Who Are Your Relationship Role Models?


With the news about Maria Shriver and Arnold Schwarzenegger separating, one might question whether any couple is destined to last. Rich, poor, powerful, famous — it doesn’t matter. No one is immune from the sting stemming from the end of a romance. So when you think of the perfect partnership, you’re quite likely looking for a sort of relationship role model.

In the new Elle magazine, Rachel McAdams declares herself to be a romantic. She says she is inspired by her parents’ marriage:

“[They are] Still together and still in love. I’m very blessed that way. I had a great example of love in front of me, and that’s probably what makes me such a romantic, because I’ve seen it firsthand.”

The love McAdams’s parents have for each other informs her own expectations in relationships:

“You grow up and you assume that everyone is like that, and you quickly realize that they’re not, and then you have those days when you wonder if you’re going to find it for yourself. It’s such a hard thing to find. I think it was more that realization that rocked me.”

Is it common to use your parents as relationship role models? When I was in 3rd or 4th grade, it seemed like all of my friends’s parents were divorced, separated, or on the verge of splitting. Discussions centered on things like what you could get away with during weekends at dad’s house; the presents you could get if you cried over the split; and the intricacies of negotiating step-parents. When my own parents would fight, I’d dish to my friends, “Oh, they’re probably going to get divorced,” partially to fit in and commiserate, and partially to test myself — how would I feel if they did break up? And the truth is, though I loved them both and they never divorced (my father died when I was in high school), I didn’t consider my parents’ marriage to be a guide or template. They fought a lot, and had a 20-year age gap between them, and I dreamed of something… different. My fantasies involved me, as a writer slash international nightclub owner, marrying an actor, photographer or singer for whom I was a muse — and vice versa. A harmonious, jet-set, creative partnership with overt declarations of devotion and red-carpet appearances. (It was a fantasy, ok?)

Quite often, when the relationships we’re familiar with are not ideal, we turn to fictional characters or celebrities. Little girls are raised on romances, from Beauty And The Beast to Lady And The Tramp and Twilight. Popular power couples — Barack and Michelle, Angelina and Brad, Will and Jada, Posh and Becks, Beyoncé and Jay-Z — can seem like they have it all. But when famous folks split — Maria and Arnold; Madonna and Guy; Tom and Nicole; Kate and Sam; Courteney and David; Scarlett and Ryan — we feel a certain sense of panic. If two beautiful rich people can’t make it work, what hope do we mere mortals have?

So where do you find your relationship role models? Mom and Dad? Other family members? Movies? TV shows? And should the people in your “perfect couple” decide to split, would it change the way you think about your own relationship?

Rachel McAdams: The Romantic [Elle]

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