Are You Harboring Negative Scripts about Love?

The basics of love are honestly so simple. Unfortunately, the main reason modern women struggle in their relationships is that they harbor erroneous beliefs about love. They’re moving through the world with scripts they learned from their parents and from the culture. And these scripts predict whether or not you’ll be successful in love.

All the information in the world about how to have a healthy relationship is useful, but it isn’t enough if your underlying belief system is skewed. Your success in love is largely psychological, or tied to the way you think and believe.

One obvious message women have learned about love is to avoid it. As products of divorce, they don’t trust marriage. And as products of a feminism, they don’t trust men.

Women began developing these scripts as a child. Take, for example, Jennifer, who called in to the Dennis Prager program on his “Male/Female Hour” and said the following:

I was programmed to get into the workforce, compete with men, and make money. Supposedly, that would be a fulfilling life. But I was told that by a feminist mother who was divorced, who hated her husband—my father.

Many women today received a similar message growing up. It may not have been as direct or as extreme; but regardless, they absorbed the narrative as a child that marriage, or love, is unsustainable.

From these childhood wounds, many women swing the pendulum too far in the other direction and give up on love altogether. They may continue to date or even to marry, but their underlying belief system when it comes to men and marriage has been damaged. They’re walking through the world hiding behind a shield. They can’t let their guard down.

As children, we all develop a script in our minds based on what we learned from our parents. But as children, our brains aren’t fully developed, and we therefore don’t realize that what we’re seeing isn’t conclusive. What we take away from our childhood observations isn’t necessarily true or even accurate.

But wait, don’t men have the same wounds? Yes, but men aren’t the ones who get walloped with the narrative that marriage should be postponed or avoided altogether. This recent article at Yahoo, entitled “7 Reasons Not to Get Married, According to Science,” is a great example.

When asked about the secrets to living a long life, some of the oldest women in world agreed—stay away from men. Back in 2015, at the age of 109, Jessie Gallan, a Scottish woman, offered her advice to longevity: “Eat your porridge and avoid men. They’re just more trouble than they’re worth.” And Gladys Gough, a British woman who lived to be 104, said, “I never got married or had a boyfriend either. That probably had something to do with it. I just couldn’t be bothered with men.”

These messages matter because humans are tribal by nature. Being part of a group, or following trends, is critical to people’s happiness. As humans, we’re hardwired to conform. Whatever the culture deems is the “thing to do” most people will do, even if that “thing” belies common sense or is flat out false.

And the message that marriage leads to misery is false. Problem is, we don’t hear nearly enough from happily married couples about how and why their marriages work.

So how can a person get rid of the script they’re living with in order to be successful in love? This is going to sound simple, but by being aware of the fact that you’re living with this script and that it’s holding you back. 

Here’s a great example. In a 2010 interview with Barbara Walters, the actress Sandra Bullock said, “I always had this feeling that if you got married, it was like the end of who you were.” And in the January 2019 issue of Elle, the twice-divorced Jennifer Aniston insists she doesn’t need marriage and kids to be happy. “I’m sure, because I was from a divorced-parent home, that was another reason I wasn’t like, ‘Well, that looks like a great institution.’

Adding fuel to the fire is that the culture reinforces this belief with statements like this:

“There’s a fear of divorce or a specter of divorce looming large in people’s minds,” Wendy D. Manning, co-director of Bowling Green’s Center for Family and Marriage Research, told The Wall Street Journal. “They don’t want to make a mistake. They’re waiting longer to get married to divorce-proof their marriage.”

This is a great example of a flawed cultural narrative. Waiting longer to get married does not divorce-proof your marriage. The way you think about and approach marriage is what keeps divorce at bay.

To find lasting love, you have to change the way you think. There’s no way to sustain a marriage if your attitude toward the institution itself is negative or if it carries with it a suitcase of painful childhood memories.

Once you’re aware you’re doing this, the possibilities are endless.

Suzanne Venker

Suzanne is an author, a coach, and a podcast host committed to helping women let go of cultural beliefs that undermine their happiness in life and in love.