When I was younger, I used to think that the only way to know if a relationship was true love was if my foot popped when I kissed my boyfriend. I know, it’s ridiculous, but that’s just what I had seen in TV shows and movies. Guy meets girl, they fall in love, and on their first kiss? Boom. The girl’s foot just pops right up. Then the cheesy instrumentals played, the credits began to roll and you leave the theater knowing Jack and Jill live happily ever after.
The movies made it look simple, and this is an idea that was ingrained in my brain at an extremely young age. Even though I know that love isn’t as simple as a foot pop, there’s some sense of comfort in realizing the true mark of romance lies within an uncontrolled reflex in the foot. If I’m being honest though, there’s still a part of my anxiety that just screams: “NO FOOT POP. NOT TRUE LOVE.”
The cliche romance ideas continued into my teen years, and became even more robust. As a high schooler, I used to be extremely obsessed with this idea that if my relationship didn’t encompass what the media had defined as a happy relationship, it was doomed to fail. On that list was a variety of cliché-driven concepts, like a foot pop, no fighting, and butterflies every time I see them. I don’t think I was aware I made the list and would check it off. While all my high school relationships were riddled with bigger problems, in my young and naive mind my relationships failed because of my superficial checklist.
Now, in the age of social media, there are hundreds of Facebook pages dedicated to giving you tips and insights to the perfect relationship. They tell you that the only way to have a good relationship is to have someone who is basically the perfect human being. They need to shower you with praise, post about you on Facebook or Instagram, and of course, devote all their attention to you. There are articles posted every day about 10 ways they’re not good for you, or how to tell you’ve met THE ONE, and we eat it up.
And if you’re like me with the occasional bout of relationship-driven anxiety, these articles are torture. You know better than to click on them, but you do. You read every article, think of your significant other, and then somehow convince yourself that the habits you never thought twice about are now super critical to whether or not they truly love you. Then, before you know it, you’ve updated that subconscious “perfect relationship” list and realized maybe this isn’t the right fit.
I understand, rationally of course, that this probably sounds crazy. If you’re confident in your relationship, why does all that matter? Well, you’re right. It shouldn’t, and it doesn’t to me anymore, but what about the younger generations?
We live in an age where our relationships are being defined by how often our significant others are posting about us, what they display publicly for others to see. It’s about thinking that all relationships fall into this cliche box of butterflies and cute selfies, and that’s so concerning to me.
No two relationships will be the same. We all have different personalities and different ideals that make the complicated world of falling in love with someone work for us. Sure, there are the golden rules we all follow: no abuse, no cheating, no possessive jealousy and a few others. But each relationship will have its own checklist. One that is not defined by how many likes you get on Instagram, or the number of back massages you get. Rather, it’ll be defined by what you feel works best for your relationship.
I have parts in my relationship that I love. We bond over video games, Rooster Teeth and Clemson football. We have cute pet names, we share silly stories about our pets like they are our children, and sometimes we just sit in different rooms because we want too. We probably talk way too much, and we split our responsibilities as evenly as possible. But for some people that may not be the best way for their relationship to flourish.
They may both be introverts and sit in silence for hours at a time, whereas another couple may spend hours on end talking until they fall asleep. Some of them may be more traditional in their roles, while others might be more modern. Every relationship, every person, every situation is different, and the more we try to compare ourselves to what social media and Hollywood perpetuates as “the perfect relationship,” the more we’ll be striving for something that may not be achievable.
Just because you and your significant other don’t go out for date night three times a week, or they don’t post about you constantly on social media doesn’t mean they aren’t perfect for you. Just because your foot didn’t pop or you stop getting butterflies every time you see them or kiss them doesn’t mean you still don’t deeply care for that person.
Stop comparing yourself to what you think is right, and start defining the relationship on what you feel is right. So what if it’s not traditional, or what all your friends are doing? What matters at the end of each day is whether you are happy and if the relationship is healthy. Everyone is going to have an opinion on how you should create a lasting relationship, but only you know best.
If you have found something genuine, that truly makes you happy, it won’t be found in the amount of PDA, kisses in the rain, or an occasional midnight rendezvous. It’ll be found in developing a genuine connection with someone who just loves you for all your quirks, your positives, your negatives and your crazy obsession with sloths.
Trust yourself, talk with your significant other and go on with your happy relationship. You’ll know when it’s time to call it quits if you need to, and you’ll know when to keep pushing forward based on what’s working for you.
Everyone is different, so don’t worry if your relationship doesn’t look like your best friends. As long as you’re happy, that’s what truly matters.