There’s not too much else in the entertainment world that’s as great as watching a romantic movie, or reading a romantic story. That is, at least, from my point of view (and many other women’s points of view). That is unless, we’re talking about experiencing the real thing, of course. But I came to realize several years back that it led me down some slippery paths. I was addicted to false romance.
For me, watching romantic movies and reading romantic stories can be addictive. I can watch some, but I have to be careful. The same is true for many women. And it’s causing problems in many of today’s marriages. After-all, there aren’t too many spouses who have script writers available to help them say and do just the “right” romantic thing. And for that reason, we end up expecting more from our spouse and marriage, in itself, than is realistic.
“The paradigm (the set of unwritten rules) about love that we have accepted is dysfunctional. In fact, I’m going to suggest that we’ve been unconsciously brainwashed into believing a number of false premises about how love, sex and lasting relationships develop. I’m not suggesting there has been some sinister attempt to ruin lives. But I am emphatically saying a way of thinking about relationships has developed in our culture that, when examined, turns out to be incapable of producing the kind of relationships we’re seeking.” (Chip Ingram, from book, “Love, Sex and Lasting Relationships”)
I totally agree with something that Dave Boehi wrote about Hollywood’s fantasy type of love. It’s something we should all note because of its influence that fantasy love has on today’s marriages:
“You can’t help but wonder how many marriages over the years have ended because people have bought into this ‘fantasy love’ idea without even realizing it. When you see the same values promoted in stories continually over a long period of time, the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur. How often do two people stop pursuing each other after the wedding and look elsewhere because they desperately want to recreate the excitement, fulfillment, and energy of new love?
“Hollywood rarely portrays the type of love and romance that we need—real love for real people living real lives. A love where a man and woman start by building a friendship and committing to purity in their physical relationship. A love where they seek God’s direction for their lives together, and when they marry their sexual union reinforces and symbolizes a binding, lifelong commitment to remain man and wife ’till death do us part.'” (From the article, “What Does Hollywood Teach Us About Love?”)
Greener Grass Syndrome
One of the contributing problems to the portrayal of false love is that sometimes “the grass can look greener on the other side of the street.” When you live with each other in marriage day in and day out, things can look very ordinary. And when you are looking at perfection on the big screen or on the written page, it can be problematic to your marriage. That, which is false can start to pull you in a fantasy world you shouldn’t entertain.
That’s one of the things I discovered earlier in our married lives. I was getting so caught up into watching romantic movies and reading about fantasy romance that I became addicted to it’s false portrayal of love. My husband didn’t have a chance of “measuring up” to the paper “heroes” that those stories portrayed. There was no way of sustaining the “high” of those romantic interludes day in and day out.
Even though he’s my hero, he’s also a real person. Superman, he isn’t! (But neither am I Lois Lane or Superwoman.)
I’m not the only one who has found this to be a reality in their married lives. The following is a web site link to an article posted on the Faith Writers web site. It brings up some important points you may want to consider (as I have):
Author Jennifer Smith tells of expectations that she later realized she had dragged into marriage.
“When those expectations weren’t met, I crumbled. I cried, I yelled, I fought for things to unfold my way and on my timeline. With each expectation that was left unmet, bitterness grew in my heart.
“By year three, I was convinced that our marriage was going to end. Although I didn’t want to experience the devastation of divorce, I justified it by believing my happiness was more important than staying committed to my vows. I daydreamed about life without my husband. And I desired to pursue a future free from hardship.
“As a result, I fell deep into fantasyland, longing to be loved like the characters in romance novels. As I turned each page in a book, I craved the same romance I was reading about. This happened all the while my sleeping husband lay in bed next to me. I thought I’d never feel as lonely as I felt in my marriage. The more time that went by during which my husband didn’t fulfill my desires for romance, the greater the chasm between us grew.”
To learn more about this fantasy journey (which I HIGHLY recommend), and then her wake up call, which saved her marriage, please read:
Additional Interesting Articles Concerning False Romance
Three additional articles support this same finding. One is written by Jen Booth, posted on Crosswalk.com. And the other two are written by Sheila Wray Gregoire, posted on Tolovehonorandvacuum.com. You might find them helpful to read:
Author Russell Moore, brings up the same point that I, eventually, learned. And that is that there’s “something about the allure of the commercialized romance story.” He even compares it to the addictive lure of pornography. This seems a bit startling, and yet there seems to be some truth to it. In the Crosswalk.com article “Can Romance Novels Hurt Your Heart?” Dr Moore writes,
“Pornography and romance novels aren’t (always) morally equivalent. But they ‘work’ the same way. Both are based on an illusion. Pornography is based on the illusion of a perfectly willing, always aroused partner without the ‘work’ of relational intimacy. Often romance novels or their film equivalents do the same thing for the emotional needs of women, that pornography offers for the erotic urges of men.
“And in both cases, what the ‘market’ wants is sameness. Men want the illusion of women who look just like women but are, in terms of sexual response, just like men. Women want the illusion of men who are ‘real’ men. But, in terms of a concept of romance, they are just like women. In both artificial eros and artificial romance, there is the love of the self, not the mystery of the other.”
Unreal VS Real
In my own marriage, I eventually wised up and traded in the “unreal” for the “real.” I found a way to talk to my husband about this problem.
I used to buy into the lie that romance and love should come naturally, no matter how long you’ve been together. But I’ve since learned that it’s more a matter of intentionality to put romance back into the busyness of everyday living that makes a marriage fun, and sustainable, and romantic.
Dr John Gottman, who is known for his expertise in the field of marriage said the following about making your marriage a success:
“The issue is… how rich your stockpile of good feelings is about each other to weather difficulties and keep your basic attitude toward your partner positive.”
So yes, is it important to learn how to work through your disagreements in a respectful and marriage building way. But it’s also important to look for ways to romance and help your attitudes remain positive about each other.
My husband Steve and I look for ways to infuse romance into our REAL lives together. This is much like we used to do before we married each other. Only now it takes more intentionality as the years continue.
I’m married to a great guy and he can be very romantic. But he can also be “romantically challenged” at times (just like I can be). He needs a bit of help and prodding sometimes. But it’s sure worth the effort! That’s where the Romantic Ideas topic of our web site come in handy. It’s for us as much as for anyone else!
Another thing that has helped our marriage is that I have learned about and work on my own “frailties.” Reading romance novels and watching too many romantic movies isn’t a good thing for me. I can become addicted to false romance to such an extent that it isn’t healthy for our marriage, or my thought life.
Just being aware of that weakness, has been helpful as well. It has been a great decision to stop feeding my addiction. And it is very freeing, as well (for both of us).
Give of Yourself
It’s like what author Sabrina Beasley says. “Romance grows when you give of yourself and enjoy the other person for who they are deep inside.” And deep inside, Steve may not be as romantic as some characters on television, in the movies and in written stories. But that’s ok. I’m not perfect in many ways either. I love the person my husband is deep inside. And together, we work on romance in a way that works great for our marriage.
Above all, we look to the Lord, whose very name means LOVE, to teach us how to love and romance each other in a way that works for both of our personalities and to the glory of God. It’s amazing how our Wonderful Counselor, the Holy Spirit, can show us how to do that as we look to Him!
If you find that you’re having problems in your marriage because you hold “Hollywood” expectations for your spouse, we pray the Lord will use what is written here to minister to your marriage in a positive way.
In Closing, as it Concerns False Romance:
Dr Russell Moore gives a challenge worth considering, and especially worth praying over, when he writes,
“It is worth asking, ‘Is what I’m consuming leading me toward contentment with my spouse (or future spouse) or away from it? Is it pointing me to the other in one-flesh union? Or is it pointing to an eroticized embodiment of my own desires? Is this the mystery of marriage or a mirage?'”
Cindy Wright of Marriage Missions wrote this article.