Love Stories and Other Bullshit
I believe in love. Seriously, I do. I just don’t believe in fairytale love. I believe in real love — the messy kind, the annoying kind, the kind that takes a lot of work.
In order to get to real love, you have to cut the bullshit, and this involves confronting the stories we’ve believed — for years — that are simply bogus. These idealistic, syrupy sweet love stories implanted in our minds from fairytales, romance novels, and movies actually get in the way of finding true, enduring love.
Let’s go back to that familiar place where the root of all of your problems seems to lie — childhood. This is our brains or growing and developing and when mistaken ideas may be taking hold.
The brain works by using efficient strategies to manage information. One such strategy is through scripts about life, self, and others. These scripts are storylines or narratives that help us make sense of things. We hang onto these storylines to help guide us in the future so we can know how to navigate interactions, understand what is happening, and predict what will happen next. These narratives are fine as long as they are not terribly distorted. They also need to be flexible or updatable.
I have written a lot about unhealthy personal narratives related to histories of abuse, trauma, and other hurtful life experiences that lead to self-defeating ideas about ourselves and others. This time, I am writing about relationship narratives distorted by utopian love stories we were read as children or saw in movies. Many of us got this skewed idea that there is a perfect person out there for each of us. With that person, all of our dreams will be realized. We will find perfect happiness, and life will be easy.
Ha! Many of you are thinking I know that isn’t true, and perhaps you do with your logical brain; however, our hearts still carry that story. That love script may still be there alongside of an entitlement that says: When I’m in love, I won’t have to work so hard. We will just be happy.
I’m not trying to be a downer, but it is messages likes these that actually undermine successful relationships in real life. People get frustrated when relationships aren’t ideal. They question love when things get stale or annoying. People tell themselves that love should not involve so much work. I mean who heard about work in all those fun movies where all problems were resolved in 2 hours because the connection was just so damned strong? Fake news.
Here is where the good news comes in! Once you identify that you’ve been brainwashed by pop culture, you can confront these distortions and biases. You can examine the role modeling from your childhood (your parents and caregivers), friends, and social experiences. And you can have an honest conversation with yourself about expectations and realities.
All love takes work. Human beings are inherently messy. No one is perfect, and no relationship is ideal. Mistakes will be made. Arguments will be had. Sex will get commonplace, and it will take effort to keep things fresh and exciting. We will have to work to understand how the other person feels. We will have to extend the grace of forgiveness. And all of this is normal. This is love. Love requires the willingness to take on the work because it is worth it.
I have had folks consult me because of fear that their relationship was doomed simply because it wasn’t easy. I am here to tell you that this is what to expect. The beauty of the connection is in the journey (as long as it isn’t toxic).
If you want to know more about love and relationship narratives, check out my new book, Getting to Good Riddance: A No Bullsh*t Breakup Survival Guide, where I talk about so much more than breakups. I address what love is and what it is not and how to better understand yourself and the relationships you want. Available wherever you buy books!