If you’re anything like me, you probably get very emotionally invested in the shows you watch. If you’re a lot like me, you have, at one point or another, found that you could strongly relate to a certain character, compared that character’s experiences and the events on the show to your real life (or vice versa), and used the important lessons they learned to navigate a similar situation of your own.
I’ll admit it: I’ve totally had those “if my life was a Netflix series, people would be so entertained by it” thoughts. I’ve always tried to tell myself that it’s not that weird—after all, the storyline is supposed to resemble real life, and well-written characters do start to feel like real people after a few seasons! And I think it’s fair to say that movies and TV shows definitely shape our expectations of reality to some extent. But one common television saga that should not be accepted in real life is that of the super-complicated relationship—the one that derives all its excitement and appeal from the drama, uncertainty, and never knowing what’s going to happen next. The idea that love is a game you’ve gotta play to win.
Buuuut…as you probably know even if you aren’t an avid Netflix-watcher, relationships like that exist, here and now in the real world, and are actually pretty common. I am able to write this article from a personal perspective because I, too, spent several years of my life involved with a “man” who treated our relationship—and my feelings—like a game.
He was hot and cold. We were on and off. It was a roller coaster. I knew he had many exes, and they were all “crazy.” There were arguments, usually bad ones, and then a breakup. And then the whole infamous “I still love you” thing. “The time just isn’t right. We can stay friends. Maybe one day we’ll be able to try again.” More talking, more texting. Then Facebook told me he was seeing someone new, someone he’d referred to as “just a friend.” He never mentioned it to me, though we continued to text pretty often. I may have been acting like I was cool with it, but my friends were not. They tried to get me to realize that he was lying by omission and it was totally not okay, and I pushed away the tiny little voice in my head telling me they were right. It must’ve meant something that we were still talking…
Well, apparently, it did, because no sooner had he changed his Facebook relationship status to “single” than he started to seem very interested in me again. When we got back together he told me he’d missed me. Then he had “too much going on in his life” to be in a relationship. Then I found out—unsurprisingly, not from him—that that same ex was back in his life. He told me some bullshit story that I, for whatever reason at the time, decided to believe. Then he loved me again. Then more fighting started and I called things off. I started seeing other people, and assumed he was too. That should’ve been the end of it, but for the sake of keeping this story short, let me just say this—it wasn’t.
I wish I could say that I stayed above the drama, but I can’t. As ashamed as I am to say it, I think that on some level, the unpredictability of it was what kept me hooked. But I now ask you this: can you really blame young girls for buying into the intrigue of those drama-filled relationships? It’s not like anybody wants to be hurt, pushed around, cheated on or lied to, or enter a situation that will inevitably cause a world of heartbreak, but in modern dating culture there is this deeply ingrained idea that predictability is boring, and any relationship that seems “too easy” will be unfulfilling.
It’s ridiculous. And the media definitely does not help. Movie and TV show plots that present love as a game do not help. People’s emotions and sense of security are not toys to be played with, and there should be no place for the roller-coaster drama that fuels entertainment in our real lives. If something’s telling you that you’re falling into this trap, trust your instincts. Love is an adventure, but don’t think you have to accept lies, games and constant second-guessing as just a normal part of the ride.