Editorial | Love is not one size fits all

Illustrated by Gaby Fantone

Divorce rates are down, couples are posting their envy-inducing vacation photos, and your friend goes on three Tinder dates a week, but with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, not everyone is feeling the love. And that’s OK.

The expectations our generation has for love and relationships are set painfully high. Every relationship is expected to be an exciting adventure, and if it’s not, it’s not true love. From a young age, we’re shown dramatized relationships in Disney and Nickelodeon shows, in addition to classic romantic comedies. How are we supposed to have healthy, realistic relationship expectations when not everyone is Troy Bolton?

Even the shows we watch as adults perpetuate similar thoughts. Of course contestants on ABC’s “The Bachelor” are in “love” when they’re constantly jetting from one exotic, romantic destination to the next. But that isn’t real life. Real life isn’t always bouquets of flowers and gourmet meals. And it certainly doesn’t involve a rose ceremony at the end of the night.

Real life is a relationship between people who are juggling school, work and countless other responsibilities, all while trying to spend time together. Real life is loving and sticking by your significant other even if they don’t serenade you in the middle of a basketball game in the style of “High School Musical.”

The examples of relationships set for the LGBTQIA+ community in popular media are even more skewed. If there even is a queer character on TV, most of the time they’re included to add flair and often lack depth – see shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Glee” for reference. Usually, it’s the more niche or indie shows, like Netflix’s new hit “Sex Education,” that portray LGBTQIA+ characters in a relationship that isn’t just used because the producers think two girls kissing will increase ratings. And often, LGBTQIA+ characters are few and far between, with only 14 inclusive movies distributed by major studios in 2018, according to GLAAD, marking a major decrease over the organization’s six years of tracking.

We shouldn’t be basing our expectations for relationships on fictionalized or over-exaggerated media portrayals. But it’s difficult not to with the seemingly constant influence of social platforms and instantly accessible streaming content.

TV and social media often don’t show us that relationships are hard work. They take time, collaboration, and compromise. And they don’t define us. Your relationship status shouldn’t make or break your happiness.
Whether you’re having relationship problems or are single and feeling lonely this Valentine’s Day, remember that what you’re experiencing is real life, not a manufactured TV show. And often, real life is much better.