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.”
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 real romance.
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.