6 Ways Rom-Coms Are Helping — And Harming — Your Love Life

the notebook

Have fun, but don't take it too seriously.

I have spent the majority of my life looking for Lloyd Dobler. If you don't know who Lloyd Dobler is, then you really need to step it up on your rom com intake, because Lloyd is, as anyone who’s ever seen Say Anything will tell you, the ideal man. In other words, the character of Lloyd Dobler pretty much ruined me. I'm not alone; some rom com has probably ruined you to a degree, too.

New research has found that romantic comedies are pretty much the worst. The study published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture has proven that those who watch rom-coms are just fooling themselves when it comes to love, as opposed to those who keep it real by watching action films or sitcoms instead. Yes, all those nights cuddled up with Ben & Jerry's watching The Notebook on repeat has destroyed you, and you are doomed to always be disappointed.

The problem is, and it breaks my heart to write this, Noah and Lloyd just aren’t real. It's a sad state of affairs; it's a kick to the stomach and a smack to the face, but we must persevere and try to find some happiness in our real-life relationships. It will be hard, but we have no choice.

However, rom coms aren't all bad. They do, surprisingly, have some positive effects on our love lives, and if we're to go on in this cruel world, it's up to us to really focus on those aspects. So, let's try to do just that … sprinkled with the negative, of course.

1. They make us think our partners are mind-readers.

In the movies, even if it’s not until the very end, the guy finally figures out what the girl needs. Despite the fact that people are complicated with even more complicated feelings, communication between partners is all nice and pretty by the end of the two hours. Researchers at Heriot Watt University's Family and Personal Relationships Laboratory in Edinburgh found that relationship counselors often have to deal with the difference between reality and Hollywood with their clients. People, thanks to movies, tend to think "that if your partner truly loves you they'd know what you without you communicating it." What this really means is you think your partner is a psychic. Your partner is probably not psychic, so use your words, OK?

2. They can save our marriage.

What the wha--?! A study found that staying in and watching a romantic comedy with your significant other then talking about it (because rom coms always need a lengthy recap and analysis), can reduce the divorce rate within the first three years of marriage from 24% to 11%. That sounds like great news, but seriously, have you ever had a heart-to-heart after watching Sleepless in Seattle? It's great, because Tom Hanks, of course, but let's be honest, Philadelphia was his best role and the one  that spurs real dialogue. And what a soundtrack, too!

3. They trick us with the whole 'soulmate' thing.

 "'Soul-mates' is a notion that can be particularly detrimental to real life relationships," says Cassady Green in her paper "The Effects of Romantic Comedies on Women and Female Adolescents," and she's right. The idea that one person is meant or destined for you and you alone, not only limits your ability to see other potential mates, but can also have a devastating effect if that "soulmate" and you break up. It's hard to move one when you're clinging on, for dear life, to one person. Breaking news: There are no soulmates. Pre-destined? Nope; that's a load of malarkey, too. It's science!

4. They make us more romantic.

Well, duh. A study of 335 undergrads, 29 percent of whom were men, found that, for all the delusions they put in our brains, repeated watching of romantic comedies to "learn" about romance resulted in the viewer being "more likely to endorse romantic beliefs." OK, so no surprises here. This is also why I stare out my window 15 hours a day waiting for Lloyd Dobler to show up with his boombox. I really need to throw out that DVD.

5. They make us hang on to our gender stereotypes.

So, boy meets girl? Check. Boy and girl fall in love, but deny their feelings? Check. Boy races after girl to get her right before the credits? Check. Romantic comedies rarely allow for the male and female characters to stray from the stereotypes of their genders. With everyone falling into their specific role, as dictated by society then reaffirmed by Hollywood, it's no wonder that the struggle for gender equality, in all realms not just in a relationship, is an uphill battle.

6. They give us hope.

For all the false ideals that rom coms throw our way, one thing is for sure: They make us believe in love. As Phillip Hodson, a fellow at the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy explains, "[They] can convince us that no matter how misshapen, decrepit, or dull we are, there is someone out there for us. And you know what? There is!" And you know what they said in Shawshank Redemption, although not exactly a rom com per se, about hope: "Hope is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies." Love never dies, you guys. I think that's the lesson here.

Photo: weheartit.com