We're starting, as a society, to pick up on the fact that the bodies we see in the media are very often not representative of every body that exists — and that these other types of bodies are good too. What we also need to realize is that we learn bad relationship habits from TV. Everything from dishonesty to screaming to stalking is commonplace in the fantasy world of the media. And it send messages about what is considered normal in relationships.
Healthy relationships aren't void of arguments or bad spots. But rather than opt for the solution that's best for ratings, real life couplehood demands communication, listening, respecting boundaries and building enough trust to feel safe in a vulnerable state. Because admitting you're wrong makes you pretty vulnerable.
Living in the TV word of romance also reinforces some behaviors that keep us stuck in our lives, such as the never-ending crush or devotion to an unhealthy situation. There's also a kind of codependent need for many TV couples to be together every second of the day, which is not on the list of qualities of a healthy relationship.
Next time you watch TV couples, see if you can spot these unhealthy TV relationship habits. I bet it won't take long for you to find one, if not more. Then take a close look at your own relationship to make sure it's grounded in reality, and not reality TV.
1. Inappropriate Boundaries
Why is it so romantic when Edward Cullen sneaks into Bella's room at night to watch her sleep? That's not romantic. It's creepy, and demonstrates a clear lack of boundaries. Boundaries are like lines that you don't cross out of respect for each other. They can include what you will and won't say to each other, how much time you spend together, and what types of affection you're comfortable with, among other things. Boundaries aren't harsh rules, but rather, "an expression of what makes you feel comfortable and what you would like or not like to happen" according to healthy relationship site Voices Of Courage. So unless Bella specifically said, "Please come watch me sleep," this type of behavior is no good.
2. Illegal Romance
I hate to be the killer of romance, but if you show up where you're not wanted on a regular basis, that's not romantic. It's a felony. It's called stalking, and it's not cute nor sweet nor funny. That includes cyberstalking, or stalking via text, social media, and email. While you may be trying to induce feelings of love, stalking actually causes feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress, according to the University of Huston Women and Gender Resource Center. Not really the way into someone's heart. If someone rejects you, and asks you to stop contacting them, the right (and legal) thing to do is to give them space.
3. Screaming Matches
There's so much screaming on TV, and no one's ever being heard. Sure, good arguments and anger happen in any relationship, but they shouldn't be the main source of communication or the way to be heard. In fact, a lot of relationships have no screaming at all. When things get heated, you should do your best to keep calm, talk about only the issue at hand, and never hit below the belt, according to the University of Texas Mental Health Center. If you can't do that, you need to either take a minute to calm down, or even talk things out with a counselor. Screaming doesn't do much good in most situations.
4. Avoidance Tactics
Do you ever watch a show (and sitcoms are the worst for this) and just say to yourself "this whole wonky mess could have been avoided with one frank conversation?" I do this all the time. It's like, why can't the main character just admit they've done something wrong instead of making the problem 10 times worse in their attempt to fix it? Talking out the problem instead of trying to fix or avoid it helps build trust and intimacy, which makes it easier for you to feel vulnerable, according to the University of Minnesota. When it's easier to feel vulnerable, you're less likely to avoid problems that are hard to talk about.
5. Not Communicating At All
Then there's the classic "I suspect something, but rather than ask, I'm going to investigate and/or worry myself into a frenzy." Or in the extreme case, one person just ghosts rather than talk about something that's bothering them. The longer you refuse to communicate about something, the more damage you do to your relationship. If something's bothering you, or you suspect something, you have to be able to talk about it. Using your "I statements" to express your feelings, such as saying "I feel unimportant when you stand me up" will help you feel heard without blaming the other person, according to West Virginia University.
6. A Little Co-Dependence
Equally annoying is when a character stops being an individual and starts being a couple. Not part of a couple, but only a couple. They're always together. Every plot line is about their relationship. They can't live without each other. In healthy relationships, all parties retain their individual identities. They do things on their own, or with their own friends. They have interests and goals outside of the relationship. They don't feel guilty when they're assertive and they don't go to unhealthy lengths to save the relationship, according to the University of Rochester. Keep in mind that a relationship isn't two halves completing each other. It's two wholes complimenting each other.
7. The Endless Chase
So you know character A is super in love with character B. And vice versa. But three seasons later, they're still dancing around each other like pre-teens at a middle school dance. I know it's essential for ratings, and we all love that dreamy moment when they finally kiss, but real life doesn't work that way. Or shouldn't. All those months (or years) you spend pining for your would-be love are just lost time, keeping you from living happily ever after or moving on with your life. So just be honest about your feelings! Plus, like Tess Barker says in an article for MTV.com, the confidence it takes to ask someone out is totally hot. Be confident and hot. You don't deserve to live in limbo.
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