Everything I know about relationships I unlearned from TV…

Sometimes, when I read mainstream sex-relationship articles or watch movies and sitcoms, I feel like I live in an alternate universe. In my universe:

– Men are free to like or dislike football, to like or dislike So You Think You Can Dance, and to care or not care what fabric their shirts are made of. Nobody takes these inclinations and interests as indications of their sexual orientation or prowess, or of anything else for that matter. It’s just what they like or don’t like.

– Women sometimes earn more than their male live-in partners. Nobody cares.

– When you want something from someone you’re in a relationship with, you communicate this with words. Something like, “I wish we could spend more time at my place,” or “I know we started out casual, but I’m starting to feel an emotional connection with you, and I’d like to talk about getting more serious.” If you find yourself in a fight, you and your partner are both more likely to say, “I’m sorry honey, I should have said something earlier” than “If you really cared about me, you’d have done this without my asking.”

– What “normal people do” is anthropologically interesting, but irrelevant to your relationship.

– When having sex with someone for the first time, there’s always a conversation, however brief, about wishes and boundaries. Even if it’s as simple as, “What do you like?”

– Men who want marriage and families and women who want casual NSA sex are not particularly unusual or noteworthy.

– There are many different ways to be attractive. Fleshy or skinny, gender-bound or androgynous, tall or short, decorated or natural… different people like different things, which is awesome, because it means there’s someone for everyone. You would certainly never think of making fun of someone because of who they’re attracted to.

– A person’s orientation and gender identity may be complex, fluid, and multifaceted. Or it might be straightforward and simple. Either way, it’s understood as a basic rule of civility in your community that you respect the identities and pronouns that people adopt for themselves.

In short, people get to define who they are and what they want out of their relationships, variations in human experience are considered natural and valuable, and communication and respect are the only hard rules. I grant you that this makes sitcom plotting more difficult, since you can’t rely on wacky misunderstandings or generally-accepted rules about human behavior, but it makes actual life so, so much better.

One thought on “Everything I know about relationships I unlearned from TV…

  1. Now I really want to write a relationship-focused drama series that takes place in that world. I think it would be interesting, in part because it would avoid so many cliched idiot plots that run rampant in relationship-centric fiction these days.


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