5 Romantic Beliefs That Are Killing Your Relationship
We’re hopeless romantics at heart.
Candlelight, poetry and Paris. This all sounds like true love and what relationship dreams are made of.
Relationships should be romantic; at least we think so. First, let’s look at where romantic ideas come from.
Where do romantic ideas come from?
Blame it on how we grew up and what we saw as kids. Research shows that children who watched more romantic television shows (like soap operas) had stronger beliefs about the roles of men and women in relationships and dated more people (Rivadeneyra & Lebo, 2008). As you can imagine, Disney is also somewhat blamed, as research shows that Disney films have strong romantic themes, particularly to idealize the partner (Hefner et al., 2017).
But it is also what we are still observing. Those who watch more romantic comedy have more romanticized beliefs about relationships (Hefner & Wilson, 2013). Watching more relationship-oriented television (shows like The Bachelor, Love Island, and Love Is Blind) was associated with less relationship satisfaction and more conflict (Reizer & Hetsroni, 2014).
The five most problematic romantic beliefs
It’s clear that romantic themes make for good conversation, but the same ideas in our own relationships can be harmful. While being romantic in your relationship sounds positive, it encourages counterproductive behavior. That’s right, the same behaviors that you find cute, adorable, and essential to relationship happiness are harmful.
Here are the biggest culprits. These romantic beliefs sound like they are preparing you for success, but they are actually preparing you for disappointment.
- Love conquers all – This is perhaps the most romantic belief of all. all you need is love If you love your partner, you can overcome any obstacle. Sounds hopeful and optimistic. It is, but it is also just plain wrong. Love is certainly part of a fulfilling and lasting relationship. However, it is only a part, a single piece of the puzzle. There are many other key elements: respect, caring, kindness, support, understanding, communication, trust, enjoying time together, and friendship (to name a few). Make no mistake, a partner who genuinely loves you offers all of that too. Love alone is not enough. It’s just a start. Placing too much emphasis on love and believing that it conquers all encourages you to minimize many problematic aspects of a relationship. Love is no excuse for tolerating mean, inconsiderate, or abusive partners. You also want to avoid falling in love too quickly and with the wrong person.
- Relationships should be perfect – To think that your true love will be perfect and that your relationship with that person will be perfect sounds perfectly romantic. However, it is completely impractical and sets you up for inevitable disappointments. Your partner will occasionally say and do the wrong thing. Your partner is not perfect. Neither are you. Perfection is a myth. Here’s the real problem: Expecting perfection causes you to overlook your perfectly great relationship. The solution is to stop striving for perfection and instead strive for excellence. Everyone deserves a great relationship, but realistically, even great relationships aren’t perfect.
- Jealousy as a sign of devotion – Everyone wants their partner to love them. No surprise. But how do we really know that your partner loves you? One easily recognizable way is how much your partner cares about you. Do they care about where you are? Are you wondering who you are spending time with or who you are talking to? Are they trying to keep other potential partners away? All that attention from your partner can sound romantic. But these are not signs of love or a caring partner; they are clues to a jealous, needy, and insecure partner. The healthiest relationships are built on trust. Suspicious and controlling behavior does not signal love. They show insecurity. The truly loving partner trusts you and doesn’t need to worry about what you’re doing, make inquiries about who you’re with, or do anything to protect you from others. The best partners trust each other.
- You should always put your partner first – “I would do anything for you.” A classic romantic feel (and a common theme across several songs). Sacrificing yourself for your partner certainly sounds romantic. It’s just not necessary or desirable. Putting your partner first encourages you to downplay your strengths, minimize your best accomplishments, and give up on your needs. All bad ideas. Here’s the truth: A partner who truly loves you would never want you to make any great sacrifices. Instead, proudly embrace who you are and be willing to put yourself first sometimes (guilt-free). Realize this: You are perfectly willing to let your partner take the spotlight. Shouldn’t they be willing to do the same for you? Expecting more “me time” (obviously without going overboard into “high-maintenance nightmare” territory) is a mentality that will strengthen your relationship. That’s not to say your partner shouldn’t be a priority. They should. But you can prioritize them without neglecting your thoughts, feelings, and preferences.
- The eternal relationship – Romantic relationships last forever. Couples celebrate anniversary after anniversary, year after year. Everyone wants to find an everlasting relationship with their partner forever. While it sounds magical, the focus on longevity emphasizes the wrong thing. What is more important in life, quality or quantity? The answer is almost always quality. Yet in our relationships, we overemphasize how long they last and sugarcoat how good they are. Happiness, fulfillment, and purpose are more important than the number of months or years you last. When you go for quality, quantity comes naturally. After all, who wants to be in a 20-year relationship that sucks? No one. We overemphasize longevity because counting the years is easier than quantifying quality. And nothing sounds less romantic than “quantify”.
Ultimately, we hesitate to do things in our relationship that don’t feel romantic. Taking an honest, open look at our relationship not only feels unromantic. It feels like some kind of betrayal. But it is not. If it’s truly true love, it may take a little trial. A great relationship can also withstand higher expectations and natural imperfections, put yourself first, reject jealous behavior, and focus on fulfillment. Relationships that cannot do this end in love and suffer from failed relationships.
There is nothing more romantic than a strong, healthy, and fulfilling relationship. The funny thing is that getting there often requires rejecting the misguided lessons of love that we’ve mistakenly labeled as romantic for far too long.