Recently my husband found a rare evening when we could be home alone together. Since the holidays were rapidly approaching we thought it would be delightful to find a holiday movie to “get us into the holiday spirit.” Our first thought was to search the Hallmark channel, known for Christmas movies that were actually wholesome. Although we failed to find a movie that piqued our interest, reviewing the lineup led to an evening of uproarious laughs.

We began our quest with my reading a synopsis of the movies and soliciting my husband’s approval. “A young lady must decide between the lawyer she is engaged to and the cowboy she meets on the bus.” “A young lady must choose between her fiancee and the next door neighbor.” “A young lady must choose between the doctor she is engaged to and a “charming local.”

“What’s with the fickle-young-woman movies?” my husband asked. “These are supposed to remind us that Jesus was born in Bethlehem?” In reality, there was not a single choice that would inspire us to worship the babe whose birthday celebration inspired the holiday in the first place. But it stuck me as curious that so many movies made specifically for the holidays would focus on finding romance–and not only on finding romance, but on losing the current relationship, and finding a new one.

“A florist must decide between the doctor she is with and a writer.” “A financier must decide between the bosses daughter and a dance instructor.” “A bookstore owner must decide between the ‘perfect guy’ and someone lending a helping hand.” Enough already! Different characters, different setting, but the same plot, over and over and over again. Whatever happened to loving the one you’re with?

Made in Heaven

These movies may have been made by Hallmark, but they all purport the same erroneous sentiment: that marriages are made in heaven. “There is one person who is “right” for you, they assert. “If the stars align just perfectly, you’ll find him (or her).” Furthermore, you are the luckiest person on the planet if you manage to narrowly escape committing to the “wrong” person.

The notion that marriages are made in heaven, and that there is one true love out there waiting for you, and that fate brings you together, while extremely romantic, is frankly, false. True love is not found. True love is built. No matter how perfectly matched, no matter well you get along at the outset of a relationship, successful marriages are created by hard work, not aligning stars.

In the Meridian article, “Five Steps to Falling In Love,”  I contend that there is no such thing as “falling in love” and actually explain how love happens deliberately, and it grows because we water it, nurture it, feed it and take good care of it.

My husband often says that if he knew then what he knows now, he would have been afraid to marry me. It sounds like he uncovered a criminal record or something like that. The truth isn’t nearly so fascinating. Bret claims that he thought he loved me on our wedding day. However, after 30 years of marriage his love is infinitely greater than it was then. Had he known how much love he didn’t have then he would have thought he didn’t love me enough to marry me. Is that complicated enough?

Essentially, for you guys out there who think you don’t love your girl enough to marry her, don’t believe the movies! Stop waiting for someone to come along that you love more. Rest assured, you can grow in love, and eventually find a love that is greater than any you will find by interminable waiting.

Opposites Don’t Last

Another misnomer perpetuated by the romance series is that opposites attract, and that love lies in the most unlikely places. Utterly false. After twenty years working as a Marriage and Family Therapist it has become obvious that although opposites attract, it is similarities that last. You are most likely to be compatible with those with whom you have the most in common.

In the romantic Christmas lineup we find stories about a straight-laced girl with a wild celebrity, a successful businesswoman with an old flame, a business owner with a handyman, a wealthy wall-street executive with an athlete, Catholic ending up with a Jew. While it may strike your curiosity, interest, and even passion, pairing up with someone with whom you have little or nothing in common can create a lot of extra work in your relationship.

Research shows that similarities make marriages far easier to navigate than differences. Some very important similarities are: similar spending habits, similar cleanliness habits, similar dependencies on family of origin, and most important, similar commitment to living the gospel of Jesus Christ.

A truly helpful movie would be a movie about two people raised with the same values, and similar goals, who marry because they can help one another live their values and reach their goals. In the course of their marriage they grow to respect one another, and the better they know one another, the more impressed they are with one another. They treat one another lovingly; they are grateful to be in a relationship of mutual respect and understanding. Their love blossoms, it grows, it expands to the point that they make a beautiful team. They can then give to others, and share the joy they have found in life. Now that’s romance.

But the world keeps inundating us with love-triangles, unrequited love, and elusive love. Maybe my next search for holiday entertainment should start with The Mormon Channel.


JeaNette Goates Smith is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Jacksonville, Florida and the author of four books about relationships that can all be found at