Why love isn’t as picture-perfect as we see on social media

by Cheong Wen Xuan  /   May 5, 2020

Her World writer Cheong Wen Xuan on why love isn’t a picture-perfect postcard, requiring grit rather than idealism

I was excited at the prospect of meeting a close friend’s new boyfriend when she invited me for dinner. She had been going on about him for weeks after meeting him on Tinder. I heard all about his career and wicked sense of humour. 

Lucky girl, I thought. But he was nothing like she had described. He was shorter than she was and as tall as Elijah Wood (known for his role as hobbit Frodo Baggins in The Lord of The Rings). He also left his humour and manners at home. 

Yet my girlfriend was clearly smitten – and blind. It took me a will of steel not to snigger while she fawned over Prince Charming who, in the eyes of the rest at the table, was clearly a caecilian. One who brushed off her public display of affection with a scoff and dismissive wave of his hand. 

Somehow, the first flush of love had kitted out her eyes with rose-tinted glasses. She later confessed that she was infatuated with the idea of being in love – and coupled with a man whom she felt was her equal. 

As digital natives, some of us have foolishly become cattle of misguided romantics who turn to social media for inspiration and affirmation. “Aww, aren’t they just perfect?” my girlfriend admired an Instagram post of a couple-friend on a dreamy vacation. “OMG, she’s going out with so-and-so… her life is sorted!”, she continued in the text message. “I want that too…:(”

Compare that to my mum’s generation (she’s 52 and a Gen X-er). Her attitude towards love was a lot simpler back then, when a partner meant someone whom she could connect with emotionally, and was deeply in love with. 

Millennials often romanticise what we see, perpetuating a fantasy of a “perfect” relationship when we think we’ve found The One – without so much as going beyond the surface as the relationship deepens. We’re picky, but sometimes for the wrong reasons.

I should know: I was an offender. I still squirm at the thought of dating someone whom I thought was The Perfect One. He took me clubbing and I accidentally spilled my cocktail on his $200 designer tee. He refused to speak to me for the rest of the night, and rather than being appalled by the ungentlemanly behaviour, I stupidly decided it was my fault (After that, my friends swore that I’d never marry anybody without their written consent).

The attempt to destroy such delusions can be fortuitous. Some use misaligned horoscopes to justify break-ups. “He was a Scorpio… it was never going to work,” a friend lamented. Then, it’s straight back to Tinder to swipe her way to the next romance, which would end as quickly as it began – like a meaningless cycle.

It’s not that we don’t believe in love, we do, perhaps a little too fast and too much in other people’s fairy tales that we ignore the blood, sweat and tears that come with a deeper relationship – the disagreements, compromises, the less-than-perfect. 

When we always have a barrage of love interests at our fingertips, we take things for granted in a real emotional partnership. I went through potholes and valleys to make mine work. That happened when I finally unplugged, stopped comparing and having unrealistic  standards in a less-than-perfect world.

This story was first published on Her World’s April 2020 issue.