The illusion of romantic love: Is romantic love sufficient for us to sustain intimate connections?
Ever since we were young, we read stories and saw films that spoke of true love in a specific way – there has to be a journey, a bit of drama, that one person who can turn around our entire existence and voila! what we have is ideal love.
Only that, as the world evolves with greater individualism as well as redefining communities, we the people are confronted with a different reality – that love perhaps comes from the meaning we create in our lives and that meaning can be created in a number of different ways.
This is an antithesis to the fluff and blossoms we’ve grown up associating with love, the highest romance of its kind, the only thing that can salvage us. We have grown up with an illusion of romantic love.
One look at the craving for a significant other that many of us hold and we are reminded of Plato’s Symposium, where the philosopher mentions that man originated as a eight-limbed creature, both sexes blended into a whole. Zeus, the God of Sky and Thunder. However was threatened by this truth, since a whole being meant anyone could be stronger than the Gods. And thus he decided that man needed to be sliced into half so that the Gods remained forever powerful.
Now whether you’re someone who believes in mythology or not, you’ll see how a mythological halving can in fact be a metaphorical representation of most people looking for a “significant other”.
In other words, many people don’t feel sufficient if they don’t have a partner in their lives. However, the question is, is that the only way to attain fulfillment and peace in life?
Why do we define love the way we do?
Flip through the pages of the dictionary at home and you’ll most probably discover the definition of love being “an intense feeling of deep affection”. While that is often quite true, putting it all into the box of “romantic love” without looking at emotional nuances and other bonds that aren’t romantic, is closing down on ourselves and limiting the way we actually feel.
For example, you might be jealous that your best friend is spending time with some other friend more than you. Now in hindsight, if you were to process that jealousy, it might have the same elements as it would’ve had in case a lover was spending time with someone else.
The point is that society as a whole has perpetuated the concepts of relationships meaning nothing unless they are long and love being worthy only if it ends in a commitment as serious as marriage. Even as the world today is more accepting of different kinds of living arrangements, be it between lovers or roommates, what remains as a subtext is an incessant search for romantic love.
Now if you look at love, it’s an intense feeling and one that’s so elusive to capture within a single idea. However, the different people I’ve had spoken to specifically on “love” have unanimously agreed on one thing – they don’t exactly know what it is, though they do know what they want out of it.
Happiness, trust, safety, fulfillment and evolution are a few labels that have emerged.
Is there a way out of the quagmire of romantic love?
Whoever has been in love, will vouch for how good it feels as long as the rush of newness lasts. According to psychotherapist Esther Perel, at no other time has the “emotional well-being of the couple” been as important. According to her, it is a contrast to an earlier time when staying on in a marriage, even if it was dysfunctional was non-negotiable.
With time, the idea of working at romance in a marriage was introduced and more recently, a marriage even had to take on the burden of self-actualization. The pressure then on romantic love, or so to say, is perhaps more than ever before.