While I use my personal examples, this translates for all genders in all relationships. So take stock of what your friends talk about. Is it primarily relationship drama? Can you help shift the conversation to talking about romantic partners in a kinder, more helpful way? Can you encourage conversation that isn’t just about relationships? Or is it time to look for other/additional friends to not just shift the conversation in the group, but also in your own head?
2. Social Media
Did you see the new “Jumangji” movie “Welcome to the Jungle”? One of the characters thinks it’s over with her boyfriend because he didn’t respond with a “like” to her #morning Instagram photo. If your friends all think that this is how a person proves they are into you, you may believe it too. But think about it, is this the only way you notice if your partner is into you? And do you need your partner to show it through social media to feel loved? Do you need all your friends to see the proof? Why? What if your partner is showing in you in lots of other ways, like asking you to go to a movie they think you’ll like, introducing you as their girlfriend to their parents, or smiling at you with a big goofy grin when you walk in the room? We spend a lot of time with our friendly apps. Take a few moments to do a mental self check and see if social media is helping or hurting how you feel about your relationship.
Going a step further, every so often pause to consider who is on your social media and how they affect our views about relationships. Ask questions like, “do I really care what they think about my relationship? Why or why not? What content do they share and how does this reflect what I’m seeing about relationships?” I remember seeing a post from a high school friend I had not seen in years. She was lamenting that her husband crashed her girls night out. I chose not to engage in what was becoming a rapidly escalating online conversation. Instead, it made me sit back and consider how easy it is to tell the world our relationship troubles, but how challenging it is to sit face to face with our partner and express our needs and wants, listen to their needs and wants, and create common ground. But if we really want love and connection, not drama and separation, which is the better path?
After taking stock of how social media affects your relationship and your views about relationships, consider the relationship values and images you put online as well. As cheesy as it sounds we can be the social media friend for others that we want for ourselves.
Who hasn’t turned on a sappy movie when feeling down about their relationship? But is this really helpful to surround yourself with? Are these characters good company for your current woes? Did you pick one with characters you would like as your friends? Did you pick one with a romantic partner that is reasonable to expect in the real world (do any of the characters actually go to their jobs or is the whole plot them just trying to meet the needs of their partner)? For example, have you noticed that most movies show that women have nothing else to talk about but guys. We talk about if they are into us, wonder if they are going to call, wonder if our outfit is cute enough to go out in to meet up with them. In fact, American artist Alison Bechdel poked fun at this in her cartoon, spawning the real-life “Bechdel Test.” According to bechdeltest.com there are three simple rules for a movie to pass: (1) It has to have at lest two (named) women in it, who (2) talk to each other about (3) something besides a man. Think about your favorite go-to movies, do they pass the test?
So movies show women mostly talking about guys, but do they really affect how we view relationships? According to University of Michigan professor Julia Lippman’s research, yes. In fact, her research presented in Psychology of Media Culture showed that depending on whether you watch romantic comedies, reality tv relationships, or situation comedies, you will have different views on relationships. So when you are feeling down about a relationship (or any which way for that matter), ask yourself, “are these characters I am watching the company I want to keep? Will watching this help how I think about my relationship?”