Do Holiday Romances Destroy Your Chances of Happiness?

The festive season is upon us and we're flooded with images of perfect love and togetherness. But is it time we asked Santa for a dose of reality?
Saturday , 21 December 2013
Do Holiday Romances Destroy Your Chances of Happiness?
© (c) Peter Dazeley

You know the scene oh so well. Another Christmas party, another room full of couples reveling in the holiday season, another opportunity to hear Mariah croon about how all she wants for Christmas is a perfect man and yet another chance to giggle under the mistletoe – or to avoid stepping near it just in case that idiot from accounts happens to be lurking nearby.

There’s no doubting that the festive season brings with it a focus on love and romance that either gives you the warm and fuzzies or makes you want to run screaming to your apartment until the new year rolls around.

Not that staying home presents much reprieve, of course. After all, the TV schedule will most certainly be packed wall to wall with happy couples and picture perfect families enjoying the season in all its tinsel-strewn glory. 

If Mariah didn’t send you the message loud and clear, it won’t take you long to pick it up with a quick viewing of The Holiday (a widowed Jude Law looking hot while decorating the tree with his adorable, motherless children – be still our beating hearts) or yet another look at Love Actually (maybe the man you’re waiting for is Prime Minister of Great Britain. And he looks like Hugh Grant…) Yep, it’s the season of love and there’s no doubt about it.

Only now, it looks as though that rom-com fest might be damaging more than just our mascara, with researchers at Michigan’s Albion College claiming it could be destroying our very chances of happiness.

The examination of 390 married couples’ TV viewing habits revealed the more they believed in the portrayals of love on their screen, the less invested they were in their actual real life relationship. The greater the expectations created by the picture perfect love on our favourite shows, the less chance we have of actually making marriage work.

“I found that people who believe the unrealistic portrayals on TV are actually less committed to their spouses and think their alternatives to their spouse are relatively attractive,” Dr. Jeremy Osborn, the article’s author said. 

“How realistic are your expectations for your partner and where did those expectations come from?” he says.

Osborn is far from the first to suggest that our belief in Prince Charming might see us dismiss one too many men as frogs. A 2012 paper from the University of Virginia found those who believe in ‘the one’ are 150 per cent more likely to end up divorced.

And very recently, former NASA programmer Randall Munroe decided to go one step further and prove that the idea of ‘the one’ itself was mathematically flawed. He calculated that even if our soulmate were similar in age to us, there would still be half a billion people under consideration. As most of us don’t meet more than 50,000 people in our lifetime, it makes for a rather depressing one in 10,000 chance of meeting that special person. And that’s before we even consider geography, language and the many other barriers that keep us apart as human beings.

It’s not surprising – the world’s population recently topped seven billion so holding out for a (singular, very specific) hero is probably not the most realistic pastime. And yet, voice this concern, particularly at Christmas time, and you’ll likely find yourself branded a scrooge, a pessimist, or worse, a love-denying affront to womankind. Woe betide the lady who admits she married a man she loves, but that could quite likely have been another man had her circumstances taken her in a different direction. But doesn’t she have a point? 

After all, no one is suggesting that she, or the rest of us, should give up on the idea of happy ever after. Rather, they seem to be suggesting merely that we take these findings as a warning to remove our rose-tinted 3D glasses and step out of the cinema into the real world, where relationships are messy and rarely involve a white horse.

Maybe the next time my husband annoys me by loading the laundry basket full of tangled up pants and socks, I should tell myself that after the credits rolled, Jude Law probably drove Cameron Diaz nuts doing the same thing.

And perhaps, the next time my single friend dismisses the bloke at our annual Christmas shindig because of his appalling fashion sense, she should take a moment to remember Mark Darcy’s Christmas jumper.

Is it romantic? No, not really. But would it give us all a better chance at finding lasting happiness? Most probably. Besides, lets be honest – after all those years of being followed around by assistants, the likelihood is that Hugh Grant doesn’t even know how to make dinner reservations… 

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