I hear amazing stories at the salon when I’m waiting to get my hair done. And when people hear that I’m in the mental health field, they take it as a sign that they can unload their problems on me. Not that I mind – I love giving advice – but it’s fascinating how easily people will spill their deepest, darkest secrets to perfect strangers.
But this isn’t a tell-all…even though I know exactly who will get divorced in the next year or two, who’s having an affair, who is living in a sexless marriage, and who hates whose mother-in-law, based on the uninhibited self-disclosure of my hairdresser’s clients.
“You could make so much money as a therapist for my clients,” my hairdresser joked.
What stood out for me during my last appointment was a discussion I was having with a woman about her marriage.
“You know, I love my husband. I love him, but I don’t need him. I don’t need him to make me happy, and I think I would be just as happy even if I was alone,” she began.
I was so used to hearing women complain about their husbands that this statement took me by surprise. Most of the women who talk to me at the salon want their “better half” to be an amalgamation of Lancelot, Midas, Mr. Clean, and Vin Diesel in The Pacifier…and then gripe when he doesn’t live up to these lofty expectations. But here, we have a woman with a healthy view of love. She doesn’t place the responsibility of her happiness on his shoulders, doesn’t lose her individuality and identity by meshing herself with him, and doesn’t have an unhealthy dependence on him.
“It’s like that song from Bruno Mars,” she mused, “but the opposite.” “I don’t need my husband to take a grenade for me, or stand in front of a train. I mean, I want him to treat me well, but people expect their partner to be their everything, and then are left angry when they don’t live up to it.”
This got me thinking. A lot of romantic things we hear on TV, in movies or love songs reflect an unhealthy view of love – and can actually be a sign of unhealthy dependence, codependence, and jealousy. Here’s what I mean:
- Bruno Mars, “Grenade”
To give me all your love is all I ever asked
‘Cause what you don’t understand is…
I’d catch a grenade for you
Throw my hand on a blade for you
I’d jump in front of a train for you
You know I’d do anything for you
Oh, I would go through all this pain
Take a bullet straight through my brain
Yes, I would die for you, baby
But you won’t do the same
Aside from the fact that sacrifice in a relationship is only healthy to a certain degree, what we also see in these lyrics is a very strong attachment to someone – and an expectation that they should be everything to you. “Give me all your life is all I ever asked”…and then what? Save none for yourself? Or give me love because I don’t love myself enough? Not a good idea.
- KE&SHA, “Your love is my drug” – No need to add the lyrics here, the title says it all: An unhealthy attachment and obsession with someone.
- Lady Gaga, “Paparazzi”
I’m your biggest fan
I’ll follow you until you love me
Promise I’ll be kind
But I won’t stop until that boy is mine
Baby you’ll be famous
Chase you down until you love me
Sounds like a rather obsessed girl who cannot take “No” for an answer. And the “I’ll follow you until you love me” sounds stalker-ish.
- The Cardigans, “Lovefool”
Love me love me, say that you love me
Fool me fool me, go on and fool me
Love me love me, pretend that you love me
Leave me leave me, just say that you need me
I can’t care ’bout anything but you…
I didn’t add the lyric where she talks about how she knows that she should look for a man that deserves her, but doesn’t want to. The desperate need to be needed and to refuse to let go of a bad relationship can be a sign of codependency.
- Sting, “Every breath you take”
Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you
O can’t you see
You belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take
I had to add this one. How could I not? Not only does it top my list of unhealthy theme for a love song, it’s an anthem for stalker-type behavior. We have obsession, dependence, jealousy, and an inability to let go.
I’d like to make it clear that I like a lot of these artists, think they’re talented, and by no means disapprove of the freedom of speech. And let’s face it, relationships can get a little screwy sometimes. What we need to keep in mind, however, is that many of the beliefs and expectations we have about love are not healthy, and can contribute to the demise of a relationship; not to mention the damage they can do to our self-worth. Love should not involve endless self-sacrifice, giving up your principles and values, and placing unhealthy expectations on each other. This is what I mean:
- Bruno Mars, “Just The Way You Are” (yup, he redeems himself with this one)
When I see your face
There’s not a thing that I would change
‘Cause you’re amazing
Just the way you are
Yes, on the one hand he is talking about her looks – but the fact that he doesn’t want to change or mold her into what he wants is a good start.
- Josh Groban, “You Raise Me Up”
When I am down and, oh my soul, so weary;
When troubles come and my heart burdened be;
Then, I am still and wait here in the silence,
Until you come and sit awhile with me.
You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains;
You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas;
I am strong, when I am on your shoulders;
You raise me up to more than I can be
A good message about being supportive – not dependent. The right partner brings out the best in you, but only because the potential was already there to begin with.
- Gloria Gaynor, “I Will Survive”
I used to cry – but now I hold my head up high
And you see me, somebody new
I’m not that chained up little person still in love with you
And so you felt like dropping in and just expect me to be free
And now I’m saving all my loving for someone who’s loving me
Go on now go walk out the door
Just turn around now ’cause you’re not welcome anymore
Weren’t you the one who tried to break me with goodbye
Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?
Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh as long as I know how to love I know I will stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live, I’ve got all my love to give
And I’ll survive, I will survive
I had to end with this one. I could easily go on and on about how it encourages the development of inner strength, confidence, valuing yourself, assertiveness, and courage, but I’ll let the words speak for themselves.