Why We Appreciate Doomed Relationships

Some of you will remember my last post was on the importance of expressing your feelings for those who give meaning to our lives.  Today, I decided to write about the other side of the coin-those relationships that do not work out the way we hope.  Most of us are not lucky enough to find “the one” on the first try, or have lived happily ever after without effort on our parts.

For every great successful love story, there is “the one that got away” or the “star-crossed lovers” that we all hope to avoid in our own lives, but are more than ready to cry over when it happens to our favorite fictional characters.

Broken Heart Grunge

Photo credit: Free Grunge Textures – www.freestock.ca via Foter.com / CC BY

The concept of the “star-crossed” lovers is hardly a new notion.  Early myths detail stories of relationships that never had a chance thanks to outside forces like jealous gods (such as the Greek story of Artemis and Orion) or terrible monsters (the Norse Beowulf).  Classic literature details heroes and heroines who could not make love last (think Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and their feuding families; or Hamlet and Ophelia, separated by revenge and madness).


Photo credit: Vancouver Island University via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Our ancestors hardly have a monopoly on stories where the hero did not get the girl, either.  Modern media portrays a constant stream of relationships that face impossible odds of success.  From the agonizing love triangle of Casablanca, to Jack and Rose whose relationship failed thanks to the Titanic colliding with an iceberg, to Buffy and Angel who could not be together because Angel would lose his soul, to Thor who was separated from Jane by his godhood and a broken trans-world portal.


Tragic Lovers

Photo credit: NMCIL via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

So why are we attracted to tragedy?  All of these characters have qualities we hope to see in ourselves.  We share in their optimism, their passion, and their aspirations.  They seemingly have a chance at love, but face insurmountable obstacles that ultimately result in tragedy.  We root for them when they are happy, we cry with them when they are sad, and feel their losses when they are torn apart.  We feel a connection to them in a way we could not if they did not experience grief and strife, because that is what makes them more human.

It is these very human qualities that we can identify with; because the characters of a tragedy do not end with happily ever after, they are all the more realistic and important to us.

So pull out a box of tissues and watch your favorite sob story.  Reminisce with someone about the hardships you’ve faced in your own life, which hopefully have made you stronger and better prepared for the next challenge.  Take heart in the impossible odds others have faced, and know you are not alone.

Until next time,




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