Does Reality TV Influence Our Perception of Romance?

Reaching woman sitting with TV

Reality television programs are anything but real. Shows that depict romantic relationships or the pursuit thereof—such as The Bachelor and Real Housewives—reveal fantasy lives filled with high-octane intimacy, infidelity, and unrealistic ideals. These factors seem to add to the appeal for many people. But do these portrayals influence people’s expectations of their own, real-life relationships? Yes and no, according to a study conducted by Jeremy Osborn of Albion College in Michigan.

Osborn surveyed almost 400 married people to find out if their perceptions of relationship satisfaction and commitment were affected by what they viewed online, on television, and in movies. He found that those who believed in fictitious romance had a lower sense of relationship commitment. They expressed concerns about the high cost of losing their independence and having to sacrifice their own interests for those of their partner. Because they viewed the price of relationship commitment to be high, they also placed relationship satisfaction at a premium. This could explain, in part, why the reality romance supporters had the same level of relationship satisfaction as those who did not believe in reality romance.

Perhaps people who view relationships as emotionally costly expect more from their relationships than people who view their relationships as less emotionally expensive. In fact, if someone anticipates having to invest quite a bit into a partnership, he or she probably expects a large return. Therefore, those who see romantic relationships as requiring a big injection of time and effort may value the outcome of their efforts differently than people who do not approach relationships the same way. However, Osborn cautions that commitment is a key element to relationship satisfaction and that culture’s definition of relationships, as manifested in the media, does not demonstrate that. “We live in a society that perpetually immerses itself in media images from both TV and the web, but most people have no sense of the ways those images are impacting them,” Osborn said. Because marriage failures are holding steady in the United States, he believes it is imperative that couples take a good, long look at how everything, including reality TV, affects their relationships.

Gannon, Megan. Commitment harder for those who watch TV romances, study claims. (n.d.): n. pag. The Huffington Post. 19 Sept. 2012. Web. 19 Sept. 2012.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • lena

    October 4th, 2012 at 11:16 AM

    oh good Lord I sure hope we don’t go around judging our own relationships based on the crap we see on tv. “reality” tv is the worst misnomer that was ever created!

  • Macie

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:36 PM

    The first line sums it up for me.Reality TV romance is made up and is only providing people with illusions.If you try and seek that in real life its just not going to work.It will ultimately bring problems to you and your relationship.

  • Shayla

    October 4th, 2012 at 3:59 PM

    I guess I am kind of embarassed to admit this but I know that there have been times when I have let movies and TV shows influence the way I feel about my boyfriend. I want him ot measure up to what I see on the screen, and I know that I have held it against him when in my mind he doesn’t.

    Why do I do this? Why do I choose to sabotage something that is perfectly good and normal and hold it up against something that really is in no way related to reality? Producers and directors have set us up for this- I say that when I am thinking about things rationally I know that reality doesn’t have a producer or a director.

  • Heather

    October 5th, 2012 at 12:14 AM

    Whats on TVs always fake and the so called reality series have no reality in them.its all made up and would take a fool to see and aspire any of that and to actually apply it to his own relationship and life!

  • Megan r

    October 5th, 2012 at 4:00 AM

    How sad is it that this waht we klnow measure all of our relationships up against? Dating, marriage, friendship, we judge so many of these important relationships up against the things that we see on television and this is doing so many of us such a great disservice. It is hard for any of us to measure up against something scripted and faked for ratings. It makes me want to turn it all off and go off the grid so to speak, but then every time you turn around there is something else drawing you in. We are never going to get back to reality and what real life actually is until many more of us say no more, and refuse to be a prty to their promotion.

  • denny

    October 5th, 2012 at 8:49 AM

    reality television?hmm I think this does cause problems in relationships and marriages quite often,no matter how subtle it is,or whether the couple actually knows the reason to it or not.have had this happen in my marriage too.and while not all television is bad I think some shows out there do just go beyond that tipping line.

  • Hannah

    October 5th, 2012 at 2:56 PM

    They are all in good fun, and if this is what you choose to blame for your marital problems, then you have bigger fish to fry.
    This is TV people!
    It’s not like this will be the end of western civilization!

  • james

    October 6th, 2012 at 8:05 AM

    I second that emotion Hannah!

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