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.
Now if you break it all down, whether it is data gathered from work done by experts like Perel or examples you see all around you with friends speed dating (and perhaps even breaking up just as fast), one thing is clear – there has to be a different answer to the time and energy that we, as a collective, tend to spend running behind romantic love.
Is there an antidote to the belief of romantic love being the only love?
Thankfully, there is. Though the antidote isn’t in doing away with the need for romantic companionship, but seeing that there is a whole lot of meaning and worth beyond making space for a significant other in life.
1. Cultivate friendships and other meaningful connections
In the heady rush of romantic connections, even the most aware ones among us forget how valuable and fulfilling healthy friendships can be. In a friendship you can trust and build upon, being your true self and allowance for growth feature highly.
Meaningful connections, even if they don’t feature conventional romance, often teaches us to get back in touch with our real and more vulnerable selves.
According to Harvard, a study that observed more the 309,000 people concluded that the lack of social connections hikes up the risk of dying prematurely by almost 50%, no matter what the cause of death. That, in fact, is a parallel to smoking almost 15 cigarettes a day, with a more negative impact than even physical inertia and obesity.In a study published by the University of Michigan, created over two portions, friendships were seen as an important indicator of health and well-being in adulthood.
In the first portion, where more than 2,70,000 people were studied, it was found that older adults who placed more importance on cultivating friendships had greater overall well-being than those who didn’t. In the second portion, conducted across more than 7400 people, it was noted that over a six year period, strains from close friendships caused more chronic illnesses than anything else.
2. Focus on learning new skills and re-examining your dreams
I was recently reading Julia Cameron’s widely acclaimed book ‘The Artist’s Way’ where the author narrates about a number of people who lost touch with their dreams, as they went along in life, giving it shape and structure. What stood out for me is how, based on the author’s own admission, all these people eventually found creative ways to reconnect what they had originally wanted to do, even if they were in other careers by now.
Question is, if they can, why can’t you?
After all, going inward and finding a connection with yourself through something you’d love to engage with, is a form of love. Some people call it self-love and some others, self-care.
In tandem with reviewing cherished dreams, you might also have a buried need to make your current life more exciting. This is also a form of attention that the self can derive satisfaction from. Focus on health, learn to design stationery, dive into a learning a sport, figure out how to bake…basically, take your pick.
Learning new things have been proven to create greater sense of worth and well being in individuals. As positive psychology expert Vanessa King has pointed out, “Learning can help us build confidence and a sense of self-efficacy.”