I was once told that romantic stories, movies, and TV show scenarios are bad for realistic relationships. That they set standards that are impossible to meet. I’ve given this some serious consideration of late, given my own life experiences, and I have come to the conclusion that the premise is wrong.
The problem is not the expectation of romantic love and romantic gestures, in and of themselves. I believe it’s in the expectation that such efforts will continue and that is somehow expecting too much of one’s partner. Relationships are hard. Just like life, they are messy, difficult, maddening, infuriating, and frustrating, along with being wonderful. It’s easy to be sweet and romantic when things are good; it’s much more of a challenge to maintain that effort when things aren’t going as well.
The thing is… the thing is, I’ve seen such a relationship. I grew up with one. I grew up with a dad who hated Valentine’s Day but bought my mother flowers every year on the anniversary of their first date. A man who did not take away car keys, when she couldn’t drive any longer, but instead just happened to need to run an errand whenever she needed to go out. A man who never did laundry as we grew up, but did it every time it was needed later on, to keep her from going down the basement steps. He just said he had to be in the basement anyway, so… I grew up with that kind of love, that kind of romantic gesture. It lasted fifty-three messy, frustrating, infuriating, difficult love-filled years.
To say that books or movies set unrealistic expectations of romantic love is to lower a bar that should not be lowered. Real love takes work and it is worth the work.