There’s this show on Netflix called Heartland. I love it. I’m hooked. Each time a new season is uploaded, my husband knows I’m going to be glued to my laptop for the next few days. The question that begs my attention, however, is this: why do I like Heartland so much?
Well, the truth is, because it’s such a nice picture of what I would like my life to be. A huge barn full of horses (it would be a little inconvenient because I wouldn’t know what to do with them). A beautiful house, a large dining table, where the whole family gathers around for dinner. A life full of romance, fighting and yet making up, beautiful sunsets, trail rides, ponies, and even homemade jam.
I just finished watching season eight today. One of the characters in the show, Lou, is separating from her husband, Peter. Why? Well, because even though they love each other, and have two kids, they fight A LOT. As they would say, they are trapped in a vicious cycle they are unable to get out of. They have differences they are unable to solve, and so they are calling it quits.
Yes, this is just a story someone made up, and it’s a really intriguing one, but here’s the worrying bit. I have found myself being increasingly unkind to my husband these past few days that I’ve been on Netflix binge mode. Why does he have to be so busy with work? Why is the romance in low supply? Why am I the one with barely any time to myself? And where on earth are the sunsets? Romance, romance, wherefore art thou romance?
Truth is, none of these are new things. My husband’s work does take up a lot of his time. He tries to be romantic; but it's not something that comes naturally. When my birthday rolled around after we got married, he didn’t get me a gift! Can you believe it? I couldn’t either. And when he realised I expected a gift, he went and bought me two perfumes, three or four hand bags, and probably some other things I can’t remember! So yes, he tries. (We gifted those perfumes to others later).
But as I watched this show, the reality of my life was irritating me. Here I was being vividly shown that some people do have a lot of romance in their relationships; for others, fighting too much is legitimate cause for separation; one’s expectations must be met; and stinky farts, burping, dirty socks, and these other irritating things don’t exist.
Come to think of it, love is rarely portrayed as commitment in media. A commitment to stick it out through good, bad and so-so times. Instead, love is this illogical, intoxicating high, when you walk towards your groom, while dressed in the most beautiful dress ever, with all eyes on you. Let's be honest: that is not love. That is your brain high on chemicals and cameras.
In reality, marriage, as I sit here reminding myself, is an opportunity to demonstrate love every day. Love that my husband shows when he eats my experimental food, says it's good, and then we both laugh because we know we wouldn't have eaten it if it wasn't for the mango pickle. Love is when I stay quiet instead of starting a fight because it’s really not worth it. Love is working through the cycle of fights in which one is trapped instead of throwing in the towel. Love does not equal romance. Love is generally not what you see on Netflix or elsewhere. Marriage is a covenant before God. A promise to God that I will choose to love my husband even when he seems unlovable, and that he will do the same for me. The Netflix effect had me slipping down a dangerous path of self-pity and comparison.
What we watch, read, and listen to will influence how we act in our own marriages. We would be fools to say that what we watch doesn’t impact us. Let's be critical consumers. And sometimes, we may need to just switch off for a while. After all, it makes no sense to let my very real and loving marriage be hurt by the fake romances of Netflix.
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So funny how there is a "Netflix effect" in my marriage, not from watching Netflix, but just from my ridiculously high expectations. I loved this line - "In reality, marriage, as I sit here reminding myself, is an opportunity to demonstrate love every day." I often expect my husband to demonstrate love to me when I am my most unlovable while I sit in the corner sulking. This made me see how much I need to grow in demonstrating love to my husband! Thanks Freda, so well written and heartfelt.