Nicholas Sparks is no stranger to heart-wrenching passion and the kind of love that only star-crossed lovers share. Teary eyed audiences have come to expect this from his novels and their film adaptions, but do the rose colored glasses come off once the credits end? Dissatisfaction with romantic partners is a common occurrence. We are all guilty of searching for “the one;” this magical partner who will swoop in and complete us. Yet, we are baffled as to why no one seems to qualify for this title. Has he really failed to fulfill your expectations, or are your expectations setting the bar too high for any man who isn’t U.S. Marine Logan Thibault?

When we start comparing real life relationships to the ones we see portrayed on T.V and in movies, our life starts to seem much less satisfying, including the partner we are with. Our attraction to him decreases with repeated exposure to fictionalized romance. When we watch a passionate romance unfold, our emotions become keenly in tune with the actors we are watching. While consciously we understand movies are not reality, our heightened state of arousal tells our subconscious otherwise. Once the feeling wears off after the movie ends, we return to our normal selves in our normal everyday lives. This is when we start wondering why our guy never gives us any attention. Why isn’t he waiting for you with roses on the bed and a candlelight dinner? When was the last time he lifted you up in a powerful embrace, kissing you like it was the end of time? If you are in a mutually committed relationship, chances are he isn’t completely neglecting you and your needs. However, compared to Logan and Beth, any man’s effort to be romantic in daily life is futile.

Indulging yourself in a sappy chick flick now and then shouldn’t ruin your relationship. But take the time each day to appreciate your partner. Acknowledge aloud what he does that you enjoy, and also talk about what you are unhappy with. Remember the little things he does, like fixing lunch for the kids when you are running late, or kissing you goodbye each time you part. Sure, you may not see fireworks with every peck on the lips, but it’s his way of letting you know he cares. Also set a night each week that the two of you go out alone to rekindle the passion of dating. With a little extra effort, you may find you don’t need the fancy extravagance of fictional romance after all.

According to an article by TIME magazine, “”Relationship counselors often face common misconceptions in their clients — that if your partner truly loves you they’d know what you need without you communicating it, that your soul mate is predestined. We did a rigorous content analysis of romantic comedies and found that the same issues were being portrayed in these films,” the university’s Dr Bjarne Holmes says.

In addition, not all relationship experts agree with the results of Dr. Bjarne Holmes. “Phillip Hodson, a fellow at the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, says that while romantic comedies can cause problems for couples once they exit the euphoric first few years of a relationship, they also provide a much needed source of hope and inspiration for the unattached. “We need to live by stories that help us deal with tough realities. Idealism has a role to play — it can convince us that no matter how misshapen, decrepit, or dull we are, there is someone out there for us. And you know what? There is! Walk through any shopping mall and you see the most extraordinary pairings,” he says. “We all need hope in our lives. And Hollywood trades on hope.”

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The ability to walk on the cautious side of fantasy would be the most effective way to ensure that your relationship does not suffer from Hollywood endorsed romance. So, here are a few extra tips to keep your relationship thriving:
1)   Rekindle your love: Take time to reflect on the reasons you fell in love with your significant other. Talk to your partner about these reasons and celebrate one another with a small act of kindness or a small gift.
2)  Revisit your relationship purpose statement: Every relationship needs a purpose statement. What are your goals and expectations of the relationship. If you do not have a purpose statement, take time to develop one together. Consider goals that you would like to achieve as a couple.
3)  Create a relationship “Bucket List”: Aside from your relationship purpose statement, take time to create a bucket list. Let your mind explore all of the amazing possibilities of creating a relationship bucket list. The sky is the limit and this could be an activity to reconnect with your partner’s creativity.

If you or someone you know need relationship assistance,  please contact a counselor to assist you.

NOTE: you can freely redistribute this resource, electronically or in print, provided you leave the authors contact information below intact.

Author: James L West, MA, LMHC, NCC

Edited by:  Jada Jackson, M.A. M.S. Register Mental Health Counselor Intern #9777

Co-Author: Kaylee Murdaugh, Student Intern