Early in my graduate studies, I remember almost always feeling a sense of despair and hypocrisy, having experienced a failed marriage right before entering the program. It seemed as though every lecture, every book, and every journal article that I read was a personal attack and was also verification that I was not qualified for this kind of work. That is, until one day, I came across a quote that resonated with me on a level that inspired this blog many years later. Here is the quote:
“Deep love typically does not make life easier; rather, it usually makes it more difficult. As things do not turn out as we hoped, we might find ourselves discouraged, disappointed, and no longer in love. This is a sure sign that we are caught up in the passive myth of romance. The way to break free from loves myth is to engage love as a path, that is, to open more fully to the tensions-both gross and subtle-of intimate relationship, permitting oneself to be stretched in the process.” –G. Kenneth Bradford
That was it! I was caught up in the romance myth. I had concluded that my ideas on love were all wrong; it made perfect sense, and this idea really helped me in my healing process. Around the same time, I remember seeing articles and posts on the internet proclaiming that Disney has ruined generations of people’s beliefs on love and romance. Love is not a fairy tale! They would say. We have been brainwashed by Disney and the corporations that promote Valentine’s Day. This confirmed my earlier revelation that I was caught up in this myth of romance. Love is complicated, love is hard, and it is not a fairy tale. It not the happily ever after we see in movies or the perfect words depicted in Valentine’s Day card.
Although this idea was helpful for me during that time, I have now come to the conclusion that romance and love are a bit more complicated. You see, when we get hurt, lose our sense of security, when we feel abandoned or rejected, we tend to utilize a defense mechanism called splitting to cope with that deep intimate loss. Splitting limits our ability to see nuance, no shades of grey, everything is all bad or all good. This helps us make sense of loss by telling ourselves unconsciously I am good and you are bad, and that is why you left me. Or I am bad, and you are good, and that is why you rejected me. I believe this is what happens when we tend to blame Disney or Valentine’s Day for ruining our perceptions of love. Because we have all been hurt before, we have all felt that deep rejection from someone we cared about and depended on, and to defend against being hurt again, we conclude that the fairy tale ending is a myth. It is all bad, and therefore we must blame Disney and corporations for making us believe that love and romance work out for us like it does in the movies when it does not happen like that in real life. However, because we have been so profoundly wounded, sometimes we fail to see the grey; we fail to see the fairy tale’s nuances. Because I have 3 daughters and have seen every Disney movie known to man more times than I would like to admit, and I will now explain what I mean.
In every Disney fairy tale that I have seen, the happily ever after does not come without a fight. When we love, we open ourselves up to face the dragons, evil stepmothers of our past, the overbearing fathers, the childhood abandonment and rejection that we have carried inside for so long. We must be willing to fight through those things for love. You see, now I believe in romance, I know that you can have your happily ever after. I also believe at the same time that you will be disappointed in your relationship. You might find days where it will difficult to love your partner, but you can fight through it if you are both willing. Be open to be stretched in your relationships. You cannot have growth personally or relationally without growing pains. So maybe Disney didn’t get it all wrong after all? You can be the judge of that.
-Dr. Mario Rocha, PsyD. LMFT