Romance is my favorite genre, whether it comes to books, movies, television shows, or music. Anything that has to do with romance and love has my attention. My favorite show on television these days is The Bachelor. My favorite author is Nicholas Sparks. My favorite musician since I was young has been Taylor Swift. And what do these things all have in common? Love. Romance. Love stories.
At first, it may not seem like a bad thing that romance is my favorite genre. I mean, let’s be real, many people get the same high from a good love story as I do. Love stories are full of optimism and hope.
There is one major issue with romance as a genre that is very rarely acknowledged or discussed, and it is this, simple and to the point: It is fantasy. It is fake. Well, of course, not always, but more often than not, romance films and novels are fiction.
What I am trying to say is that romance as a genre creates unrealistic expectations of what love is. Let that sink in.
All the The Bachelor does is create dream-like dates for their contestants in picture-perfect settings and expects the final pair to last in the “real world”. When you think about it that way, it makes total sense that most of the franchise’s couples do not last after the show. But us viewers at home watch the show believing the couples are falling in love and that this is how love is supposed to be, all smiley and googley-eyed while giggling on a blanket under the stars with champagne. Feeling completely “in love” with someone while strolling on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Lavish and romantic gestures from your partner. This show has subconsciously made me believe that this is how love has to be.
But this is not always how love is. In fact, this is rarely how love is. Frequent super romantic dates and vacations with no budget are not normal for the majority of couples. So why do we watch this show and think that the way the show depicts love is accurate?
Look at Nicholas Sparks’ The Notebook. Granted, it is based on a true story, but then again, the story is so amazing and rare, which is why it became a literary phenomenon. A poor, hardworking, blue-collar young man named Noah meets a cultured young lady of an extremely wealthy family named Allie. They fall deely in love with each other. They ride bikes together, share ice cream cones, and lie in the street at night watching traffic lights change from green to red and red to green. What Nicholas Sparks does really well, however, is that he demonstrates the struggles of the couple, too. They argue and have family issues. Time passes, and a few years later, the couple breaks up and distance separates them for quite some time. Allie then becomes engaged to a new, wealthy young man that her parents approve of. Noah and Allie eventually cross paths again, and long story short, Allie breaks off her engagement to be with her “one and only” Noah.
How often in real life does a couple romantically reunite after spending a few years apart with zero contact? Not often. Ultimately, what this story does is give its viewers and readers the impression that there is always hope for a sweet love story, even if you experience a nasty breakup. And that certainly is not true in most cases. But there I was, almost two years ago, hopeful that my ex-boyfriend dumping me out of the blue would lead to a beautiful reuniting eventually. False, Robin. False.
This is not always how love is, either.
With romance being my favorite genre of everything, my perception of what love is has been skewed. I grew up thinking that fairytale endings happen if you believe in them and that flowers and grand gestures are frequent in relationships because of what I was seeing on the big screen and in my books. As I am now (mostly) grown up, I simply realize love and relationships are not always that perfect or simple. There are difficult days with challenges. Sometimes your partner gets sick and looks or sounds horrendous. Sometimes you go days or weeks without intimacy. Sometimes your work gets in the way of date night. Things just aren’t picture-perfect all the time.
But that does not mean you are not in love or that your relationship is lacking. It means you are two human beings. And this is what I realized today.
So go ahead, fight with your boyfriend. Then kiss and make up. Choose to love your partner every day, even if things are not always “perfect”. Because that is what love actually is.