The media makes many events – holidays, anniversaries, and birthdays – reasons to celebrate relationships. They depict the occasion as an opportunity to show appreciation for your significant other and enjoy the wonder that is romantic love. That, at least, is the idea. The reality is quite different for many Americans.
How Media Influences Relationship Perception
Many special occasions in modern America come with pressure and expectations that leave people depressed. Some single people may feel gloomy about their relationship prospects, while others may have a partner but feel that the holiday puts a strain on the relationship. Many studies have found that relationships are more likely to break up right before or after major holidays – especially Valentine’s Day.
If you’re recently single, this might resonate.
3 Root Problems in Media Relationship Portrayals
Why do occasions meant to celebrate relationships often lead to their bitter end? Research points to three main reasons, all of which are exacerbated by the media.
Whether they are television commercials depicting a perfect relationship or carefully edited social media posts showing a false reality that many accept as real, media bombards us with images of what love should look like but seldom exists.
The three main problems that seem to be causing so much trouble are:
- Expectations. The media presents holidays as a time for expensive dinners and exotic gifts. These high expectations can set people up for disappointment. Singles may feel inadequate if they do not have a partner. Couples often find that the day leads to disappointment when the expectations projected by the media don’t materialize to them personally in the real world.
- Comparisons. Social media can create a competitive environment between couples pushing to outdo everyone else. Each individual sees only the positives of another couple’s relationship, while they are privy to all the negatives of their own. Meanwhile, social media leaves singles looking at a romantic world that they cannot be a part of.
- Magnification. With expectations set so high, little problems become immense issues and already dysfunctional relationships can see negative feelings intensify.
The media has created such a climate that many people dread the holidays. For some, there is an increase in feelings of inadequacy. For others, they may hyper-focus on the issues of a relationship, rather than its strengths, setting a course for further emotional decay.
If media can create a hostile environment for romantic love, we can deconstruct the process and take the hassle, pressure, and worry out of the celebration. Whether you are single or in a relationship, special occasions can actually be events to look forward to, instead of the dread.
How Can Couples Ease The Pressure?
For couples feeling the pressure of the media, a time out or breather may be necessary to put everything back into balance. Try the following:
- Get on the same page. Does she expect expensive jewelry for an occasion, and he only shows up with a card? Does he want a fancy dinner and she orders take out? These missed expectations can create ill will in a romance.
- Match expectations to the stage of your relationship. Have you just gotten together? Have you been married for 40 years? Different stages of a relationship call for different ways to celebrate.
- Make a reasonable budget. Money does not, in fact, buy you love. Tenderness and concern for your partner are far more important. There is no need to break the bank to impress your loved one during certain holidays or occasions. No one can afford to add stressful spending to a relationship.
- Don’t expect a transformation in your partner. Your partner is not going to become a different person for a holiday. If your partner is shy, don’t expect to get a serenade in a public place. If you love them for who they are, accept what they do as it is an expression of their language of love and its well-intentions.
- Focus on your love, not society’s expectations of it. Your relationship and how you celebrate love is about the both of you. It’s personal. Your own expectations should matter more than what society believes is appropriate.
How Can Single People Get Through Love-Centered Occasions?
As hard as it is on couples, the holidays can be more heart-wrenching for single people. If you want to be in a relationship, the holidays and related advertisements constantly reminding you of your solo status can be depressing. Stay positive by following these guidelines when a particularly rough occasion arrives:
- Treat yourself. Gift yourself something you’ve been wanting. It doesn’t have to be big, just a little something to brighten your day and remind you that you’re worthy.
- Make dinner for one. You don’t have to compromise; make yourself a nice dish that suits your tastes. Want company? Invite another single friend and dine together to celebrate the occasion.
- Make a playlist. Radio stations may be blaring romantic songs around Valentine’s Day, Christmas and New Year’s but these are also good times to put on upbeat and happy music instead.
- Make a list of your good qualities. Call it a love note to yourself. Writing down your attributes and talents can have a positive effect on your mood.
- Stay in tune with your feelings. Owning how you feel can be extremely therapeutic and bring about healthy, life-altering thoughts. Stay in touch with yourself and respond to your own needs.
- Reach out. Just because you are single does not mean you have to be alone. Anything you have planned you can do with a friend or loved one.
A Reason for The Season
The media pressure of expectations on holidays can be overwhelming. It is important to keep a clear head on the topic. If you’re feeling melancholy, reach out to someone you care about. They might be sharing the same sort of struggle. Focus on positive memories or what makes you laugh today.
A special occasion doesn’t have to turn into a negative experience because of media influences over your perceptions. Start a new way to celebrate each holiday that is more to your liking. Who knows? You could start a tradition that’s worth sharing.