Jasmine is a Clinical Psychology Doctoral Student and educator of Human Sexuality. She finds that helping people with serious problems daily is rewarding, but the very interesting and sometimes comical problems come from love, sex, and relationships. She gives her take on all three. It’s not therapy, but its therapeutic, and you can even sit on your own couch.
Once upon a time. Happily Ever After. Most people are familiar with these phrases. For those who are not familiar, many desire what the phrases represent; especially Happily Ever After. Happily Ever After recurs at the end of most fairytales about love, and it’s symbolic of a love that lasts. In this moment, you may be asking yourself, “What the hell do fairytales have to do with love, relationships, and making love last in real life?” My answer for you is “Well, a lot.” Psychologist Robert J. Sternberg researched and developed theories that love in romantic relationships follow a story. It has characters, a plot, and depending on the characters and how you write it, the ending can be Happily Ever After.
Yes! You are the writer, director, and producer of your own love story (which can be bad or good news). The bad news is if you have not figured out that you create your own love story, you may keep recreating the same story. In other words, repeating the same mistakes. Your love interest may change, and so may the environment in which you play out your story. However, if you look at the pattern of your relationships (in this case the scripts), you may find that the movie title may change, but the story is basically the same. The good news is once you understand the love story you are creating, you can make two choices. You can either find a partner whose love story matches your own, or you can make the conscious decision to develop yourself as a different character with a new script. Especially if the original script you were playing out was a hazardous one.
According to Sternberg, we begin writing our fairytales as children and our stories are filled with our beliefs and expectations of love. So hopefully now you understand the relevance of fairytales. However, fairytales are just one influence on our own love stories. Other things that inspire and influence our love stories are our personalities, early experiences, relationships (romantic or platonic) and all forms of media.
Sternberg and his colleagues identified some common love stories that we create and enact. The most popular stories found were the travel story, (which depicts love as an exciting and challenging journey), the gardening story, (which depicts love as something that needs constant tending to), and the humor story, (which is about not taking a relationship too seriously). Check out Sternberg’s article http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200007/whats-your-love-story to take a quiz to find your love story.
If the themes derived from Sternberg’s study do not resonate with you, there are other ways to try to understand your love story. Ask yourself, “What have you seen in others’ romantic relationships, or in any of the media sources listed above that you recognize in your own relationships?” Or if you literally write down your love story (i.e. Once upon a time…), what would you write about your character, your partner’s character, the plot, and how it should conclude or how it has concluded?
After you figure out what your love story is, (which may come easier to some than others), there are a few things you may want to do to get on track for that seemingly elusive Happily Ever After. Evaluate if your partner’s story matches your own. The stories do not have to be exactly the same but they should be able to merge well. For example if your love story is more humorous and your character is more like Martin or Jena from the comedy Martin, then someone who sees themselves in a relationship like the Obamas, which is more of a partnership love story, will not merge well with your story. You should also evaluate if your love story is a healthy one. Some people seek to act out a love as a battle story. If both people in the relationship enjoy this kind of interaction and believe people are in love when they argue and make up, they may actually make their love last. However, if your love story is not healthy, you may you may turn a perfectly healthy relationship into something horrific by policing and acting suspicious of your partner instead of truly creating your desired love story. If you find that your love story is unhealthy, you can elicit the guidance of a psychologist or relationship counselor to help you re-write it. Ultimately, you want to find a person who has a story that is compatible with your love story so you have a chance at creating the Happily Ever After that is custom just for you.