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Rom-Coms – Good, Bad or Indifferent on Our Relationship Expectations

In the wake of a separation or divorce, our exposure to  these movies can have us feeling guilt or shame that we weren’t able to make it work. 

Rom-Coms are popular for a reason. We all want love. From an early age we get messages that we will or should couple-up as part of growing up. Rom-coms play into these desires and messages. Invariably they give us “happily-ever-after” messages and the hope that we too might find “the one.”  In the wake of a separation or divorce, our exposure to  these movies can have us feeling guilt or shame that we weren’t able to make it work.

Today we’ll look at the common concepts or tropes that are the staple of these movies and their real-life correlations.

1.      If you don’t like them at first, they may be your true love

This is one of the most common plot lines. Writers contrive unrealistic coincidences, cute meetups, and accidents so the characters who don’t like each other bump into each other multiple times until they begin to see something more in their frenemy. While coincidental meetings aren’t likely to happen with that kind of frequency, the ability to see more in another person can lead to love. In real life, compatibility, connection, and shared values create strong relationships. Unfortunately, also in reality, if the character traits that led to a couple disliking each other are stronger than those that brought them together, chances are their relationship won’t last. In the movies below, the characters overcame their differences, by seeing more in each other, or by a character changing.

  • Pride and Prejudice (Peacock)
  • When Harry Met Sally (HBO)
  • Somethings Gotta Give (Netflix)
  • Pillow Talk (not currently streaming)
  • How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (Hulu)
Man and Woman arguing

2.      If a person loves you, they will change for you

This storyline if taken into real life can cause hurt and disappointment. While it can happen, the expectation that someone will change their likes, dislikes, behaviors, or communication styles because it’s “true love” is a set up for disappointment. I wouldn’t advise going into any relationship with expectations that the other person will change. Most of us want to be truly loved for who we are, not what someone else wants us to be. Movies that perpetuated this myth include:

  • A Walk to Remember (not currently streaming)
  • 10 Things I Hate About You (Hulu)
  • Wedding Date (Available to rent)
  • The Truth About Cats and Dogs (HBO)

3.      Love can make supernatural things happen and, in the end, true love will always find a way.

You know what this looks like. We all cried in “The Notebook”, after Noah read the story of their life together, Allie  suddenly recognized her husband, despite suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.  In “13 going on 30” Jennifer Garner’s character was able to go back and change the choices she made in her younger life to end up with her best friend. Heck, in “The Princess Bride” the couple even overcame death. This hope in the impossible, the unlikely and the ability of “True Love” to overcome all obstacles, influences are ability to hope against all odds, that our love can make situations, illnesses, and relationship change or miraculously get better. Sometimes that hope can pay off, but it’s not typical. Giving us hope is great, but not if that hope stops us from taking practical steps like counseling, dealing with life as it is, or working to communicate more effectively.

…I wouldn’t advise going into any relationship with expectations that the other person will change.

Below is a list of movies that feed these beliefs:

  • Sweet Home Alabama (Roku)
  • The American President (Starz)
  • The Jane Austen Book Club (Showtime)
  • The Parent Trap (Disney +)
  • The Princess Bride (Disney +)
  • The Story of Us  (Available to rent)
  • The Wedding Singer (HBO)
  • 13 Going On 30 (HBO)
  • 50 First Dates (Available to rent)
  • The Notebook (HBO/Netflix)
  • Warm Bodies (HBO)

4.      Another biggie is the time-honored match up of rich and poor people that change each other’s lives

Not likely, but not impossible. This myth relies on class distinctions in the movies that use this idea as the central crux of the story line. While, I personally don’t believe in labels, I have seen labels used often in society. I don’t believe in putting a person in box and saying that is who they are based on their job, income or abilities. However, in my life I don’t often run in to people who are not similar to me socially or economically. I know individuals and couples that have radically changed their fortunes together, but none that married into a fortune.



Our society seems to be becoming more entrenched in specific sets of belief. We also, tend to surround ourselves with people who think like us. That is why Facebook shows us more of what we view and react to in our feeds, or Google, may skew the results of our queries. If you were married to someone whose values or life experiences or expectations were much different from yours, don’t feel guilty. Change is hard, and very few people actively embrace it, without feeling constantly challenged or insecure. Insecurity is tough on relationships.We do have the ability to change our lives by being open to other opinions, and to the experiences of other people. If we seek out people who are different than us, and consciously choose to have personalities in our life that our different than ours, we can all continually grow. In this instance, I think maybe we can learn from the movies below:

  • A Star is Born (Available to rent)
  • About a Boy (Peacock)
  • Crazy, Rich, Asians (Hulu)
  • Daddy’s Little Girl’s (Tubi TV)
  • Pretty in Pink (Available to rent)
  • Pretty Women (Available to rent)
  • Good Will Hunting (HBO)
young and older man face off

Summary

What these rom-com story lines have in common is that the characters change or influence each other to change. In real life, we do influence each other, we do change based on the people that we spend time with. For most of us, we stay safe and surround ourselves with people that don’t challenge us too much. It can be a wild ride to be married to someone whose thoughts and experiences are very different from our own. It’s important to know what you want in a relationship, and to know  yourself. Watching rom-coms, seeing even fictional characters work through their differences can help us to work out our own couple issues or give us insight into why our relationships struggle.  A recent study found that the divorce rate was cut in half for newlyweds who discussed 5 relationship movies prior to getting married. 

I love rom-coms. They are my favorite type of movie. I think continuous change as a person is important. I love watching people gain understanding and become closer to one another. Rom-coms can influence us in a positive ways. We just need to separate the fantasy from reality. We can’t expect others to change, but we can change our selves and seek our those who demonstrate a desire to grow and change too. Here are some additional rom-coms you might enjoy:

  • Boomerang (Prime Video)
  • Bridesmaids (Tubi TV)
  • Bridget Jones Diary (Netflix)
  • Bull Durham (Prime Video)
  • Circle of Friends (Not currently streaming)
  • Crazy, Stupid, Love (Netflix)
  • Four Weddings and a Funeral (HBO)
  • He’s Just Not That Into You (Netflix)
  • Jumping Jack Flash (Starz)
  • Just Like Heaven (Paramount+)
  • Lethal Weapon 3 (HBO)
  • Love Actually (Peacock)
  • Love and Basketball (HBO Netflix)
  • Love Simon (Freevee)
  • Me Before You (Available to rent)
  • My Big Fat Greet Wedding (HBO/Hulu)
  • Nobody’s Fool (Paramount+)
  • Sixteen Candles (Available to rent)
  • Sleepless in Seattle (HBO)
  • Somewhere in Time (Tubi TV)
  • The 40-Year-Old Virgin (Starz)
  • The Big Sick (Prime Video)
  • The Fault in Our Stars (HBO)
  • The Incredible Jessica James (Netflix)
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower (HBO)
  • The Sessions (Available to rent)
  • The Sure Thing (Available to rent)
  • Thomas Crowne Affair (Available to rent)
  • To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (Netflix)
  • Waiting to Exhale (HBO)
  • While You Were Sleeping (Disney +)
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