Love

5 Sneaky Little TV Lies That Sabotage Even Great Real-Life Relationships

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Man and woman on couch watch TV

Every time I watch TV (which I do often) I think about all of the things we see on TV that sabotage a healthy relationship.

Of course, we all say we recognize that what we see on TV isn’t how the real world works but I know that many of us, myself included, secretly hope that it is. As a result, it is difficult for us to keep a relationship healthy because of the example that TV sets for us.

When I express my concerns to my clients and friends, I am always surprised when they tell me that they don’t see what I see but, when I explain it, they totally get it.

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They're TV Characters — Not Relationship Role Models

I want to share with you 5 things that we see on TV that sabotage a healthy relationship so that you can try to shift your perspective and find the healthy relationship that you want.

1. Storming off. 

I don’t know how many of you have watched Shonda Rhimes’ TV shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder. Full disclosure — I have watched every episode of every one of these shows.

Shonda Rhimes is an amazing writer and the words she writes for her characters are very human and touching. Unfortunately, her characters are prone to stating their human and touching words and then walking away, leaving the person they delivered their monologue to looking confused/thoughtful/hopeful, etc.

For a long time, I thought that this was the way to communicate in relationships. To say something smart and sassy and impressive and then turn on my heels and walk away, expecting my person to either follow me or have some epiphany because of my words of wisdom. Surprisingly, neither one of those things has ever happened!

Instead, giving a speech and then walking away only made two things happen — my person never followed me, which made me feel unimportant, and making a declarative statement and then not sticking around for follow-up discussion was unproductive.

What I have learned is that, instead of declarative statements, it is important that people have discussions around issues.

It is the give and take of a discussion that settles issues and keeps relationships healthy.

So, how about you? Are you a "stalk away" kind of person or do you stay and talk and work things out, one way or the other? If you are the former you might find that you sabotage your healthy relationship every time you do.

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2. Quick resolutions.

Shonda Rhimes, and other TV writers, have 50 minutes to cover the beginning, middle and end of a story. Because of the time limitations, issues have to be settled quickly.

In a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy, at the beginning of the show, a new couple, Kai and Amelia, were lying in bed, basking in the aura of new love. By the end of the show, they were broken up. 

In reality, that storyline wouldn’t happen so quickly. A new couple would have the time to get to know each other, would give each other space to bring family members into the relationship, discuss any issues that might arise and either work together to come up with a solution or end the relationship.

The disparity between resolution on TV versus real life can complicate a relationship. People expect for things to wrap up as quickly and as painlessly as they do on TV and they are disappointed, and worse, when they don’t.

So, recognize that our lives are lived in more than fifty-minute increments. It’s ok to take your time before making a big move.

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3. Unrealistic intimacy.

Sexual issues in relationships are an epidemic in this modern world. I believe that it is, at least partially, the result of the ever-presence of porn and TV sex scenes.

Over the past 15 years or so, the depiction of sex on TV has shifted demonstrably. When I was younger, kisses were chaste and the act of sex was implied. Now, on Prime Time TV, sex is explicit — to some degree even soft porn. And while I am not judging this, I do believe that this being some people’s primary exposure to sex sets them up for unrealistic expectations when it comes to sexual relationships.

I have a client who has very limited sexual experience and she has found that she is struggling with the sex in her new relationship. She doesn’t understand why it can feel so stilted sometimes, why she and her partner don’t connect like the people she sees on TV and why doesn’t she have an orgasm at the same time as her boyfriend, as her favorite character does every week?

These feelings have left her bereft and not sure if it is her issue or a problem in the relationship.

In reality, neither one of those things are true. What is at issue is her perceptions of what a sexual encounter should look like. That perception is interfering with her enjoying the sex that she has with her boyfriend for just what it is.

And sexual issues can sabotage a healthy relationship in a big way.

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4. People will change.

Of course, people can change. People do it every day. But I believe that change is incremental and driven by the person who is changing wanting to do so.

That kind of change is not what we see on TV. What we see on TV is a transformation that just isn’t possible — at least not in the real world.

I can’t tell you how many of my clients stay in toxic relationships because they believe that if they do, if they just love their person enough, that person will change for the better. Or if they stay, things will go back to the honeymoon stage that they had in the beginning. I mean, they say, it happens on TV all the time. The love of a good woman changes a damaged man and everyone lives happily ever after.

Unfortunately, in real life, this isn’t usually the way it works.

In real life, a woman stays with a damaged man at the expense of her own health and wellbeing. She gives and gives and gives, loves deeply and ultimately just gets left heartbroken.

I am not saying that people can’t change. Of course they can. I just believe that we can’t make someone change. That in order for someone to change, they have to want to make the change. They have to take the steps. And we can’t take those steps for them.

So, while TV tells you to stick it out, waiting until they change (because they always do), know that doing so in real life might only end in heartbreak.

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5. Love that conquers all.

Oh, how I wish that this last one were true. That love is the cure to all that ails the world. Imagine what an amazing world we would have if love, indeed, was the fix.

Unfortunately, no matter how much we want it to be, love is not the thing that will change the world. And it’s not the thing that will fix a relationship.

So many of my clients say "if he loved me, he would make this one thing happen." Or "if she loved me, she would change." I hear it all the time.

And I believe that, no matter how much someone loves someone, there are just things that people can’t do. A married man loves his lover but can't leave his wife. A woman loves her husband but work just takes priority some nights. A man loves his wife but still feels bound to see his mother every Sunday, even if his wife doesn’t like it.

The list goes on and on.

My point is this — just because your person can’t do what you want them to do, it doesn’t mean that they don’t love you.

What it means is that they are just a person in the world, a flawed person who is trying to do their best. They love you deeply but they aren’t perfect. And no amount of love is going to give them the strength to make a difficult choice or move.

Unfortunately, what we see on TV doesn’t support this notion. What we see on TV is the person making the ultimate sacrifice, giving up on the thing that they love most for their person. After all, if you don’t have love, you have nothing. Right?

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As a life coach, I see every day how the things we see on TV can sabotage a healthy relationship and it breaks my heart.

Again, I watch a lot of TV and am not saying that we shouldn’t. All I am suggesting is that we take what we see with a grain of salt. That we enjoy our shows but know that what we see isn’t necessarily how things work in real-life relationships.

Healthy communication, realistic expectations around sex, and understanding that love doesn’t necessarily conquer all, and certainly not in fifty-minute increments, are all the things that can keep a healthy relationship healthy.

So, go ahead, watch your shows. Enjoy them. I know that I am going to — with my boyfriend!

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Mitzi Bockmann is an NYC-based, certified life and love coach. She helps people find, and keep, love in this crazy world in which we live. Check out her website or reach out via email.

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This article was originally published at Let Your Dreams Begin. Reprinted with permission from the author.