Recently a reality TV pair made their affection known for one another. He sweetly proclaimed his love and “blessed be” feelings for her via Twitter, Instagram and any other social media outlet that would hear it. I, being a fan of this particular person and the show—the only “reality” based show that I follow closely, smiled at the idea of love: beautiful beginnings, happy endings, fairy tales, you name it, I had the girly girl moment that isn’t standard of my cautious and love pragmatic self. After his declaration of love, the Twitterverse chimed in with reminders of his past (he was separated not divorced), warnings that he couldn’t be trusted, and the now common references to “questionable” sexuality; meanwhile the pairing were smart enough to focus on each other and ignore the natural naysaying that comes with public relationships.

I wish that I could say that doubt where love is concerned is unusual, but that would be far from true. Whether directed toward couples that live their lives under the media microscope like Gabrielle Union and Dwayne Wade or the average couple following a Facebook change in relationship status, everyone has become subject to sideline relationship experts.

Have we become so disenchanted with the idea of true love that we now believe it is an illusion rather than a potential reality? In a 2000 Gallup poll, almost 75% of Americans said that they believe in one true love (http://bit.ly/1DlJzBS) , interestingly enough, in 2013 those numbers may not have changed much since 73 percent said that they were “making do” with their relationships because “their true love got away” (http://bit.ly/1qhvyea).

Leave it to the social media pundits and true love is merely an illusion while “the one” isn’t who you think he is because he doesn’t exist. You don’t have to dig deep to see that many people view relationship perfection and love as fairy dust—a myth—while there is another obvious irony: Relationship coaches (“experts”) that pitch their services as a method to move you toward a happy relationship with the one, are making big bucks! There is no shortage of Twitter accounts with “Ask Me” days of the week that focus purely on the relationships that so many people are trying to make happen. Many of them are the same people that don’t believe. Between book sales, tours and seminars, and private sessions, coaches cater to a 54% female majority of clients—capitalizing greatly, I suspect, off of the previously mentioned 73% of people that feel they are “making do” in their relationships.

These observations and polls led me to wonder if the real question isn’t about disenchantment and disbelief in love, but rather, perception. Is it possible that it’s what we THINK love should be like that’s tainting our ability to experience it AND that our previous experiences continue to hinder us? I up with several ways that our thoughts on love have become a little skewed:

“Reality” Television: While reality t.v. offers a “warts and all” glimpse into the lives of it’s subjects, it is just that, a GLIMPSE. We see snippets of the relationships and interactions between men and women that make us think things are worse but often better than they really are, offering the average viewer a moment to compare and contrast, sometimes to our detriment. This could be said for all celebrity based viewing.

Social Media: As some people are watching the false reality portrayed on television many of us are also living vicariously through the lives of others on Facebook and Instagram. It’s been repeated that social media offers a highlight reel on the lives of others and I think this is worth keeping in perspective. One picture or status update doesn’t make relay the details of a relationship. The next time that your girlfriend uploads a picture of the beautiful flowers that her boyfriend sent, don’t spend time wishing that your man would do the same or justify it by thinking that he “must have done something”. Like the photo, keep it moving and get YOUR life.

Privacy: Older women didn’t sit around trading tales about their marriages, this could sometimes be to their detriment based on social issues of the time, however, the genteel sense of keeping private matters private offered some benefit. In this happy hour generation we spend more time getting comfortable about the intimate details of our private—and sexual—lives than ever before, this wouldn’t be so bad if we were all keeping it real. Truthful exchanges about sex, dating and marriages would allow us to see that “perfect” is what we make it. More importantly, dialogue with our partners rather than our friends may give us the ability to make things better, rather than “make do”.

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Disney Life: A lot has been said in the feminist community about the continuous promotion of the prince coming to save the day, I don’t deny it. I do realize, however, that the same misconceptions about relationships are pushed on men. The damsel in distress concept will make a capable, self-aware woman seem “bitchy” by comparison and cause some men to judge those traits harshly. All relationships should be built on mutual NEEDS and WANTS while also recognizing that within those relationships we additionally have a desire to be NEEDED and WANTED. If the man wants to be the provider, caretaker, and hero while the woman is demonstrating her ability to be self-sustaining, there may be a problem. Additionally, if a woman is looking for a mate that comes to the rescue, is prince charming 100% of the time, and has a sparkle in his grin (okay, that’s a bit far, but you get it), she is likely to be disappointed because no one is crafted as perfectly as a Disney character.

Sex Tapes Education: The sexual revolution has seen its fair share of evolution from decade to decade. Perhaps the most detrimental aspect of change is the ready acceptance of porn as part of the new normal. The damage that porn has done to average (“normal”) sexual relationships is probably as significant as the Disney impact previously referenced. Some men may use their favorite porn star as a point of reference for the perfect body or their perception of the perfect recipe for a sexual encounter, creating some hesitation or fear of judgment in the bedroom by their female counterpart. I recently heard a man reference the posterior of a porn star as “the perfect booty” and her skill in other areas as the “Mount Everest of …”; he said all of this without acknowledging that this particular woman has the benefit of doing several takes to “get it right” and a makeup artist that is airbrushing stretch marks, while a director is choreographing the perfect camera angle to create booty perfection. Even the most confident woman would take a second look in the mirror after hearing her husband make those comparisons!

Before and After: Everyone has a marker. The best sandwich you ever had becomes the yardstick for every sandwich after, relationships can be no different. The ex-boyfriend that sent you flowers, just because, can cause you to overlook the great things that your current partner is doing while forgetting the reasons that your “ex” is in that status. Love languages change from person to person, using a before and after comparison will cause you to mistranslate the language that your current beau is communicating in.

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So, what’s happened to us? Our perceptions and expectations have been tainted by too much information and not enough personal focus. Love is still there—judge me for being a hopeless romantic—but I believe it’s still available in its truest form; you just have to be brave enough to determine what that means for YOU, without the need to defend that definition to the naysaying twittersphere.

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