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How media shapes perceptions of unhealthy relationships

Media plays a pivotal role in shaping our perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors, including how we view relationships.

From movies and television shows to social media and advertisements, various forms of media contribute to the portrayal and normalization of unhealthy relationship dynamics. These depictions often distort reality and create false expectations, influencing individuals’ decisions to stay in toxic relationships.

As a hopeless romantic, you become obsessed with the illusion of a perfect relationship or marriage that they are willing to persevere the most ridiculous of things just to guard their perception of “it only gets worse before it gets better.”

One prevalent way media shapes perceptions of unhealthy relationships is through the portrayal of idealized and unrealistic romance. Romantic movies and TV series often showcase intense passion, grand gestures, and happily-ever-after endings. While these narratives can be entertaining, they frequently overlook realistic relationship challenges and complexities. Unrealistic expectations are formed, leading individuals to believe that love should always be passionate and dramatic, failing to address the importance of communication, compromise, and mutual respect.

Take a gander at Will Smith and Jada Pinkett for example. Up until Jada recently revealed that she and Will had been separated for almost 7 years, no one had a clue they had been apart. They still appeared at events together and always gave couple goals vibes. Despite their issues, social media portrayed an entire different outlook on their relationship.

Media often romanticizes possessiveness, jealousy, and controlling behavior as signs of intense love. You find that people who exhibit such traits are sometimes glorified as passionate or deeply devoted. However, these behaviors are red flags for toxic relationships. When repeatedly depicted without consequences, they become normalized, and individuals may perceive them as acceptable or even desirable in real-life relationships. It’s an unhealthy pattern to say the least, and the worst part is already a thing.

Now looking at traditional gender roles, they are frequently reinforced in media, perpetuating stereotypes that dictate how men and women should behave in relationships. Men are often portrayed as dominant, aggressive, and emotionally distant, while women are depicted as submissive, nurturing, and solely focused on their partner’s needs.

These portrayals limit the understanding of healthy relationship dynamics and hinder the acknowledgment of individuality and equality within partnerships. Consequently, individuals may feel pressured to conform to these stereotypes, leading to power imbalances and dissatisfaction in relationships.

But let’s not just blame TV shows and society. Social media platforms also heavily influence relationship perceptions. If you’re a internet buff, you probably have a rough idea of how people on social media showcase curated aspects of their lives, often presenting an idealized version of their relationships. Following this trend, of course, is a growing comparison culture where people feel pressured to measure up to unrealistic standards set by others. People may stay in unhealthy relationships to maintain a facade of happiness or because they fear social judgment if they admit their struggles publicly.

However, we have to admit that some reasons given by people to justify staying in unhealthy relationships are almost convincing. Here are some common reasons;

Fear of being alone: The portrayal of “finding the one” in media makes people fearful of being single. They might endure toxic relationships to avoid loneliness.

Low self-esteem: Some people may believe they deserve the mistreatment depicted in media due to low self-worth.

Hope for change: Media often portrays stories of redemption and change, leading some to hold on to the hope that their partner will eventually transform.

Financial dependence: Economic factors can trap individuals in unhealthy relationships, especially when financial independence seems unattainable. As many Kenyans would say at the moment, “Na hii economy ya Ruto.”

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