Recovering from Media Illusions

media illusion sex love romanceWe know that the media gives us unrealistic portrayals of sex, love and romance, but how do we teach ourselves not to buy into it? Most of us were affected mentally in some form by the media content we were raised with. A well-known example is the affect that Disney cartoons have had on girls. Disney is more feminist conscious now, but many of their earlier films depict girls and young women in fantastical love stories, full of unrealistic romance and fairy-tale happy endings. Correlations have been found between this kind of media diet and unhealthy expectations of relationships later in life, which can cost people relationships, time in repairing relationships and money in relationship counseling bills. So how do we train ourselves to resist the brainwashing of media portrayals of sex, love and romance?

First and foremost, we have to retrain ourselves in the way we view sex, love and romance through any means necessary. For some, this might require drastic measures. Romanticized media portrayals can cause delusions, love addiction and can even contribute to mental disorders. Professional treatment or therapy may be necessary for some. The average victim of unrealistic media portrayals of sex, love and romance is simply misguided and can usually use critical thinking and self help to adjust their thinking. It is important to remove sex, love and romance from the pedestal that media puts them on and approach them realistically by acknowledging that relationships are something to take seriously. Being frivolous, flighty or emotional about relationships will lead to their destruction.

Secondly, monitoring our media diet so that we do not take in unrealistic portrayals of sex, love and romance is very important to our continued mental health. Being selective in the media we watch will inform us of realistic ways of seeing the world, including in how we see relationships. One of the best things a person can do for their current or future romantic relationships is throw out the media that has been filling their heads with unhealthy relationship perceptions.

Why the Disconnect Between the Media and Reality?

love portrayal media reality disconnectIn comparing real life romantic relationships to romantic relationships in movies and TV shows, one can see an obvious disconnect between fact and fiction. Media romantic relationships are idealized, romanticized and unrealistic, while real life romantic relationships are messy, challenging and complex. This difference is apparent to anyone who is media literate, yet media portrayals of relationships are much more frequently unrealistic than they are realistic. This has many people wondering why our media depictions of sex, love and romance are so skewed. Sex, love and romance in relationships are something that many people hold unrealistic expectations of, and the reasons are many.

The truth is, people crave the romanticized, idealized version of relationships. Trying to determine if we crave this version of relationships because of media portrayals, or if we create these media portrayals because we crave this kind of relationship, is futile. For whatever reason, we all share a common ideal that relationships are going to be effortless, therapeutic, thrilling and rewarding, and we are all completely jarred when they are not. Media portrayals are merely the expression of these idealized, romanticized notions.

People who indulge in these romantic ideals of relationships turn them into personal fantasies. Instead of removed characters on a screen, the unrealistic notions begin to feature them in their imaginations. This is where an ideal turns into a delusion, and unhealthy thinking begins. The more entrenched someone becomes in their fantasies, the more out of touch with reality they become. Ironically, this romantic fixation makes them much less well suited for an actual relationship because they will very unrealistic expectations.

Some people take their fantasies to the next level and become addicted to them. At this level of indulgence, someone may own every romantic film and TV show ever made, they may go through relationships like changes of clothes and they may obsess over their own romantic relationships to the point that they are entirely dysfunctional. Sex, love and romance addictions are real, very destructive and warrant professional counseling.

How Sex, Love and Romance are Portrayed in the Media

media portrayal sex love romanceIf people formed romantic relationships the way characters in movies and TV shows do, they would look very different. Everyone’s courting would be whimsical and flirtatious, their bedroom romps magical and passionate, their differences dramatic and heart tugging and their decision to be together forever a perfect happy ending. At a certain point in adulthood, most of us come to realize that these expectations are unrealistic, yet they are steadily reinforced again and again in media portrayals. A closer inspection of these misleading media portrayals gives you a clearer picture of how far removed from reality they are.

In films and TV shows, courting and dating is always incredibly cute. Characters meet under serendipitous circumstances. Sometimes their chemistry is instant, and other times they initially dislike one another, adding to the passion of their chemistry later in the story. Fate continues to throw memorable, ironic moments their way, which they stumble and laugh and flirt their way through adorably, until that magical moment when they have their first kiss.

As we all know, kisses in most movies and TV shows logically leads straight to sex. Sex in movies and TV shows is always portrayed as good sex. It is either passionate, kinky, sweet or loving, but always good. The characters are always sexually compatible, knowing what the other wants and being in perfect harmony with one another. This great sex naturally leads to a lot more great sex.

After a certain amount of blissful new relationship time has gone by, inevitably the couple encounters the ways that they are different and a seemingly insurmountable conflict arises between them. They have a dramatic falling out, the sad music plays, and they spend a certain amount of time mourning and reflecting upon the love they had. One or both of them needs to realize something about themselves before they can be together happily.

Fortunately, for everyone involved, that lesson is eventually learned in a moment of ecstatic self-discovery when one lover runs to the other, making an enormous scene in order to profess their undying love for the other. Naturally, the other lover feels the same, and they are reunited with the suggestion that they will never, under any circumstances, part ways again.

How Sex, Love and Romance Function in Real Life

relationship realityBuying into media portrayals of sex, love and romance will not get you far in romantic relationships. The media portrays relationships as being totally driven by emotion, as if everything you need in order to navigate a relationship is intuitive, and nothing requires work or logic. The reality of relationships is that they are an area of life that needs to be managed intelligently, just like everything else. They are not a mass of effortless feelings like the media would have us believe. They are messy and confusing and disjointed, all the way from the dating to the sex to the conflicts to the resolutions.

In real life, dating is hardly all adorable moments and romantic build up. In fact, it is something that requires a great deal of bravery and strength. Rejection is unavoidable in the dating world. Sometimes it is a result of not having chemistry and sometimes it is a result of discovering a major difference between two people. Sometimes rejection comes early on and sometimes later in the dating game, but anyone dating should never forget that it is the other person’s prerogative to walk away if they want, and that they are expected to handle it gracefully. When two people are fortunate enough to make it to the next stage of a relationship, the navigation does not end there.

Sex is portrayed in the media as urgent to have and effortlessly fantastic. In real life, sex needs to be approached with respect and caution, as it is the most intimate physical act that two people can engage in. It is normally not perfect, but requires communication and adjustments in thinking in order to do well. The deeper into the relationship that two people go, the more differences they will encounter. Good decision making, compromise, conflict resolution and intelligence are required to be successful in relationships. It requires good critical thinking to know when to walk away from a relationship, and even healthy relationships require a great deal of work.