This time of year, women especially, find themselves drawn to the Hallmark Channel. There are great romantic holiday movies that we love to watch and even look forward to seeing every year. Besides, it is cold outside and curling up on the couch in front of the fireplace drinking hot chocolate and watching a love story is a really good way to spend an afternoon or evening. Even though these movies are fun to watch, I do sometimes worry about the effect they have on our expectations for our lives and our relationships. Have you ever found yourself wondering, “Why can’t my life be more like a Hallmark movie?”
We relate to the people in the movies, especially if we are unhappy in our lives. If we are not in the right relationship, we aren’t in a relationship at all, we don’t like our job, we are estranged from our families ….you get the point. In general, the people in these movies start out pretty miserable. Then they meet the right person who makes everything perfect. They ride off into the sunset, and we assume they live happily ever after.
Just for the record, I am all for watching love and romance on TV. It is fun. The problem begins when we get so caught up in these movies that we forget that life isn’t a Hallmark movie. Falling in love doesn’t solve all our problems. They tend to follow us into the relationship. As a whole, men are not usually as romantic as the ones in the movies. Even if you meet a romantic man, he isn’t going to be that romantic every day or even every week. Life is messy; even the best relationships have ups and downs. We don’t see this reality in the movies.
Hallmark movies can set us up for the unrealistic expectation that someone else can make us happy. This is simply not true. They can add to our happiness, but ultimately you are in charge of your own happiness. The science of happiness is actually taught and studied at Harvard University, among other places. Too often we think that if certain areas of our lives (relationships being among the major ones) were just in order, we would be happy. The research says the opposite. It is important to realize that we are responsible for our own happiness. After we learn this, then we can start taking steps to improve our lives, which will ultimately improve our relationships.
Some people believe that you have to wait for the perfect relationship in order to be happy. Again, this is simply not true. There is always something to be grateful for you in your life. By focusing on what is right in your life or in your relationships, you start to think happier thoughts, which lead to feeling happier. If your life is not where you want it to be, start small and make some changes while staying focused on what is already good. Small changes practiced consistently will create big changes in your life. So watch the romantic movies, but remember they are just movies and not reality. Don’t let them take away the happiness you are in control of creating in your life.
Lori Ann Davis, MA, CRS