My first memory of thinking about romantic love was when I was watching the 1991 Disney film Beauty & the Beast. Media, whether it be film, books, or music is one of the first ways children learn society’s expectations aside from their family and school, which can be both a blessing and a curse. Ever since the age of four, romantic love has been a tangled web in my mind, manifested from all the Disney films and many romantic films and television shows I consumed in my teenage years. Love was meant to be both tender but has a bitter sorrow to it. You want desperately to know your partner yet the mystery of them was the first attraction. Marriage was the happily-ever-after yet we weren’t a generation who wanted the confinement of it. Now at the age of twenty-two, I know the confusion hasn’t ended but my determination to not be consumed by the social ideals of it has.
With sexual orientation being discussed thoroughly in our day-to-day lives between friends, family, and society as a whole, the traditional relationship of the past century is very outdated but still persists through media. While an increase in romantic representation from the LGBTQ+ community needs to be displayed in media, an evaluation of the romantic relationship itself needs to be considered as well. No matter if it is a heterosexual, gay, lesbian, or queer couple, the expectations of love are definitely skewed, to say the least. Immense pressure is put on individuals in a relationship. Many articles across the internet ask ‘Are singles happy?’
Not when our society treats individuals as if they are half a soul without a significant other.
The spectrum of sexuality and romantic attraction is being taken into consideration by the younger generations, however, asexual and aromantic individuals are studied to only take up 1.7% of the population by the William Institute. Many people, including myself, do not wish to label themselves with any orientation but live under the scrutiny of society nevertheless.
A way I found to combat this for my own well-being is delving into mindfulness and spirituality, especially a technique called shadow work. It was developed by a psychologist, and many people have taken the method forward into their daily lives. It confronts your ‘shadow-self', a reflection of yourself that was built from the fears and doubts we have amassed throughout life for survival and a coping mechanism as a way of suppression. Many of our ideals of love are shaped by fears and outside influences but by catching ourselves and asking “Why would I say this to myself?” or “Who has said this to me before?” can be liberating. Your inner voice is formulated from those around you so confronting it can be cathartic and a healthy way to go forward.
If you have mental health issues please consult a professional before considering this method as it can become intense and involves self-criticism.