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  • Writer's pictureDeclan Fitzpatrick

The tyranny of romance.

Updated: May 8

Romance is big business. Not merely every February around Valentine’s Day but all year round, all the time.

We are obsessed by notions of love and romance. Just why this is I will deal with in another post but now I want to focus on romance in our media. Ideas of love and romance dominate. If you don’t believe me, take some time to listen to some pop music on the radio or scroll through Netflix and you will see what I mean. In fact, it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that 90% of popular music output would be considered ‘love songs’. And it’s been that way as long as popular music has existed.

You might think ‘well, so what? What’s the problem?’ and you’d probably be in the majority who see this stuff as just harmless fluff that forms a pleasant melodic backdrop to our lives.

My problem with this concerns the target audience. Let’s be honest, pop songs and teen movie romances are not aimed at most of us. The target audience are the 12–25-year-olds. They are continuously bombarded with ideas of transformative love, romance and life-threatening loss. Listen closely and you will hear it - ‘I can’t live without you’ ‘I’m nothing without you’ ‘You make me whole/complete me’ and on and on. I find my skin crawling when I hear such stuff and I have the same reaction I imagine I would have if I heard songs promoting drug taking or violence.

I believe these love songs with their toxic messaging, glorifying co-dependency, low self-esteem and the elevation of worthlessness into an art form, are just as harmful and maybe even more so because of their insidiousness.

Most people would agree that dependent relationships, low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness are bad. Most of us would be horrified if we knew that another person believed that their life has no purpose or meaning unless they are attached to another person. But somehow, we allow, or don’t even notice, these toxic notions to be propagated endlessly to young, vulnerable minds.

The sad reality is that it is those already vulnerable who are particularly at risk of being affected by this stuff. Teenagers and young people who feel isolated, emotionally unsupported and struggling with self-esteem issues are far more likely to seek comfort and solace in music. They are more likely to be influenced by what they hear and see particularly if it provides an escape into fantasy from their everyday difficulties.

We have to stop telling our kids that a relationship is the be-all and end-all and the highest thing to aspire to. Romantic relationships are fine and can be healthy but they should be an add-on to our lives, an addendum, not the central plank, the core of ourselves, our entire focus.

 As a parent. it’s your job to instil healthy self-esteem and self-worth in your child. This can be difficult, especially for those parents who themselves struggle with low self-esteem but with some thought and effort it can be done.

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