“The grass is greener on the other side”; whether we believe it to not we all live by this phrase. Relationships look much healthier and fancier on the other side of the screen. Despite how much we like Monica and Chandler, or Randall and Beth, TV couples can actually sabotage a relationship.
Comparing your relationship to the imaginative ones and expecting that your relationship can be better like your ideal TV couple are actually ruining your healthy relationship instead of strengthening it.
Every time I watch TV (which I do often) I think about all of the things we see on TV that sabotage a healthy relationship. Of course, we all say we recognize that what we see on TV isn’t how the real world works but I know that many of us, myself included, secretly hope that it is. As a result, it is difficult for us to keep a healthy relationship, healthy; because of the example that TV sets for us.
When I express my concerns to my clients and friends, I am always surprised when they tell me that they don’t see what I see but, when I explain it, they totally get it.
To that end, I want to share with you 5 things we see on TV that sabotage a healthy relationship so that you can try to shift your perspective and find the healthy relationship that you want.
How TV Can Sabotage A Relationship?
1. Storming off.
I don’t know how many of you have watched Shonda Rhimes’ TV shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. Full disclosure – I have watched every episode of every one of these shows.
Anyway, Shonda Rhimes is an amazing writer and the words she writes for her characters are very human and touching. Unfortunately, her characters are prone to stating their human and touching words and then walking away, leaving the person they delivered their monologue to look confused/thoughtful/hopeful, etc.
For a long time, I thought that this was the way to communicate in relationships. To say something smart and sassy and impressive and then turn on my heels and walk away, expecting my person to either follow me or have some epiphany because of my words of wisdom. Surprisingly, neither one of those things has ever happened!
Instead, giving a speech and then walking away only made two things happen – my person never followed me, which made me feel unimportant, and making a declarative statement and then not sticking around for follow-up discussion was unproductive.
What I have learned is that, instead of declarative statements, it is important that people have discussions around issues – good or bad. It is the give and takes of a discussion that settles issues and keeps relationships healthy.
So, how about you? Are you a stalk away kind of person or do you stay and talk and work things out, one way or the other? If you are the former you might find that you sabotage your healthy relationship every time you do.
2. Quick resolutions.
Shonda Rhimes, and other TV writers, have 50 minutes to cover the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Because of the time limitations, issues have to be settled quickly.
In last week’s Grey’s Anatomy, at the beginning of the show, a new couple, Kai and Amelia, were lying in bed, basking in the aura of new love. By the end of the show, they were broken up. In the middle of the show, Kai witnessed firsthand, Amelia’s devotion to her kids.
Kai didn’t want kids and, over the course of 45 minutes (or one evening in TV land), they decided to break up with Amelia. At minute 48 they did it, quickly and smoothly, and at minute 49 Amelia was left, heartbroken, only to be approached by her ex at minute 50 leaving us clambering for what happens next.
In reality, that storyline wouldn’t happen so quickly. A new couple would have the time to get to know each other, would give each other space to bring family members into the relationship, discuss any issues that might arise, and either work together to come up with a solution or end the relationship.
The disparity between resolution on TV versus real-life can complicate a relationship. People expect things to wrap up as quickly and as painlessly as they do on TV and they are disappointed, and worse, when they don’t.
So, recognize that our lives are lived in more than fifty-minute increments. It’s ok to take your time before making a big move.
3. Unrealistic intimacy.
Sexual issues in relationships are an epidemic in this modern world. I believe that it is, at least partially, the result of the ever-presence of porn and TV sex scenes.
Over the past 15 years or so, the depiction of sex on TV has shifted demonstrably. When I was younger, kisses were chaste and the act of sex was implied. Now, on Prime Time TV, sex is explicit – to some degree even soft porn.
And while I am not judging this in and of itself, I do believe that this being some people’s primary exposure to sex sets them up for unrealistic expectations when it comes to sexual relationships.
I have a client who has the very limited sexual experience and she has found that she is struggling with the sex in her new relationship. She doesn’t understand why it can feel so stilted sometimes, why she and her partner don’t connect like the people she sees on TV and why doesn’t she have an orgasm at the same time as her boyfriend, as her favorite character does every week?
These feelings have left her bereft and not sure if it is her issue or a problem in the relationship. In reality, neither one of those things are true. What is at issue is her perceptions of what a sexual encounter should look like.
That perception is interfering with her enjoying the sex that she has with her boyfriend for just what it is. And sexual issues can sabotage a healthy relationship in a big way.