Finally, Some Wisdom about Love From a Popular TV Series

by | Jul 23, 2023 | Break Free From Relationship Anxiety | 22 comments

As many of you know, if you’re struggling with relationship anxiety one of my first and strongest pieces of advice is to go on a media diet.

Why? Because most of our broken and toxic messages about love, sex, and marriage come from popular culture: Disney, Hollywood, society magazines, and now, of course, social media.

Exposing yourself to these messages and images can be unnecessarily triggering when you’re trying to create a healthier template about how real love and real romance actually play out in real life. When you go on a media diet you commit to protecting your inner space by filtering what enters it. Essentially, you’re saying NO to the fantasy version of love and romance and YES to reality.

As I advise in my Break Free From Relationship Anxiety course:

Eventually, when you’ve healed enough of your false conditioning about love and relationship and rewired your mindset with truth-based thinking, you can watch and read without spiking your anxiety. Your adult-witness self will be strong enough at the helm of your psyche that you can watch movies like “The Notebook” and say, “Okay, this plays right into the mainstream belief system that says that there’s one soulmate and that if you commit to the good guy you’re settling. What a bunch of baloney.” But until you reach that point of inner solidity, the most loving action you can take is to go on a media diet.

Occasionally, however, I come across a magnificent piece of wisdom in popular culture. When I was sick a few weeks ago, I watched Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. (Yes, I tend to only watch an entire series when I’m sick :)). While I do have some issues with how sex is portrayed in the series – namely, that it’s either complete drudgery or effortlessly ecstatic with nothing in between – I was touched by some of the deeper messages about love. (See note at the end for more on this.)

This clip in particular stood out. Queen Charlotte’s son is about to get married via an arranged marriage and he approaches his mother for some last-minute encouragement. Here’s their dialogue:

Charlotte: “In an hour, you will be a husband.”

Son: “I know. But I’m afraid.”

Charlotte: “Afraid of what?”

Son: “That I will not be able to love her.”

At which point Queen Charlotte launches into one of the wisest speeches about love and marriage that I’ve ever heard on television:

“Love is not a thing one is able or not able to do based on some magic, some chemistry. That is for plays. Love is determination. Love is a choice one makes. You take someone in marriage and you choose to love them. You do not give yourself any other option because marriage is difficult. Full of pains. And the life of a royal is lonely. So you grab someone. And you hang on. You love and you love hard because if you do not, you are lost.”

Here’s the clip. (It’s worth watching.) 

You love hard because if you do not, you are lost. Yes. This is attachment theory at its best. Of course, we always need to qualify that we’re talking about healthy relationships where both people are committed to growing together and that there’s an 80% starting point, but as long as those two pieces are in place, then you hang on.

For it’s of course not only the life of a royal that’s lonely. Life for all humans can be lonely. There can be loneliness within a marriage, too, and that’s normal and okay. But long-term relationships are also one of our best chances to create safety and solidity amidst the ever-changing seas of this world.

Love, at its best, is not chemistry or magic.

It’s friendship.

It’s real romance.

It’s home.

Note: There are plenty of triggering scenes and messages about love and marriage in the series. As such, if you’re struggling with relationship anxiety, I would advise not watching it until you’re more stable. I wanted to extract this one gem, but overall the show still follows the same Hollywood/Disney fantasy tropes about love and marriage that populate most media today.

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22 Comments

  1. If you’re looking for a modern example of people overcoming relationship anxiety, I’ve found these two shows hilarious and helpful: You’re the Worst, and The Other Two.

    Reply
  2. I have watched all seasons of Bridgerton and have typically avoided them because they are the epitome of the wrong messages that are sent to us by media. The overt passionate sex is coming to mind in particular. But I do have to agree with you regarding Charlotte’s views on love- it was actually quite refreshing for a change. Their love wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies and actually took work and a choice to DO the work. “Love is a choice” is something that always comes to mind, and has been instilled by you Sheryl. So helpful and gives you an alternate way of looking at love.

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  3. I loved this post Sheryl, Thank you! A movie I feel is also really great for dismantling many myths could be “Plus One” its funny and also has great quotations about the real work of a relationship. Also, The Good Place. Funny show that turns around the notion of Soul Mates.

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  4. This linked to the 80% rule post you wrote about, and the topic of attraction. I realize I may be unlike most in this way, but I have met a few like me – who are very rarely physically attracted to someone. Like, at all. I’ve named it, “selexual” in regards to those who are demisexual or sapiosexual. For me, there has to be an emotional mutual resonance (that can happen right away, and often does) as well as me just liking their hands, their mouth, their facial expressions, their scent…the animal in me is very strong. I can’t help it. Outside of that, my body refuses.

    I see my girlfriends able to be attracted to so many men, or have sex with lots of different guys and I just can’t. My instincts, my body, my heart cannot be overridden. I can’t have casual sex in this way either – because if I’m attracted to someone, the rare times it happens, it is because there is a deep mutual connection between myself and them, and that never remains casual. And outside of that, I’m just not even remotely attracted. He could be a model, and there have been one or two – and I’m repulsed by their touch. It isn’t about just looks – though it is in part.

    I have met several men who are 90% of what I am looking for, but my body does not like being touched by them. There is not sexual attraction and to be honest – these amazing men remind me of being with my female girlfriends, and remind me of *me.* And one of me is enough, to be honest. I’ve never been physically attracted to people who are like me – I like men who are different than me.

    All this to say – I struggle with what I do perceive as your wisdom around this, but that doesn’t seem possible to me. If I’m not drawn in physically to someone (which again is always connected to, but not only because of, the emotional) I just cannot. My body recoils.

    Reply
    • I hear where you’re coming from and I’m not sure we’re saying different things. I talk about attraction being a function of connection, and when there’s a disconnect from yourself or from your partner, attraction will fade and the body might recoil. Also, if there’s any history of sexual abuse/trauma/violation, the sexual attraction conversation takes on a different light.

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      • Thanks for the response. I guess more of my question is related to sort of what I read as that sexual attraction/physical attraction isn’t that important, or can be overcome or grown if the other stuff is there. When in my personal experience it can’t be without the foundation of some physical attraction initially.

        Like in the case of the woman from the Indian match-making show who was clearly not at all attracted to that man who she said had 80% of what she was looking for. (From her body language, she was uncomfortable physically around him – especially in comparison to the man she was physically interested in.) And this man from what I recall, said women weren’t generally into him or something? (To me he seemed to have little connection himself to his sexuality or sensuality, but that could be a projection.) All to say, was she supposed to try and overcome a feeling of physical repulsion if that was what was going on? Was she supposed to try to just be friends with no physical component for some months with him to see if it could grow – while he was very much into her?

        I guess I just don’t understand how you can overcome the lack of attraction, even if 80% of it is there? Because I haven’t been able to. (And for me, there is not history of sexual trauma.) Or are you saying there has to be some level of physical attraction there – at least just some? That there need not be a lot?

        Reply
  5. Love this post and the suggestions of other shows in the comments. I will check them out. I am typically off of Instagram and other social media, however I have found a few people to follow that speak to the “truth” of relationships and sex. One is the “anxiouslovecoach” and the other is “vanessaandxander” who also wrote the book Sex Talks. Both handles are a breath of fresh air with wonderful viewpoints on relationship anxiety,

    Reply
  6. Dear Sheryl,
    I couldnt help but comment on this one, since I have been following your work and helped me tremendously with me engagement anxiety this year. I was looking to find other people that felt doubts and was “saved” by your blog personally, even though I am in psychotherapy and was working on these anxieties. The sad part is that even though I tried so hard to relax, my fiance ended up leaving me 2 weeks before the wedding. He said he couldnt handle this anxiety anymore and he was sure he wasn’t enough for me even though I always tried to reassure him. I felt devastated and really thought it was my fault fot being too needy, too anxious or too demanding of others. Now after 4 months I think my anxiety had actual validity, if it was so easy for him to leave for this reason only. He thought things should feel easier and more happy before marriage and freaked out last minute, even though I have sent him your posts ! SO in Queen Charlotte, they both made the leap of faith despite their apparent “craziness” . I guess I deserve the same!

    Reply
    • I’m sorry you’ve went through such a difficult time but I’m happy to find that you found some validity in your anxiety and have found that you deserve more!

      I forgot where I heard it, maybe from the Holistic psychologist on Instagram, but she said, very beautifully, that relationships are not easy, they take hard work, commitment, and honesty.

      And I recently read in a book called “Attached” that the problem isn’t being “too needy” the problem is our partner being unable or unwilling to support you or reassure you in the ways that you need. Also recent research findings support the fact that getting attached to someone means that our brains become wired to seek the support of our partner by their psychological and physical proximity.

      I truly hope you’ll find a partner you can give you what you need and not make you feel too needy. ❣️

      Reply
  7. “Love is determination. Love is a choice one makes. You take someone in marriage and you choose to love them. You do not give yourself any other option”

    This basically encapsulates what I believe about love and marriage, and the more I let it sink in, the more my RA abates. It is also why I think my anxiety has (mostly) gotten better the longer I’ve been married – I’ve been absorbing the idea that, in making the commitment to marry, I have not given myself any other option than to love. For me this is liberating.

    Reply
    • I’ve seen you integrate this so beautifully over the years, Joshua. It’s inspiring to read your words here.

      Reply
  8. Hi Sheryl – I was wondering if you had more blog posts specifically about loneliness within marriage but not from the marriage itself? I find that I feel sad or lonely but not for person interaction and not because my husband and I are aren’t connecting. It feels much more self driven but I don’t see this subject talked about much in mainstream.

    Reply
    • If you type loneliness into the search bar at the top of my site you’ll find all posts and podcasts on loneliness. x

      Reply
  9. Hello!

    I have a question that has been on my mind for quite a while. I found myself being triggered by some events that happened in my partner’s life before we even got to know each other. Let’s say he was young and silly then. Since the anxious feelings caused by those events come back to me from time to time, and cause physical symptoms, does it mean I’m acting against myself if I’m still in the relationship, or is it another example of RA?

    Love, M.

    Reply
  10. Hi Sheryl, have you ever encountered a client whose truth really is that they want to leave their partner, but the intrusive thoughts are “you’ll miss him too badly,” and “you really do want to be with him, you just have relationship anxiety.” I find that I feel peace when I think about breaking up with my partner, but I constantly doubt the decision for fear that I will miss him too badly and that it’s the “wrong” decision.

    I appreciate your work so much!

    Reply
    • From my own experience, the “peace” I felt from the idea of breaking up was actually relief in disguise – relief that I didn’t have to face myself and feel all of these feelings (that had been buried for years and desperately need my attention!) and I could be distracted by being involved in the chase again with another person instead of accepting this “normal” and “oatmeal” love – a proper and deep love that I had never truly experienced.
      It was never ever true peace and I feel like when I look back on my history of everything not just love, when I was in an anxiety hold, my perception was never quite right and once I passed through each storm, my view was almost always different. I could clearly see it was never worth making any choice with haste in that mindset.

      I have to add I never understood or acknowledged that I suffered with anxiety and/or depression until I was 27 (now 32) and recognise the now glaring signs looking back from even 7 years of age.

      I have found that whilst life is short so to speak, you always have time. You have the freedom to make mistakes and change your path of life at any moment. That is why you should give everything a good shot – push through your anxiety and commit to being in the relationship (as long as it is basically healthy and devoid of obvious things like abuse) and try not to get pulled down into the rabbit hole of how you believe it should make you feel by practicing the work whether that be journalling/meditation/hobbies/being in nature – whatever you believe truly fills your cup and grounds you – and you will realise the relationship anxiety you feel is so much about you and really never about your partner.
      Relationships can break down and of course that is perfectly normal but at least with the commitment to yourself and the commitment to choose your partner despite the ever-changing feelings, you will never look back after this storm and think to yourself “what if I had have committed?”

      You will find that what might feel scary/normal/boring/mundane love, eventually feels much more secure, more wholesome and deeply satisfying for your soul <3

      Reply

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