The Disney Effect: How much has it shaped our view on relationships?

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Courtesy of collegemagazine.com

Anyone who truly knows me knows that I love a good Disney movie. The classics to be exact. Anything from Lion King, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast and so on bring me utter joy. People my age grew up watching these amazing stories that we still know and love today. As great as the lessons are in these classics, I wonder if there is a negative side effect that emerged from them. Has growing up watching happily ever after happen over and over again prompted this generation to believe that relationships and marriage happen the same way? That people magically meet, fall in love and get married and nothing goes wrong with minimal effort involved.

Some have called this the Disney Effect. I believe Disney created a culture of love sick people who believe love is supposed to happen in a certain way. For instance, the Disney Effect impacts how we view our love story. What’s funny to me is that most Disney movies have some type of hardship that is faced in order for the couple to get together. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Sleeping Beauty, Pocahontas all had some difficulty in getting together. Yet when our story doesn’t match what we think is a Disney story, we are disappointed. We don’t want to tell people how we met because it’s not a storybook romance. Truth of the matter is it doesn’t happen for most people. On average most of us will have some type of hiccup that occurred. Maybe you broke up once for a few years and reconnected. Maybe when you all first met one of you wasn’t even attracted to the other one. Maybe when you first crossed paths the timing was off and it took a while to get together. Whatever your situation, it is OK to embrace it. Don’t let a rare situation have you thinking that is the standard for how love happens.

Another symptom of the Disney Effect is thinking relationships are as simple as love at first sight. Oh if it were as simple as a pang in the heart on the first encounter and everything else falling into place. Truth is relationships aren’t that simple. People come from different walks of life and it can and most times will interfere with how your relationship will play out. The likelihood that you will meet someone, fall in love in a few weeks, get married a little after that and not have any issues the rest of your life is slim to none. It sounds great but it is not what typically happens. Has it happened to some? Yes. Will it happen for everyone? No. We have to accept the fact that relationships take a lot more work than that. We also have to stop fearing the work that goes into them.

Then there is the happily ever after that myself and too many others have fallen for. I’ll be the first to admit that the Disney Effect had indeed got to me. For years I believed love was as simple as falling in love at first sight which would lead to a fairytale ending. I thought that a man would come and sweep me off my feet and we would live, dare I say it again, happily ever after. I thought that as long as you got down the isle everything else was storybook romance. I unfortunately really believed that once two people got married, they would live in marital bliss. I remember when I learned that I had fallen for the tricks of Hollywood and cinema. It wasn’t until I went through a marriage class at my mom’s old church (yes single and all) that I realized how distorted my thinking really was. Those couples politely woke me up from the dream I had been living in. “Every day you have to wake up and decide you’re going to make it work,” they told me. I was shocked!!! Here it was I thought that my marriage would be just as sweet as every other Disney Princess once the credits rolled and the movie was over. I hadn’t realized that no credits would roll after my nuptials. I had to learn that a happy and healthy marriage is created by two people who decide to make it work every day, not a phase of relationship you graduate to.

Maybe I’m the only one who bought the dream Disney was selling. Maybe I’m the only one who thought that fairytale love stories were the norm. If so I can live with that. If not I hope I’ve helped you to see that a fairytale love story is whatever you create it to be. Truth be told no matter how beautiful your story is, it means nothing if you don’t have a marriage that matches. The best love story is created through hard work and the day to day decision to love in spite of flaws, disputes and everyday trials. Some of the greatest love stories have some painful parts, but the ending is one not even Disney himself could create. So stop looking for and expecting something that doesn’t exist, and begin writing your love story today.

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