive are:

  1. Being strong and independent is a negative
  2. Once you have a relationship everything gets easier
  3. You will never be lonely again
  4. The guy will take care of everything
  5. Family and friends mean well but in the end, it is all about the relationship.

In reality:

  1. Being strong and independent is healthy and normal and one can be in a relationship and be strong/independent.
  2. Relationships are work, they are filled with miscommunications, misunderstandings. I mean seriously you are dealing with another human being here (and even though the movies would have you believe it you can’t read their minds)
  3. Yes, being in a relationship means you have a plus one but it doesn’t guarantee no more loneliness, it is very possible to be in a relationship and feel lonely (in fact, many people do)
  4. The guy won’t take care of everything because that is just impossible.  A good relationship is a team effort.
  5. You need all kinds of relationships, family, friends, life partner to make your life complete.

So in my observation through my clients and observing society we have two extremes:

  • One:  Women are waiting for their Mr. Right to come sweep them away and make life perfect.
  • Two: (I believe this is a backlash to number one)Women are saying they don’t need a man, they are strong independent and won’t compromise their lives for a man.  Secretly they believe when they find the right guy it won’t be a sacrifice because he will be perfect and love their independent ways and take care of them, etc.

A prime example of number 2: I had a client who was dating a guy who was getting ready to move away for a job.  They had been dating for around a year and she was debating whether or not she wanted to move with him.  She kept telling me that if she moved she would be pathetic because she wanted to be a strong woman and not NEED a guy.  She thought she would be weak if she followed him.  She also really loved the guy, had a career that would allow her to relocate fairly easily and when she listened to her gut she really wanted to go with him.  We spent much of our time together helping her get clear on what she really wanted not what the messages were sending her. She realized that needing someone wasn’t all bad, and she couldn’t imagine not having a life without him in it even if that meant to some people she might appear pathetic.  She eventually decided to move with him (he moved a few months ahead of her and then she followed him) and last I heard they are doing well.

Both types of camps are missing the true reality:  Relationships are hard. They require work, love, compromise, communication, caring, vulnerability, and strength.  Relationships are messy, complicated, joyous, lonely, and bonding.  Relationships involve meeting another human being and genuinely accepting their humanity.  They involve working together as a team to bring out the best in each other.  Each relationship is as unique and wonderful as we are as individuals.  There is no secret or magic bullet. Relationships are a joyous part of life that requires us to show up as ourselves on a daily basis.

When we let go of the stereotypes and the generalizations and look at our relationships as a unique experience we can live happier.

What is your view of relationship?  What are your keys to relationship success?