Girl Talk: How Watching TV Affects My Relationship

I know “Lost” fans are still reeling from the series finale, but I have some TV show attachment issues of my own, and they have nothing to do with smoke monsters. While I don’t become obsessed with shows to the point where they dictate my schedule, I do find myself becoming inexplicably emotionally attached to TV couples. To the point where it can affect my real-life relationship. This is bigger than just cheering on Jim and Pam or Dawson and Joey—I was always a Pacey fan anyways. I see TV relationships as a reflection of my own—to the point that when a TV couple is in a fight or (gasp!) breaks up, I find myself worrying that the same fictional fate awaits my boyfriend, Wil, and me.

Can you imagine if everything remained perfect in all the relationships on television? It would be pretty boring and pointless—”Friends” would just be a bunch of people sitting in a coffee shop talking about how bad Phoebe’s music is. But I still can’t shake the feeling that TV couples are crystal balls into the future of my relationship.

TV offers so many personalities; it’s easy to latch on to one that seems familiar. For me, the characters I connect with are usually adorable couples in long-term relationships that no one thinks will end. I see these pairs as a reflection of my relationship. My boyfriend and I have been together throughout college. I don’t know how adorable we are, but we are pretty inseparable. I frequently have friends tell me that they could never picture us breaking up. Don’t get me wrong—this is great—and probably the big reason that I relate to the power couples of prime-time television. But these relationships always have problems—usually big, season finale-worthy problems. Someone cheats, decides they’re not in love anymore, or needs to “see what’s out there.” This leaves most viewers concerned and eager for a resolution. These surprises leave me incredibly anxious about the so-called strength of my own relationship.

Example? Wil and I recently started watching “How I Met Your Mother.” And yes, I know I am a little late to the party, but I instantly felt my “connection” to cutesy couple Lily and Marshall. They have nauseating nicknames, met in college, and have strong opinions about olives. Therefore, I decided they were a made-for-TV version of my relationship, even though I could give you a huge list of differences. Throughout the show I took a secret joy in the similarities I could find between this couple and the one I am a part of. And then the bomb dropped. Lily decides that she need to “find herself” at the end of the first season and leaves Marshall behind to sob out the summer and contemplate if she is ever going to come back. I was devastated. To me the potential demise of this couple meant my own relationship was weaker than I thought. I started thinking about the possibility of this happening to me, that my boyfriend might get bored or confused and decide to take off. The worst part is I eventually convinced myself it was more likely because it happened to these fictional characters.

Luckily, Wil realized what was going through my head and we talked out my concerns. But I also know this conversation shouldn’t have been necessary in the first place. These are characters and storylines created to entertain an audience and get ratings. Can you imagine if everything remained perfect in all the relationships on television? It would be pretty boring and pointless—”Friends” would just be a bunch of people sitting in a coffee shop talking about how bad Phoebe’s music is. But I still can’t shake the feeling that TV couples are crystal balls into the future of my own relationship. Like many people, I like seeing the similarities my life has to shows, but I can’t always put the wall up that prevents them from affecting me.

Now I try to stop myself ahead of time from trying to relate too much to characters and spend more time working on my own relationship than worrying about fictional ones. The biggest determining factor in my relationship is me—not Lily or Marshall.

Photo: iStockphoto

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