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Love Lessons From Sappy MoviesSpend a weekend watching romantic flicks together and you’ll find that there is much to learn about love. You may weep a little, but that's half the fun. Just don’t forget the Kleenex and the popcorn. Here are six films to check out—or watch again.

Still from Love Actually.

1. Love Actually (2003)
Starring Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Alan Rickman and Keira Knightley

The plot: The nine love stories here illustrate that the most powerful human emotion isn’t the same for everyone, actually. The film includes a cuckolded man (Colin Firth) who falls for his Portuguese housekeeper; a guy who is in love with his best friend’s wife (Keira Knightley); a husband (Alan Rickman) who is on the path to having an affair with his secretary; a British prime minister (Hugh Grant) who, to his dismay, finds himself attracted to one of his catering staff; and a man (Liam Neeson) whose wife has died who works through his grief through her young son’s love for a girl at school; among others.

The message: Love doesn’t fit a format, so relax and enjoy your own unique version. We sometimes expect too much of love, comparing our own feelings and behaviours to those of other couples we know. “All too often, people have an unrealistic notion of what they think being in love should be,” says Dr. Pam Spurr, a psychologist, sex expert and author of Naughty Tricks & Sexy Tips: A Couple’s Guide to Uninhibited Erotic Pleasure (Amorata Press, 2007). “People will even question their own version of love because it doesn’t fit the standard format. But there are no rules: If you don’t speak a word of the language your lover speaks, it doesn’t mean that you can’t fall in love. If you’re 47 years old, you can still get the same stomach butterflies that a 22-year-old will experience for his sweetheart. And if you find yourself wanting to be with someone you shouldn’t, it doesn’t mean that what you’re feeling isn’t genuine; it’s just not possible to act on your feelings.”

Still from 50 First Dates.

2. 50 First Dates (2004)
Starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler

The plot: Guy meets girl. They like each other a lot. But girl has short-term memory loss, so each night she forgets everything that happened the day before. Guy has to make her fall in love with him anew every day.

The message: True love means remembering to keep things new and fresh. It’s all too easy to slip into a routine, but don’t forget to shake it up a little every now and then to ensure that you both know how special you are. “Surprise is one of the best ways to show someone you care,” says Dr. Ian Kerner, a clinical sexologist and author of He Comes Next: The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man (HarperCollins Canada, 2006) and She Comes first: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman (HarperCollins Canada, 2008). “If you love your partner enough to make him a fantastic breakfast in bed each morning, that’s great. But keep doing that day in and day out for years and, eventually, even the most enlightened of individuals will take it for granted. That’s why it’s important to surprise your significant other with something extra special once in a while—whether it’s surprising them with an unexpected gift at midnight, hiring a cleaner so that you can spend some time together on the weekend or even sharing a passionate kiss during breakfast. The small but surprising things you do for each other are what keep your love alive.”

Still from A Walk to Remember.

3. A Walk to Remember (2002)
Starring Mandy Moore and Shane West

The plot: Bad boy at school is forced to spend time with good Christian girl and eventually falls for her. She reveals that she is terminally ill, but the experience of loving her and being loved changes him irrevocably.

The message: Genuine love is supportive and brings confidence, even when you’re apart. Being loved can make you feel as though you’ve been given extra power, energy and zest for life. When Landon (Shane West) falls for Jamie (Mandy Moore), he discovers ambitions and skills that he hadn’t explored before. Her faith and trust in him and her appreciation of who he is and what he can be lead to him becoming a better, more complete person. “Sometimes being loved is all a person needs to fulfill the potential they had all along,” says Kerner. “That’s why being supportive is so important to a successful relationship. Allowing each other to explore different ideas and paths while encouraging and giving confidence throughout your relationship will help you succeed in life. And giving each other space to grow while you’re in the relationship—even if it means being apart—will ensure that you remain a couple for decades to come.” The tag line of A Walk to Remember sums it up neatly: “Love is like the wind: You cannot see it, but you can always feel it.”

Still from Sleepless in Seattle.

4. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
Starring Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks

The plot: A widower’s son gets in touch with a radio station to find his father, Sam (Tom Hanks), a new love. A journalist, Annie (Meg Ryan), hears this and, despite being engaged and living on the other side of the country, feels drawn to the man and his son and attempts to meet him. After several false starts and coincidences, they finally meet and fall in love.

The message: Go with what your heart is telling you, even if it may seem a little (or a lot!) crazy. Falling in love with someone you’ve heard on a radio show may sound far-fetched, but think about it: Today thousands fall in love with people they meet online—sometimes without ever having met face to face. Sleepless in Seattle tells us to grasp opportunities, however remote they may seem. “People who act on coincidences or gut feelings are far more likely to meet someone and fall in love than those who insist on playing it safe and always sticking with what they know or feel sure of,” says Spurr. “Why? Because, quite often, we’re not entirely sure of what we want in a partner. You may rule out people who don’t live in your locality or who have children from a previous relationship, but it’s this kind of thinking that prevents you from meeting someone you can truly be happy with.”

Still from The Notebook.

5. The Notebook (2004)
Starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams

The plot: Young couple fall in love, but her parents disapprove. Girl moves away and finds a new love, never quite forgetting her first. The sweethearts meet up again, and their passion is reignited. Girl has to choose between her two loves.

The message: Love means being true to who you really are. When Allie (Rachel McAdams) realizes that she has stopped painting—something she loved doing—she becomes aware that she is a different person with her fiancé, Lon (James Marsden), and that she needs to see her first sweetheart, Noah (Ryan Gosling), again before she can get married. Even though her parents disapprove of Noah, and he can’t offer her the life that Lon can, Allie can truly be herself with him, and that’s why he’s the right choice. “People often adapt their behaviour or lifestyle to fit in with their partner’s, but if you find yourself unable to do things you’ve thoroughly enjoyed in the past, you need to ask yourselves why that’s happening because it can create problems in the long run,” says Everett L. Worthington Jr., a psychology professor and founder of forgiving.org. “Being able to share the pleasure you gain from a hobby, an activity or a way of life is important to building a strong relationship. It doesn’t mean you need to have identical interests, but if something is very important to you and you feel you can’t explore or enjoy it with your partner, it’s something you need to address.”

Still from Love Story.

6. Love Story (1970)
Starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal

The plot: When Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) falls in love with Jennifer (Ali MacGraw), his rich father disinherits him, but they battle on and become a couple. Their love is put to an even bigger test when Jennifer finds out she can’t have kids. She has many medical tests, and Oliver learns that she has a terminal illness.

The message: Love is much more than words. In one scene, Oliver frantically searches for Jennifer and, when he finds her, tries to apologize for his recent behaviour, but she tells him, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” This doesn’t mean literally “Never say you’re sorry”; it means that when you feel loved, there is no need to say sorry. “When you really care about someone, you show them how you feel with your actions and behaviour,” says Spurr. “If your partner feels loved and, therefore, realizes that whatever you’ve done wasn’t meant to hurt or disappoint them, the word sorry becomes less important—almost less meaningful.” The best way to show your partner you love them is by doing small things, advises Spurr. “Making breakfast, buying their favourite dessert or renting a DVD they’ve always wanted to see—these small acts show that you care on a day-to-day basis and have your partner in your heart and mind at all times.”