Few people who see a Houston marriage therapist are likely to cite television as the primary source of their relationship problems, but TV may have a bigger influence on some relationships than you might think.

I recently came across an interesting study by Mass Communication and Society that surveyed 392 people who had been married for an average of 19 years. The survey found that respondents who believed TV depictions of romantic relationships to be realistic were more likely to be dissatisfied with their own marriage. This suggests that TV sets some unrealistic expectations for relationships and can cause couples to forget that their own bond is unique.

Let’s take a look at some potentially harmful TV tropes so that you and your partner can learn what to take with a grain of salt.

Houston Marriage Therapist Examines Common TV Tropes about Romance

Relationship problems are resolved in a neat time frame. In many sitcoms, couples will get into some kind of conflict and then resolve it within the half hour time frame of the show—every week! In reality, most people need far more than 30 minutes to resolve issues. You will need to set aside time to talk and be patient, as there’s no neat time frame in real life. In fact, one big reason so many couples come to the Houston marriage therapist is to create that set time frame in a weekly session, but even then many issues will be explored for weeks and even months.

Intense arguments lead to a passionate resolution. We’ve all seen this on TV—a couple is having an intense screaming match only to suddenly remember how much they love each other and passionately make up. This isn’t meant to reflect reality; it’s designed to attract viewers. Yelling at your partner is never healthy, and I always recommend using respectful communication to work through disagreements.

There’s someone better out there. A number of shows have story arcs where the protagonist steals their true love away from a “bad” partner, which feeds the idea that there’s someone better that you could be with. This is certainly not a healthy relationship perspective. You’re with your partner for a reason. Remind yourself what you like about them by writing down a list of good qualities.

Men and women have certain “relationship roles” to adhere to. Too many TV shows still promote the idea that men and women have certain roles to play. For example, men are supposed to be stoic and keep their feelings bottled up while women are more likely to be emotional and nagging. Remember that there are no set roles or behaviors that you and your partner need to adopt—your relationship is your own and it is up to you to decide what form it will take. This is one of the myths that bothers me the most as a Houston marriage therapist.