Once you identify which scripts your relationship follows, you can begin to recognize the role you play. Let’s say you mostly follow the garden story, but you pick up the business script—organizing, budgeting and planning every last detail—every time you go on vacation. Your partner may feel overwhelmed by the urgency of your approach in this area.
One fascinating tenet of Sternberg’s theory is that some people may never find a mate who shares a given script. The best they can hope for is to meet someone with a more compatible script.
Not all shared scripts are matches made in heaven. Consider these “asymmetrical” relationships.
The Teacher-Student Story
Like Rita in the movie, the student is likely to assert herself after a time and ruffle the feathers of her teacher. If the student doesn’t progress, there can be other problems; the teacher grows tired of handholding. Either way, eventually resentments arise.
The Sacrifice Story
Some people are just happiest giving and serving and slaving on another’s behalf. Resentments may develop on the part of the giver, just as contempt may grow on the part of the receiver.
The Police Story
The themes are suspicion, surveillance and punishment. It is a mistake to assume that the man always plays the bad cop, says Sternberg. The biggest problem with this love story is that it frequently degenerates into a far worse script, like the horror story.
The Horror Story
A short distance stands between surveillance and stalking, scolding and battery.
O.J. Simpson may not have been found guilty, but the prosecution presented a case detailing his alleged progression from bad cop to terrorizer.
Unfortunately, many people don’t learn from the sad movies they’ve starred in, says Sternberg. They go right on to another relationship with the same typecasting, pairing up again with someone who works in their unhappy script.
The theory of Love Stories helps us understand our emotions and our values. By better understanding who we are and why we act in predictable ways, we have a fighting chance to combat the notion that history must repeat itself.
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