How the movies and TV shows I grew up watching ruined my perspective on dating – and how I snapped out of it

I recently started re-watching a TV show on Netflix I previously binge-watched in high school. A key dynamic of the show is the female lead’s dating life. After watching a certain episode the other night, it dawned on me that this show’s depiction of love is seriously warped, and that in high school I probably subconsciously accepted this depiction – and that of many other romantic-comedy movies and TV shows – as the true norm for what romantic relationships look like. Yikes.

In the episode, the female lead had just dumped her handsome, doting boyfriend for the broody and mysterious “bad boy” (shocking – I know). The bad boy then proceeded to skip their first date without any explanation. When confronted about it, he told her he loved her, only to immediately get in his car and drive away – leaving her alone and confused.

I (literally) put my hand to my forehead as I remembered watching this for the first time. Back then, I was enthralled by the dynamic between her and the bad boy. “What could be going on with him internally that made him run away? This is going to get so good when he explains why he ran!” I cringed as I remembered having thoughts like that when I watched it back then. But as I re-watched this scene the other night, I found myself resisting the urge to throw something at the screen while saying, “THAT IS NOT WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE!”

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Another rom-com I recently re-watched was a movie starring Zac Efron. In the film, he falls in love with a girl but doesn’t want to admit it. When her dad suddenly dies, she calls him asking him to come to the funeral, and he deliberately skips it. But, of course, in the end, he apologizes and she forgives him and they end up together. Okay, PAUSE.

Now, I’m by no means saying that we shouldn’t practice forgiveness in our romantic relationships, but I’m sorry, skipping her dad’s funeral? That’s hard to get past. It’s frustrating to see film after film with scenarios like these in which one or both members of a romantic couple REALLY mess up at the beginning of the relationship and then it all ends happily ever after.

Based on my own experience and those of my friends and peers, I think watching these highly dysfunctional fictional relationships has subconsciously taught many viewers that it’s okay to accept being treated poorly in the dating world because, hey – it will be such a great story to tell when it all works out in the end. Unfortunately, it almost never plays out that way in real life, and people are left disappointed and damaged.

I could say that I snapped out of this skewed perception of love with age and experience – but I’d be lying. The truth is, it was my relationship with Jesus that opened my eyes to how misled I was on my idea of romance. Before Him, I made the same mistakes over and over again.

Jesus taught me what real love looks like – and it definitely is NOT what I saw in the TV shows and movies I fawned over in my adolescence. I’ve learned that although it may seem exciting to watch a guy tell a girl he loves her then to be left with a cliff-hanger wondering why he suddenly has to leave, that doesn’t fly in real life. When a guy REALLY loves you, he sticks around to tell you all of the reasons WHY. He doesn’t bail on dates with no explanation (especially at the beginning of a relationship) and he doesn’t treat you like you’re an after-thought.

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In the real world, when people disrespect each other at the beginning of a relationship – that usually dictates how the entire relationship is going to play out. That’s not to say there will never be hard times, but rather, hard times will inevitably come – so we should set our standards higher and refuse to accept unnecessary drama and disrespect early on in a relationship.

I credit God’s unconditional love and guidance for leading me to a loving relationship with my husband. Thanks to God, I was able to put my self-worth in HIS love, and my wish is that everyone can have that experience. When we accept Jesus as the lover of our souls, He helps us to recognize the difference between infatuation and sacrificial love. The contrast between these two things makes all the difference. If you want a relationship that is going to last, turn off the TV and open your Bible – that’s where the real answers are.

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