What Does "Relationship Goals" Really Mean?
By: Leah Hovey
CONTENT WARNING: While the following image is a staged portrayal of abuse, some readers may find the violence it simulates triggering.
We have all seen the hashtag #relationshipgoals on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. We see couples online that look happy, put together, and as though they have the best relationship that could exist. We admire from our phones, wishing we could find something like what they have. Continuing on with our social media month, this week our featured photographer Sabrina Chevallier has created another piece about the distortion of reality through social media. This week we are focusing on relationships and the false image that can come with them.
This week’s photo (shown below) is of two individuals who are in love, happy, and looking perfect in their Instagram photo. However, outside of the frame we can see the couple has bruises on their hands and arms, which indicates that there is abuse occurring within their relationship. Sabrina has done a fantastic job of showing the harsh realities that can occur behind the scenes.
This depiction of “the perfect couple” is viewed everyday. It is not only the photos – it can be the videos of couples adventuring, the long descriptions of love under each photo, and the gifts given. While there is nothing wrong with showing the world how happy you are, there is a certain danger in comparing these relationship goals with your own relationship. By constantly comparing yourself to the couples around you, it can give you false expectations that may impact your relationship for the worse. By viewing a picture perfect profile of others, it may cause expectations within your relationship that could induce fights. Viewing what the perfect relationship looks like can make one think their relationship is not strong enough.
The problem with this, however, is the couples on Instagram are not showing the other side of the relationship. There is no fighting, disagreements, tears, and anger shown online. As researcher Melanie Holden explains, “We want people to think highly of us and ‘like’ our pictures, which gives us the notion that we are liked. To put it simply, the culture that millennials have embraced has become largely accustomed to the ‘like’ lifestyle” (Holden, p 103). She used this example to show us that we want the world to see the best parts of ourselves, which includes our relationships. Showing the world the normal and expected negative aspects of relationships does not fit into the “perfect” theme we all try to project.
All relationships involve conflict, though. We all go through battles with the person we love, but this only makes the relationship stronger. We need to take the vast “relationship goals” with a grain of salt. Our peers may be happy within their relationship, but only due to the hard work, disagreements, and hard issues they may have had to go through.
To see more of Sabrina’s work, keep an eye out this month for her weekly photos that will be incorporated for this series. If you’d like to learn more about Sabrina’s work (including a project she is currently completing for an anxiety/depression photo-series) check out her website!
Chevallier, S. (2019, May 29). Perfect Couple [Photograph]. Social Media Distortion, Toronto, ON.
Holden, M. (2017). “# Goals”: Examining a Subgenre of Social Media.