Are Romantic Movies Ruining Our Relationships?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if your relationship consistently played out like the final scene in Notting Hill, Love Actually or Serendipity? Oh, eternal bliss! Sure, everybody loves a happy ending, but recent research suggests these idyllic scene may not be doing us any favours. In fact, it seems that romantic comedies could be ruining our love lives.

Are we deluded enough to confuse on-screen romances with our real ones? Not necessarily, but films can lead us to have unrealistic expectations when it comes to romance. In a recent poll of over 1,000 Australians, over half said that romantic comedies had distorted their view of an ideal relationship, while 20 percent said that these films had made their relationship more difficult because their partner now expected more from them.

Studies done at the University of Edinburgh a few years ago also confirm this; Rom coms definitely affect our ability to communicate with our partners. In fact, the researchers determined that people who count films like Maid in Manhattan and The Wedding Planner among their favourites expected their significant others to intuitively know what they were thinking. After all, that’s what happens when you’re “meant to be,” right? Not surprisingly, the goings on of a J-Lo movie don’t always translate to real life.

“It seems our love of rom-coms is turning us into a nation of ‘happy-ever-after addicts.’ Yet the warm and fuzzy feeling they provide can adversely influence our view of real relationships. Real relationships take work and true love requires more than fireworks,” Australian relationship counsellor Gabrielle Morrissey told Reuters.

But you’re smarter than that, you know that there’s a big difference between the type of romance you see in a 90-minute chick flick and a real, honest, true relationship, so you won’t be affected by that cute Drew Barrymore movie you just rented, right? Guess again, smarty pants — you’re still being influenced by your movie choices more than you’d think. “The problem is that while most of us know that the idea of a perfect relationship is unrealistic, some of us are still more influenced by media portrayals than we realize,” said Dr. Bjarne Holmes of the University of Edinburgh.

There’s a reason why most romantic comedies end just as the two main characters are finally getting together — showing the boring, difficult, day-to-day issues they’ll inevitably face as a couple after the initial sparks wear off doesn’t make for good entertainment (well, except when Michel Scott is involved.) We all love it when the couples work it out, but here’s what Notting Hill and Serendipity don’t tell you: Relationships are hard work, even for the most romantic of couples.

Kimberly Johnson, also from the University of Edinburgh, agrees. “Films do capture the excitement of new relationships but they also wrongly suggest that trust and committed love exist from the moment people meet, whereas these are qualities that normally take years to develop.”

We’re not suggesting you give up romantic comedies cold turkey — rather, proceed with caution, particularly if you’re in a new relationship. And make sure you’ve fully accepted that what happens in the movie isn’t real, no matter how much you want it to be.