Blame It on the Media: How Misrepresentations of Love and Romance Lead to Toxic Relationships

Joe Donan by Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Ah, music! The perfect companion during our best and worst days. The sweet escapism from the vicissitudes of everyday life. And, of course, the best possible teacher about love matters there is.

Or is it?

In the world of entertainment, especially in the music business, there’s an overabundance of lyrical content alluding to love and a person to love as the formula to make life worth living. They basically sell you the idea that you need to find love to be happy, complete, safe, and sane.

After all, All You Need Is Love, right?

The unsettling meaning behind some of your favorite songs

You know what I’m talking about; but just in case, I’ll now list a few examples of famous song lyrics to illustrate my point:

Have you ever needed someone so bad?
Have you ever wanted someone you just couldn’t have?
Did you ever try so hard that your world just fell apart?
Have you ever needed someone so bad?
And to the girl I gotta have:
I gotta have you baby
Def Leppard, Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad?

If we were to put the previous verse in layman's terms, it would probably translate to: “I’m a needy person and I'm entitled to you, whether you want me or not. You're the girl I have to have, so you have no choice.”

The song may sound romantic, but after the lyrics have been broken down, we realize it's all about a person who is obsessed with the object of their affection, to the point they're convinced they're destined to be together.

Another example:

Oh, can't you see you belong to me?
How my poor heart aches
With every step you take.
Every move you make, every smile you fake, I'll be watching you.
The Police, Every Breath You Take

It seems The Police released the ultimate guide for stalkers in the name of love. Again, how would you feel if someone dedicated this song to you? I don't know about you, but I'd be calling the actual Police Department.

Now, if the two previous examples are too old-school for you, we can also get mainstream:

The bed’s getting cold and you’re not here
The future that we hold is so unclear
But I’m not alive until you call
And I’ll bet the odds against it all
Save your advice ’cause I won’t hear
You might be right but I don’t care
There’s a million reasons why I should give you up
But the heart wants what it wants
The heart wants what it wants
Selena Gomez, The Heart Wants What It Wants

We're now facing a sad case of someone who feels completely worthless without a special person. The lyrics allude to a partner who wants to talk some sense into the obsessed person, who already knows they'd be better off alone.

The pattern shaping your concept of love and romance

I could go on with the examples, but the list is endless. If you listen carefully, you’ll notice how verses like these are all over the place in the lyrics of popular pop songs. It’s been like this for decades.

How many songs containing the verse “Love won’t make you happy” do you know? I honestly can’t think of any myself. On the other hand, you’ve undoubtedly and repeatedly heard phrases like “I need you”, “I need your love”, “I’m lost without you”, “Only you can make me happy”, “I need you by my side”, “Love is like oxygen”, “You’re my obsession”, “I will follow you wherever you go”, “You make my life worthwhile”, “You belong to me”, “I’m yours”, etc.

These verses sound nice and romantic on the surface, but they also carry a deeply unsettling meaning underneath. They basically tell you the only way to be happy and have peace of mind is to have the object of your obsession by your side.

And the problem is, we’ve all been exposed to lyrics like these, ever since we were kids. No wonder we grow up with the idea that love is the missing ingredient we need to turn our lives around.

Blame it on the media

This begs the question, of course, why? Why is the music industry bent on producing songs containing such intoxicating lyrical fallacies?

It’s simple. There's a whole industry around music, and these corporations sell you the music you’re willing to buy, not the music you need to grow as a person or be a better life partner.

Our brains crave for music to accompany the ups and downs of our daily lives. When you’re happy, you listen to upbeat hits. You go for slow, melancholic tunes when you’re sad. And when you’re heartbroken, or madly in love, you’ll almost inevitably listen to songs like the ones above.

The music industry is aware of this, and since they are in the business of selling music to you rather than educate you, they will perpetuate the commercialization of songs with lyrical content that reflects what you feel, whether they’re good for you or not.

It’s like soda. It’s bad for our health, but we keep consuming it.

And it’s not just music. You’ll find similar themes in movies, books, short stories, poems, and even fairytales if you just pay attention. These misconceptions are everywhere, spreading like a virus, and shaping an incorrect concept of love in the hearts of millions.

The best vaccine against it is knowing the immutable truth: Love won’t make you happy. A person cannot give meaning to your life. You have to find happiness and meaning before you find love.

Bottom line

You don’t have the right to burden your partner with the responsibility of your happiness. The sooner you realize that, the better. That’s when you’ll stop feeling incomplete. You will discover that you don’t need anyone else to be happy. And when you finally do, the right person will walk into your life when you least expect them. I can tell you that much.

In the end, no matter what songs, books, soap operas, or romantic movies tell you, a partner is meant to enrich your existence, not define it. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise, not even John Lennon!

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Salvadoran writer, father, husband, educator, and artisan. I write about love and relationships, family, life lessons, and personal growth.


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