We live in a world where love is continually defined by the stories and images of social media, TV shows, and romantic comedies we watch. What does this do to our concept of love, our relationships, and our marriages? How we define love defines the quality of those relationships.
The Concept of Love
If our concept of love is based on soapy unrealistic romantic TV shows, our expectations can become extremely thwarted and broken. We receive all sorts of messages via social media, shows, and movies.
Social media allows every individual to paint a bright and colorful picture of their life, erasing all the errors and mistakes with a magic paintbrush in order to display an image that everything is always grand. Our newsfeeds are consumed by images of the ideal romantic getaway posted by an old high school acquaintance, but what we do not see is the struggles and arguments the relationship has encompassed over the past years.
Continuing to scroll, you see another woman who has shared the bedframe her husband spontaneously handcrafted for her along with a sappy perfect picture of who he is as a man. What is never revealed is that the wife has begged her husband for the past three years to make this specific bedframe.
Your buddy shares a photo of his girlfriend dressed to the nines all dolled up and cooking over a beautiful meal, the untold story is she got takeout delivered and put them in dishes because she forgot their anniversary.
The story we get from these images is just a chapter of the book. We do not see the negatives only what the individual prints. Now am I saying there is always a negative behind the lens? No, what I am saying is we have this idea that the grass is greener on the other side.
We constantly compare our partners to this false picture that does not reflect reality. This is extremely dangerous. You think that you are comparing apples to apples when in reality you are comparing something crisp and real with something shiny on the outside but decomposing and rotten on the inside.
In my work with couples who have struggled with infidelity, I often hear from both sides: “I do not feel desired by you, I want to know you want me and I am seen by you” as well as “I took you for granted and I stopped trying.” Finally, I hear a laundry list of what each partner has done for the other as they bounce back and forth as if it is a scoreboard.
They feel underappreciated and become self-focused. At some point, comparison won. They saw these fake paintings on TV, social media, and even heard their friends’ stories of their partners. Without knowing it, they built unrealistic expectations and let their false concept of what love should be mold the direction of their relationship.
If you think about it, movies are a form of escape just as much as TV and social media. If we were to watch a movie about a realistic relationship it would be a comedy because we could relate to the misunderstandings, emotions, and stages of the relationship. When we watch a romantic comedy it often takes us away to a utopia on cloud nine. We may then become frustrated that our reality does not look like the actors’ high budget film.
So, I ask, how do you define love? What is shaping your concept of what love should and should not be and are your expectations realistic? Are they attainable?
One of the Bible’s most known passages about love, often read at weddings is 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Wow! This is a high standard. This is the ultimate example of what love is and to be quite honest, as people we mess this up all the time. We strive for this image and concept, but we fall short. If our idea is that our spouse should be this 100% of the time, we will continually be disappointed. Christ is the ultimate example of the love described in 1 Corinthians and we are called to imitate this love, but we will need His grace because we will fail.
We must understand that because our partners are human, too, they are not perfect, and love cannot be perfect 100% of the time. Our relationships go through struggles, phases, and adjustments. This is what shapes us and molds us as partners and helps us to grow more intimate with one another.
The grass is not greener on the other side; it is green where you water it. A marriage does not magically just work. It is like a vehicle, it needs fuel, new tires to continue forward, washer fluid to see clearly and an oil change to stay up to date. A relationship needs attention, investment, and communication.
Just like a car shows warning signs on the dash that something needs attention, relationships have warning signs as well. When the warning sign arises, choose to invest in what you have started, remember the reasons you chose the relationship, and continually communicate about your needs and expectations.
I feel it is vital to surround yourself with healthy examples of love. To monitor your intake of what media, culture and the world tells you your love life should be. I ask that you seek out healthy examples of relationships where love is demonstrated through effective and productive communication, building each other up and supporting and loving each other well.
Do not use this example as a place for comparison but as a tool for growth and guidance and as a source to seek accountability and wisdom. Be sure that your examples are ones that are transparent and genuine in their descriptions of their life and love, that your choice of examples is not fake images but instead are ones that are molded by the description in 1 Corinthians 13.
We live in a culture and generation where instant gratification is the goal. When issues arise, we often choose to walk away, thinking there is something easier and better for our future. On rare occasions, relationships become unhealthy to the point where leaving is necessary. In others, however, we need to examine our concepts and expectations. If we choose to leave every relationship that gets hard, every relationship will end.
So, I ask you to be aware of which paintings of love surround you. Be mindful of what messages you are receiving and the examples you are seeing. Know your concept of love and examine it to determine whether it is accurate and attainable. Let your definition of love be shaped by the one who gave it first. “We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)
Christian Relationship Counseling
If you are struggling in your marriage, please reach out to a mental health professional. Seattle Christian Counseling would love to help you in your journey of growth towards a healthier and happier relationship.
You are not alone – there are professionals who want to guide you and your spouse through your current hardships. I urge you to strive to understand your partner’s needs as well as express your own so that you can intimately connect and invest in the relationship moving forward. The grass is greener where you water it.