Some people like to criticize what Disney did to the relationship mentalities of an entire generation. The thinking is, learning the phrase “…and they lived happily ever after” is anathema to a healthy conceptualization of love, that should mention the fact that “happily ever after” doesn’t mean “without problems ever again.”
While I do agree with that sentiment, I don’t know if that’s truly the problem that affects people in the same way it did many years ago. As social media and reality TV provides us with greater access to people’s personal lives—or some fake perception of it—it really seems that we live in an era that propagates the opposite message: there’s an intense underlying beauty that is specially rewarded to those who survive dysfunction.
For me, as a hip-hop lovin’ 80s baby, I remember watching films like Hav Plenty and thinking to myself, “Bruh, he gotta do all that just to get this woman?” I also remember watching movies like Boomerang, Love Jones, Soul Food, and What’s Love Got To Do With It? and how each film helped me to develop an internal understanding of fixable, self-imposed romance wounds and absolute relationship-based fatal flaws. Witnessing the contrast between the annoying cute struggle of Lee and Havilland vs. the abusive toxicity between Ike and Tina, or the horrific drama between Terri and Miles, before I was old enough to drive (or even have people in my house without my parents home), I understood a simple concept: when it comes to dysfunction, there’s levels to this game.
As I’ve grown older, dated all types of women and participated in many different types of relationship dynamics, I realized that the lesson I learned two decades ago is what stuck with me, and what informs me to this very day. Of course my mentality has matured in realizing that life and love can get a hell of a lot harder than “annoyingly cute,” but always understanding that romantic relationships do not involve unconditional love — there’s many conditions. But part of aging is witnessing the world change around you, and this new wave of believing that surviving trauma is the roadmap to finding love is simply scary as hell.
When I read articles about avoiding the hookup culture, making a relationship last, or finding a soulmate, soon I find myself inundated with theories such as “going through hell and back” with someone you love is the only way to ensure that you’ve found someone whose truly down for you. The problem is that theory doesn’t define what hell looks like, and who dragged us to hell in the first place. Therein lies why far too many people are comfortable with suffering through exhaustive relationships: the belief that the big payoff comes at the end.
Maybe it’s the person they love finally actualizing the height of their potential as a significant other, or maybe it’s the person they love finally providing them with the life that they’ve always dreamed of. But, whatever it is, it’s a specious hope predicated on the falsehood that dysfunctional love simply represents the beautiful struggle of finding success in love.
The truth is that the healthiest relationships on Earth avoid hell. That’s not gonna be in any movie, on an TV show, or even propagated in social media forums because it’s boring as hell. It’s far more exciting to believe that overcoming alarming trauma is the path to “forever love,” but learning that love is mostly a natural connection that solidifies over time just doesn’t sound fun at all.
Sometimes when I peruse relationship articles around the web, I often find myself bemused by the over-analyzation that exists when “experts” attempt to break down what makes a successful relationship. They throw around big multisyllabic expressions, flowery prose, and existential conjecture. When I see folks write things like, “True love occurs when two sentient heartbeats connect as a singular metronome and commit to one another to preserve their unity, against all odds, for eternity,” I just wanna say, “Bruh, to love someone is a choice we get up and make everyday in a relationship.”
To make the maintenance of love an issue for the cosmos is to obfuscate the joy and the pain that surrounds it as all being “part of the process.”
The truth is that the choice we make to love or leave someone is informed by different things, good and bad, and it is one that we should each make cogently, equally informed by our hearts and our minds. If we value our self-respect and our personal well being, then we shouldn’t sacrifice it on the belief that great love requires great pain.
It’s a myth.
Great love requires many things, but compromising everything that makes you strong as a person isn’t one of them.