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I would give a lot to be able to have a chat with my younger self. I’d tell her to take movies like The Notebook, Romeo and Juliet, Twilight, and even The Little Mermaid with a grain (or a spoonful) of salt. Because what she actually did was watch those movies and think, “Man, I can’t wait to have a love like that.”
Those are the kinds of stories that have led to the romantic fantasies of so many. A love that’s all-consuming, that you can’t live without it. But those relationships are harmful, tiring, and ultimately not the kinds of love we should aspire to.
Some red flags (jealousy, possessiveness, etc.) are too often mistaken for a determined love, an unfaltering love, a love that fights to remain. But, in reality, these are signs of mistrust and insecurity, and shouldn’t be disguised as romantic gestures. Love, even a lot of love, sometimes isn’t enough reason to put yourself through a toxic relationship.
It’s easy to see the act of giving up pieces of yourself for the sake of a relationship as selfless; showing that you’re all in, and that you can fix this. That savior complex is something that transcends the fictional world– I’ve seen friends and family members do this, and it’s not as romantic as it sounds. And it’s certainly not a stable foundation to build a relationship on.
My younger self watched those real world relationships in all their heartache, but she still glorified that idealistic, big screen movie romance that somehow only managed to work out with a script. She always had this idea that her future significant other would be her “other half” and that always sounded so romantic. So more than anything, I would want to remind mini me of this: You are not half of a person; you’re whole, all on your own. Don’t romanticize the idea of being somehow completed by another human— it’s not romantic and, moreover, it’s not healthy.
None of this is to say that watching these movies, or even enjoying them, is wrong. It’s just important to watch with a critical eye when being presented with this kind of material, for the sake of keeping relationship expectations rooted in reality. Raise your bar of expectations higher than these movies do for you– not in terms of sweeping gestures and grand declarations, but in terms of an honest, sustainable relationship.
It’s okay to love someone; it’s even okay to love someone a lot. And it’s okay to prefer having that someone in your life as opposed to not. But keep in mind that you were a whole person before that someone came along, and you can be a whole person if they’re ever gone. But most importantly, you can and should maintain your wholeness while in that relationship. Don’t let yourself be convinced that another human gives your life more meaning than it had before. You have meaning and purpose all on your own.
“Know this: You are the type of woman who is searching for a place to call yours. Let the statues crumble. You have always been the place. You are a woman who can build it yourself. You were born to build.” -Sarah Kay, “The Type”