For Real Friday: Unrealistic Relationships

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I remember the day when I figured out that I would hate every single character I was in love with if I met them in real life. The soulmate trope is often accompanied by love/hate the love/hate relationship trope until the two characters mutually agree they’re in love, at which point they become sappy, uninteresting, and obsessed with one another. I knew I didn’t have the patience or the inclination to get involved with a love/hate relationship. If I hate someone, I hate them. There’s no romantic tension, no hidden attraction. They have done something that makes them unattractive to me on that level until they either drastically change or enough time passes by without them around that I forget why I hate them. That may just be me though. I don’t know.

The love/hate thing is actually kind of dangerous, because it often plays into the aggression is sexy myth and it teaches women to ignore their instincts. Even if a guy isn’t actually dangerous, if you don’t like him, can’t stand to be around him, and do nothing but argue if you’re near each other, chances are your relationship won’t be a happy one. I was very careful with this in my books. Persephone and Hades snark at each other a good bit when they meet, but I was very, very, very careful to keep it about circumstance. Once she got to know Hades, she liked him. The circumstances under which they met sucked. But personality wise they were never incompatible.

I was a lot older when I figured out that the other side of the coin was equally unrealistic. All the romances I’d read or watched featured this unbelievably romantic guy who would go to the ends of the earth for his significant other. He’d be obsessed and didn’t actually appear to have a life outside of who they’re interested in beyond the basic trappings that were used to show what an amazing guy he was for that particular girl  (his job showed he was stable/creative/whatever, his family showed he cared about people, and sometimes he’d have a pet). Whatever personality he had when the love/hate trope was going on vanished into the relationship once he got the girl. It wasn’t until I started dating that I realized that, while romantic, this trope is every bit as damaging as the love/hate trope.

When you are in a relationship with another person, you are in a relationship with another entire person. Even if they’re your soulmate. Trust me, I married my high school sweetheart. I met him, we clicked, and lived happily ever after. If soulmates are a thing, I found mine and we knew it instantly. But he’s a complete person with or without me. He has a life and if I wasn’t in it, maybe it wouldn’t be as awesome, but he wouldn’t wither away to nothingness because he’s a healthy human. You want your significant other to have a life outside of you.

There have been a few points since I met my husband where for some reason or another we were all we had. We’d just moved to a new place where we knew no one, a job change took one of us away from everyone in our social circle, random emotional stuff like say, giving birth and all the chemicals that come with that that make you feel like nothing outside of your little family matters. We celebrated when those moments ended because while we love each other lots and lots it gets super super frustrating to be the only person in a relationship with a life outside of it if you ever say, want to hang out with your friends, enjoy your hobby, or just be away from that other person for a minute. We’re always there to lean on, but your significant other shouldn’t be all you have. That’s not healthy. Which is another thing I was careful to convey in Persephone. She and Hades have full lives outside of one another. They have friends and family and hobbies and purposes that don’t revolve around their relationship.

As for the last part of the trope. It’s cool to be with someone who wants to move the moon and stars for you, but they should never have to. Gender reverse that particular expectation and consider how uncomfortable it makes you. There’s a reason for that. If someone loves you, they shouldn’t expect you to give up some major thing that makes you you for the sake of your relationship. If someone loves you, they shouldn’t want you to sacrifice something that makes you happy so you can prove how much you love them. If someone loves you, they shouldn’t want you to do something impossible, frustrating, or difficult just to make them happy. It means a lot when they do, but it shouldn’t be an expectation. That is why I didn’t set up my series as Persephone having to choose between the living realm and Hades. She at a certain point had to choose between having a normal life and being a goddess, but it wasn’t actually a choice and Hades was never part of that equation. He was a given no matter which life she stuck with. I also never had them make massive, life changing decisions because of each other. They influenced each other’s choices, sure. That’s pretty typical of all relationships, but if you look closely, there were never choices they made because it was the only way they would work. Every character in the third book made the assumption that Hades was willing to destroy everything to save Persephone but he outright explained that wasn’t the case. He wanted to save her, and acknowledged she was worth paying that price but he also explained the lengths he was willing to go to had more to do with saving the living realm and the Underworld from Zeus. Remember, he can’t lie.

I love reading romances. I like watching romances. I love the love/hate dynamic and the extreme love dynamic. Just know it’s not a realistic expectation to bring to your own relationships. If you did find that exact relationship you read about, you’d hate it because those models work in fiction but in real life they aren’t healthy. So read, enjoy, but know you deserve a relationship that’s better than fiction.

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