You spend your evening watching The Notebook (again). You swoon over Ryan Gosling’s various bearded states. You ugly-cry through most of it. You fantasize about having your own big romance. And then your husband gets home, leaves his dirty socks in the middle of the room, and spends the next few hours scratching his balls on the couch. You wear a muumuu to bed and have erotic dreams about hiring a divorce lawyer.
Step away from the television.
If you find yourself comparing your relationship and partner to movie and TV romance, it might be time to take a little break… from the TV, not your relationship. A recent study found that the more one believes in the portrayals of romance in movies and on television shows, the less likely they are to be committed to their actual relationship.
The study surveyed 392 married people about their belief in the portrayal of romantic relationships in TV shows and movies, their viewing frequency, and their relationship satisfaction, expectations, and commitment. The researchers found that study participants who had a higher belief in on-screen romance, responding positively to statements like “Television helps me understand what I can expect from my romantic relationships,” were less likely to be committed to their current relationship, and more likely to be drawn to either being single or finding a new partner. These people also rated their expected and actual relationship costs highly—things like the loss of their personal freedom and time, along with their partner’s less desirable traits.
The study, published in the journal Mass Communication and Society, could shed some light on the the rate of marriage failure in the United States, says study author Jeremy Osborn. Though it may be just one factor, Osborn states “We live in a society that perpetually immerses itself in media images from both TV and the Web, but most people have no sense of the ways those images are impacting them.”
If you think you’ve been comparing your real-life relationship to TV romances—and your relationship is coming up short—why not try a romance movie fast? (Don’t worry, they’ll still be there when you come back!) At the very least, make an effort to bring yourself back to reality after your regularly scheduled programming. Romantic gestures tend to go over really well in movies—but in reality, some dude standing outside your window holding a boom box is kind of creepy. I mean, where did he get a boom box in 2012?!