FANTASY WEDDING: Some romantic expectations are ‘unrealistic’
THE SCENARIO is familiar. Gorgeous man meets yearning girl. There is instant passion and soon they fall in love.
Standing in the pouring rain, he declares his undying love to the woman of his dreams. Overwhelmed, the woman runs into his arms and responds to his heartfelt words with a long lingering kiss.
The credits roll and they walk off into the night, certain to live happily-ever-after.
But new research is showing that such romantic films can ruin the love lives of ordinary women.
According to the research, feel-good films such as Sleepless in Seattle and Pretty Woman leave many women unable to separate fantasy from reality.
Dr Bjarne Holmes, who carried out the research, says that romantic comedies, or ‘rom-coms’, as they are popularly called, promote unrealistic expectations when it comes to our love lives.
She warned that like violent gun movies, rom-coms should come with their own Government health warnings because of the psychological damage they can cause.
Her comments follow a study of 40 Hollywood romantic comedies by Heriot Watt University’s Family and Personal Relationships Laboratory in Edinburgh. The rom-coms studied were released between 1995 and 2005.
The study found that problems typically reported by couples in relationship counselling reflect misconceptions about love and romance depicted in Hollywood films.
Holmes said many women miss out on Mr Right because they’re too busy waiting for a fantasy ‘Prince Charming’ to come along.
Dating experts said some women turn down decent dates because the ‘magic’ isn’t there. Others even get married but are secretly waiting for their soul mate to turn up.
“Fairy tales haven’t gone away, they just come on DVD now,” explained relationship psychologist Jenni Trent-Hughes. “Many of the women I counsel spend their first session arguing: ‘Cinderella and Pretty Woman did it, so why can’t it happen to me?”
Mary Balfour, Director of dating agency Drawing Down the Moon, added that women are also influenced by magazines, poems and novels. Publications have told women they must wait for this one magical relationship, she told The Voice.
“Everything colludes with this one special relationship which is out there waiting to be discovered. Relationships aren’t made; they are built,” she explained.
Denise Knowles, a counsellor for relationship group Relate, said women’s psychological damage worsens when they cannot find the ‘perfect’ man.
“I think lots of people do hold out for the fairy tale, and unfortunately they hold out for so long that they become cynical about the fact that ‘Mr Perfect’ exists, when he doesn’t,” Knowles said.
She said another danger is that women can ruin an existing relationship because they start pressuring their partners to become Mr Perfect, which they cannot do.
“Women want their men to be soft, loving, considerate, be able to cry, but they also want them to go out and bash the beast over the head and drag home the bacon. The poor men have to split themselves down the middle and be one thing one moment and another next,” she said.
Knowles said women should ditch the fairy tale ending and wise up to the reality that relationships don’t run as smoothly as those in the movies.
“Relationships aren’t about dinners out and shopping sprees and holidays. They are about hard work and commitment,” she said.
Women should not wait to be swept off their feet, Knowles said, but should evaluate what qualities they have to contribute to a relationship.
“Women need to think about what it is they would like long-term but also what it is that they bring to the table.
One of the disappointments for many women is that they have the expectation that one person is going to meet all their needs, that isn’t real and you have got to meet your own needs,” she said.
Balfour argues that women need to be more open when meeting potential partners.
“There is this notion that you can tell whether someone is right for you on the first date, which isn’t true. Be selective, but not until you’ve got to know them a bit better because it may be a slow-burn situation,” she advised.
“You’ve got to create lots of dating opportunities through friends or other ways. When you go on a date, it’s not about whether you want to marry them but it’s about discovering another human being,” she added.
In the meantime, you don’t have to burn your romance DVDs. Dating experts suggest women can watch them but keep them in context.
“Don’t believe what you’ve been told or what you’ve seen. Keep the story as what it is, a laugh or a weep but not the truth,” Trent-Hughes advised.