5 Beliefs About Love That Kill Relationships
3. Jealousy is a sign of devotion.
Posted February 2, 2023 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
- Expecting that love is all you need, or that true love will be perfect, sets us up for disappointment.
- A hopelessly devoted partner sounds romantic, but can result is excessive jealousy and sacrificing too much.
- We pay too much attention to how long relationships last, and not enough to how fulfilling they are.
We’re hopeless romantics at heart.
Candlelight, poetry, and Paris. It all sounds like true love and what relationship dreams are made of.
Relationships should be romantic; at least that’s what we think. First, let’s look at where romantic ideas originate.
Where Do Romantic Ideas Come From?
Blame it on how we were raised and what we watched as kids. Research shows that kids who watched more romantic TV programs (like soap operas) had stronger beliefs about men's and women’s roles in relationships, and dated more people (Rivadeneyra & Lebo, 2008). As you might imagine, Disney also gets some blame, with research showing how Disney films have strong romantic themes, especially for idealizing one’s partner (Hefner et al., 2017).
But it’s also what we’re still watching. Those who watch more romantic comedies have more romanticized beliefs about relationships (Hefner & Wilson, 2013). Watching more relationship-focused TV (shows like The Bachelor, Love Island, and Love Is Blind) was associated with less relationship satisfaction and experiencing more conflict (Reizer & Hetsroni, 2014).
The 5 Most Problematic Romantic Beliefs
It’s clear that romantic themes make for good entertainment, but those same ideas in our own relationships may be harmful. Though being romantic in your relationship sounds positive, it does encourage counterproductive behaviors. That’s right, the same behaviors you find sweet, endearing, and essential for relationship happiness are harmful.
Here are the biggest offenders. These romantic beliefs sound like they’re setting you up for success, but in reality, set you up for disappointment.
- Love Conquers All. This may be the most romantic belief of them all. All you need is love. If you love your partner, you can overcome any obstacle. Sounds hopeful and optimistic. It is, but it’s also plain wrong. Love is certainly part of a fulfilling and long-lasting relationship. However, it’s only one part, a single piece of the puzzle. There are many other key pieces: respect, caring, kindness, support, understanding, communication, trust, enjoying your time together, and friendship (to name just a few). Make no mistake, a partner who truly loves you also provides all of that. Love by itself isn’t enough. It’s merely a start. Putting too much emphasis on love and believing it conquers all encourages you to minimize many problematic aspects of a relationship. Love isn’t an excuse to tolerate mean, inconsiderate, or abusive partners. You also want to avoid falling in love too quickly and with the wrong person.
- Relationships Should Be Perfect. Thinking that your true love will be perfect and that your relationship with that person will be perfect sounds, well, perfectly romantic. Yet, it’s completely impractical and sets you up for inevitable disappointment. Your partner will say and do the wrong thing on occasion. Your partner isn’t perfect. You aren’t either. Perfection is a myth. Here’s the real problem: Expecting perfection leads to overlooking your perfectly great relationship. The solution is to stop pursuing perfection, and instead seek excellence. Everyone deserves a great relationship, but realistically, even great relationships aren’t perfect.
- Jealousy Is a Sign of Devotion. Everyone wants their partner to love them. No surprise there. But how do we truly know your partner loves you? One easily noticeable way is how much your partner worries about you. Do they care about where you are? Do they wonder who you spend time with or who you’re talking to? Do they try to keep other would-be partners away? All of that attention from your partner can sound romantic. But, these aren’t signs of love or a caring partner; they’re indications of a jealous, needy, and insecure partner. The healthiest relationships are built on trust. Suspicious and controlling behaviors don't signal love. They reveal insecurity. The truly loving partner trusts you and doesn’t need to worry about what you’re doing, inquire 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 feeling (and a common theme in several songs). Sacrificing yourself for your partner certainly sounds romantic. It just isn’t necessary or desirable. Putting the partner first encourages you to downplay your strengths, minimize your best accomplishments, and forsake your needs. All bad ideas. Here’s the truth: A partner who truly loves you would never want you to make big sacrifices. Instead, proudly embrace who you are and be willing to put yourself first sometimes (without any guilt). Realize this: You’re perfectly willing to let your partner have 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. This isn’t to say that your partner shouldn’t be a priority. They should be. But you can prioritize them without neglecting your thoughts, feelings, and preferences.
- The Forever Relationship. Romantic relationships last forever. Couples celebrate anniversary after anniversary, year after year. Everyone wants to find an everlasting relationship with their forever partner. Though it sounds magical, focusing on longevity emphasizes the wrong thing. What’s more important in life, quality or quantity? The answer is almost invariably, quality. Yet, in our relationships, we overemphasize how long they last and gloss over how good they are. Satisfaction, fulfillment, and meaning are more important than the number of months or years you last. If you focus on quality, the quantity takes care of itself. After all, who wants to be in a 20-year relationship that’s miserable? No one. We overemphasize longevity because it’s easier to count the years than quantify the quality. And nothing sounds less romantic than “quantify.”
Ultimately, we’re reluctant to do things in our relationship that don’t feel romantic. Taking an honest open look at our relationship doesn't just feel unromantic. It feels like a betrayal of some sort. But it’s not. If it’s really true love, it can take a little scrutiny. A great relationship can also withstand higher expectations, natural imperfections, putting yourself first, rejecting jealous behaviors, and focusing on fulfillment. Relationships that can't, end up adrift in love and suffering in failing relationships.
There’s 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 we’ve mistakenly labeled as romantic for far too long.
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Hefner, V., & Wilson, B. J. (2013) From love at first sight to soul mate: The influence of romantic ideals in popular films on young people's beliefs about relationships. Communication Monographs, 80 (2), 150-175. https://doi.org/10.1080/03637751.2013.776697
Hefner, V., Firchau R.J., Norton, K., & Shevel, G. (2017). Happily ever after? A content analysis of romantic ideals in Disney princess films. Communication Studies, 68(5), 511-532. https://doi.org/10.1080/10510974.2017.1365092
Reizer, A., & Hetsroni, A. (2014). Media exposure and romantic relationship quality: A slippery slope?. Psychological Reports,114(1), 231-249. https://doi.org/10.2466/21.07.PR0.114k11w6
Rivadeneyra, R., & Lebo, M. J. (2008). The association between television-viewing behaviors and adolescent dating role attitudes and behaviors. Journal of Adolescence, 31(3), 291–305. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.adolescence.2007.06.00