5 Things I’ve Actually Learned From Watching Rom-Coms

By Mish Back

It’s almost too easy to view romantic comedies as cheesy no-brainer chick flicks. I mean, sometimes they are! For one reason or another, we’ve found it hard to categorize these films as serious forms of art. Still, at the same time that we criticize them, we eagerly soak up rom-coms as examples of what love *should* look like. What we sometimes forget is that love is multi-faceted and different for all who experience it — and rom-coms can certainly show us a thing or two.

This month in the spirit of the patron saint of love, Valentine, here are some teaching moments from classic to modern rom-coms that’ll only elevate your love life:

motivators

Romantic comedies don’t sell false expectations. Instead, they are motivators that push us to outline what we want. In 10 Things I Hate About You, Kat never settled for anyone or anything that didn’t absolutely excite her. Practicing the art of not settling is like rediscovering a superpower you forgot you had. 

Rom-coms do a standup job of demonstrating what it’s like to go after what truly thrills you. There’s magic in getting lost in two people who crave each other so much they hate each other, even though they don’t hate each other—not even close, not even a little bit, not even at all. Watching these aha moments serves a great reminder in striving for your heart’s desire.

communication

Cue Titanic, because if any couple taught us to believe in eternal romantic love, it was Rose and Jack. Coming from contrasting worlds and upbringings, they did a damn good job of communicating their intentions and adoration for one another. Instead of trying to change each other, they subconsciously met in the middle. 

Their ability to forget stigmas and choose to compromise for the betterment of their relationships is one of the most important lessons for healthy love. Similarly to Jack and Rose, Edward and Vivian in Pretty Woman understood they had to shift their priorities and beliefs to make their love stick. Communication and compromise are key.

flow

There’s unspoken importance in going with the flow in the world of dating and romance. Like Jenny in Someone Great, several people try to hold on to broken relationships or force connections they shouldn’t. Take My Best Friend’s Wedding and 500 Days of Summer as lessons that it’s okay to fall in and out of love. Love can be real and magical—and one-sided—and still burn out just as fast as it began. 

hope

Like Annie and Sam in Sleepless in Seattle or Jonathan and Sara in Serendipity, sometimes you can feel that someone is right for you in an instant. It’s like magnetism, gravity, or a spark. Other times, it’s not so blatant, or it develops much slower like it did in When Harry Met Sally or The Ugly Truth. And although Jennifer Garner’s character in 13 Going on 30 hadn’t quite found herself, she always had a sliver of hope that everything would be just fine, and it was, and always will be.

guidance

Breakfast at Tiffany’s, P.S. I Love you, Annie Hall, You've Got Mail, Sex and the City, Crazy Rich Asians, and any other romantic film gift us lessons on love, if you let them. When solid examples of love and partnership are nonexistent for those who grew up without them, these movies can help widen and develop new perspectives. Although a bit cheesy at times, rom-coms provide whimsically, yet, appropriate guidance on affairs of the heart.

This thing we call love is multi-dimensional. What bonds two people might tear two others apart. So, it’s almost unfair to call rom-coms completely unrealistic. Versions of these cinematic love stories have been adapted by several real-life couples throughout time, deliberately and not.

These movies are algorithmic and predictable, but they’re good because of the feelings they monopolize, not because of their superb plots. There are several layers to rom-coms, and still one of the biggest takeaways is the light-heartedness they represent. 

We might not get to dance on a bar top and sing Bennie and the Jets after hydroplaning and getting stranded with James Marsden. But that doesn’t mean we should ever take ourselves too seriously.

What are some of your biggest takeaways from romantic comedies?

Mish is a writer, wellness fanatic, and relationships and sex enthusiast. You can find Mish globetrotting and getting in trouble for her sarcasm on Instagram.