Is romantic competition inspiring?

20 Apr

I’ve noticed over the years in my television watching that the most common method of getting two characters together is to introduce romantic competition.  Typically Girl A and Guy B will be in some sort of platonic holding pattern – usually platonic co-workers, good friends, or good enemies – but either one of them has a secret crush on the other, or they both have secret crushes on each other, or they believe they don’t have secret crushes on each other but the audience knows they do.  No one wants to upset the comfortable apple cart, until – BAM!  Romantic competition shows up and swoops one half of the platonic couple.  This leaves the other half jealous and distraught, which leads to shenanigans that may or may not bring our destined couple closer together, but at the very least primes the audience’s pump for a juicy future romantic reconciliation.  Friends exploited this trope over and over and over, keeping the audience’s interest in Ross and Rachel alive for a decade.  Bones is doing the same for Booth and Brennan, as is Castle with Castle and Beckett (which I don’t watch but this is my understanding of what’s going on).  How I Met Your Mother appears to be going there with Barney and Robin, The Big Bang Theory is currently doing it with Penny and Leonard, and one of my favorites, Gilmore Girls, kept up the song-and-dance for years with Luke and Lorelai.

This is all fine and good for interesting television, but does this scenario ever play out in real life?  If you’re a guy and you have a female friend whom you have a bit of a secret crush on, are you going to act if some other guy steps into the picture and starts dating her?  Or are you just going to sit back and ride it out until she’s free again?  If you’re a girl and believe you don’t have a crush on your male friend, how do you deal with unexpected jealousy when he starts dating someone new?  Is romantic competition a motivator for getting out there and fighting for the person you’re attracted to, or does it make you step down and sit it out?  (Please note that these questions refer to singles only.  Married people had better fight if there is a potential interloper.)

Relating to this concept – are people off-limits if they’re “in a relationship”?  In my opinion, any person not married is free game, although in practice, people tend to treat those “in a relationship” with quasi-marital respect, and attempts to break up an unmarried but established couple are considered akin to homewrecking.

I feel silly jockeying with other girls for a guy’s attention, especially if I’m not receiving any preferential treatment, so I tend to withdraw.  But maybe other people are different?

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22 Responses to “Is romantic competition inspiring?”

  1. Toz April 20, 2011 at 9:12 am #

    No

  2. Simon Grey April 20, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    “In my opinion, any person not married is free game…”

    This is theoretically true for me, but I’ve found that I just can’t be bothered to go after someone who is dating or engaged. I have no moral qualms about going after someone who is dating or even engaged. I just don’t do it because it seems easier to Game someone who is single.

  3. Lover of Wisdom April 20, 2011 at 9:39 am #

    I think only married people are off limits. People have the right to end an engagement, and I’ve never understood the point of an engagement. What does an engagement do? It’s not permanent, nothing is set in stone. Long engagements seem pointless.

    I’ve gone after girls that were in relationships, sometimes successfully. Not a single time did the guy fight for the girl. In fact I wouldn’t if the tables were turned. It seems like a DLV to me.

  4. Julie April 20, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    I think it’s very questionable to go after someone in an exclusive relationship.

  5. Aunt Haley April 20, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Lover of Wisdom–
    I agree that long engagements are pointless. Especially for Christians trying to stay chaste – really, promise yourself to someone and then wait another year or two for sex? NO THANKS.

    Julie–
    The only truly exclusive relationship is (or ought to be) marriage. If you’re “exclusive” with someone but haven’t tied them down with marriage, or at least an engagement, then you’re still weighing your options and are open to a better deal…which doesn’t sound very exclusive.

  6. jz April 20, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    I feel silly jockeying with other girls for a guy’s attention, especially if I’m not receiving any preferential treatment, so I tend to withdraw.

    This is wise strategy for women not to jockey for a man. Even if you “win”, what do you get??
    You won a man who has made no investment nor effort for you, and it will not last.

  7. Anonymous April 20, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    I agree that long engagements are pointless. Especially for Christians trying to stay chaste – really, promise yourself to someone and then wait another year or two for sex?

    Depends on how young you are. Especially if the guy is younger than 25.

  8. Anonymous April 20, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Actually it does work this way.

  9. Dan in Philly April 20, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    I’m married, but I think I can speak as to why these tropes work so well. Almost every time a man and a woman are in a platonic relationship, both of them have at least once wondered what it would be like if the two of them were involved as a romantic couple (either a hedonistic fling or a seriour LTR). Since most people are in a relationship at one time or another, this means almost all of us have had at least daydreams of being involved with someone already in another relationship. In other words, no matter what your frame or morals, you can relate to the theme, even if in real life it almost never actually happens.

  10. AM April 20, 2011 at 12:11 pm #

    i view girls in relationships as off limits

    it’s out of respect to her but even moreso her bf

    in fact i really don’t mind at all when a girl i meet is attached, because it closes the door (for me) on a romantic relationship, and instead i can treat her as any friend

    i know i’m attractive and often it’d be easy to play homewrecker, but if i know the guy and i respect him at all, i’m usually genuinely happy for the couple, and i do my best to make myself as non sexually threatening as i can, and i enjoy that too (not just seeing girls as romantic interests)

  11. Ceer April 20, 2011 at 1:11 pm #

    I had a friend who said she was the girl in a 2-guy, 1 girl love triangle. In speaking about the movie/book series Twilight, she said she was horrified that one of her friends described it as “next to Tolkien” (they’re both huge LotR fans) because real life romantic competition isn’t.

    My own girlfriend at the time described liking Twilight. I dumped her.

  12. Strangel April 20, 2011 at 7:17 pm #

    In my experience, the Luke+Lorelai / Ross+Rachel / Booth+Bones (ugh alliteration much?) stories never come to fruition because of a well-timed and unsuspecting interloper, and they almost always end badly.

    I also agree that anyone unmarried should be fair game, but I just tried to visualize such a scenario in a church group and couldn’t imagine one without invisible scarlet letters.

  13. Julie April 20, 2011 at 9:02 pm #

    Hmmmm…I think a person can be past the “weighing your options” stage but still not be engaged yet. It’s wise to really get to know someone well, test the relationship over seasons, get the counsel of others, before getting engaged. That’s pretty serious, and I think a person in that stage is off limits.

  14. Badger April 20, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    “In my experience, the Luke+Lorelai ”

    +1 on the Gilmore Girls reference. Lorelai’s love life is one big seven-year hamster show.

  15. Aunt Haley April 20, 2011 at 11:50 pm #

    Badger–
    Lorelai’s love life is one big seven-year hamster show.

    Ain’t that the truth. I’ve been considering doing a Gilmore Girls game post, or possibly a series on the show. There’s just so much material to work with, especially with the completely nonsensical way Lorelai’s love life went in the final season.

  16. Lover of Wisdom April 21, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    I second the Gilmore Girls post. Please don’t ask why, as a guy, it was one of my favorite shows.

  17. lifeinlonglegs April 22, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    “step down and sit it out” would be my strategy – totally agree with JZ “You won a man who has made no investment nor effort for you, and it will not last.” I don’t want a gutless man with no hunter instinct who doesn’t see my value. Which is more rewarding — catching a fish that floats up on shore or one that you have to lure, catch, and reel in? Which story do you want to tell about your relationship: how I caught my wife or how she desperately declared her amour?

    Side note: With the number of TV references here, I’m concerned the real reason many of us are single is that we’re sitting at home watching too much TV. [I don’t own one] Books and work are my downfall :)

  18. Ceer April 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    “I don’t want a gutless man with no hunter instinct who doesn’t see my value. ” – lifeinlonglegs

    That sort of thing sets of my early warning system. The way it sounds to me, it seems like someone who would say that would play the “Hey, let’s you and him fight!” game. Fake drama and manipulation like this is a HUGE DLV to me.

    Most of the time, in our culture today, a man is not going to be required to fight like that to keep his woman safe.

  19. Blissex April 30, 2011 at 2:46 am #

    «never understood the point of an engagement» It is a cultural remnant: promises to marry were once upon a time legally binding contracts, and men (or women) could be and were sued for damages and got them after a breach of promise to marry. This was when sex almost always meant pregnancy, and thus women had to promise exclusivity to men (up to a few decades ago 95% of women and almost as many men were virgin on marriage). Then a publically announced and legally binding promise to marry meant that the couple could spend time together alone (it used to be a scandal for a girl to spend time alone with a man) thus allowing for any serious incompatibilities to be worked out or the engagement broken if they could not, in a way that did not scare away future suitors (too many broken engagements and the girl got a reputation). This because men required a dowry and virginity before committing to investing in a woman’s pregnancies. Sometimes it amuses me how simple consequences of biology become amplified into tribal customs that then get mistaken for divine will by some/many christians or muslisms (or others).

  20. Badger April 30, 2011 at 11:04 am #

    “up to a few decades ago 95% of women and almost as many men were virgin on marriage”

    This is manifestly not true.

  21. Jennifer August 19, 2011 at 5:54 pm #

    You do have to respect a serious relationship. But if it’s casual dating and your feelings ain’t casual, I say go for it.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Linkage is Good for You: Christ Has Risen, Glorify Him Edition - April 24, 2011

    […] Aunt Haley – “Is Romantic Competition Inspiring?” […]

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