Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is Romantic Love Destined to Dwindle?

Yesterday, I blogged about the different types of love, naming "romantic love" as the one most of us think of when we hear the word, 'love.'

I think romantic love is the most confusing of all of them... It's the type of love most of us yearn for, but can't seem to control. In fact, when we're in love, we feel completely out of control... obsessive, distracted, crazy! And if the other person feels the same way about us, it's absolutely wonderful! I don't know if this is "real" love. I've always thought of this more as "infatuation." Nevertheless, it's magical.

I read an article that reiterated what I've heard before. The shelf life for "romantic love" is about two years.

When boiled down romantic love is about as realistic as trying to build a meaningful relationship with your television set. As such it is only sustainable for about two years and then the inevitable happens; the screen tarnishes, the mental projector breaks down and you start seeing each other for who you really are. This is when lovers accuse each other of changing or not being the person they fell in love with and/or married.

(Note: Laptop Guy and I have been in a relationship for more than two years, and I have noticed that he's been shutting down prematurely lately. I think it may be the beginning of the end for us.)

The article says that part of the problem is that we have these unrealistic expectations about our mate, and when we see them for who they really are, we feel like we're no longer in love.

The truth is good relationships are mundane and when the myths fail, the relationship has a better chance of working; just look at the success of arranged marriages. The difference between these and prince and princess unions is that arranged affairs don’t start out with the expectation that you will be on a pedestal and worshipped forever.

I actually always used this argument to explain the success of my own marriage (that is until I got divorced...) I got married because I was pregnant. I didn't feel "in love." But I grew to love my husband because of who he was...not because I was looking at him through rose-colored glasses. I used to say that unlike other couples who marry when they're starry-eyed, I loved my husband much more after we were married. It seemed to be more of a mature love, rather than that obsessive, romantic love. It was kind of a bummer that I went into my marriage being petrified, rather than excited, but I saw the man I married for who he was...both his faults and his strengths... and I saw that he loved me and was doing his best to be a good husband and a good father. And I grew to love him very deeply.

On the other hand, he was "in romantic love" with me when we got married, so he was in for a rude awakening when I fell off the pedastal. (This may have come when he realized I watched the soap opera, All My Children.)

We had a good marriage for 19 years (despite my All My Children addiction) until he fell "in love" with someone else and realized he was no longer happy with the status quo of a rather boring marriage. (I was no longer watching All My Children, but he was not happy with my interest in the sitcom, Friends, either.)

I can't really blame him. Those shows are pretty stupid. (Perhaps if I were watching something called, My Dear Husband, he might not have minded so much...)

And I get it that being in love feels great. I might have done the same thing. It really does feel a lot better to be "in love" than to be in a marriage where romantic love seems non-existent. The problem is, according to the literature on this stuff, it never lasts, and unfortunately, at this age, I often have a hard time even getting it to start!

So what do you do if you want to fall in love? Well, I am doing research on this. Tune in tomorrow when we dissect romantic love a little further...


rebecca @ altared spaces said...

sigh. Do I believe you today? Hmmm. I've been married for 22 years and, while I'm not sure I can say I've been madly in love for more than 2 decades I can say there is something pretty love-ly on the other side of love. Or maybe it's not even on the other side, just in addition. I'm not entirely sure.

I've grown to see more of my husband, and he more of me. We've given each other room to be all that we are and not place so many expectations. However that doesn't mean I don't ask for things, I do. I ask pretty loudly. He too.

The more loudly we both ask the more clear the relationship becomes. I'm able to hear, clearly, what he wants and what I want. Then I can know, "Do I want to give what he's asking?" And he can answer the same.

It's OK when the answer is No. It doesn't mean the love stops. In fact, I've found it to increase.

It's not butterflies, no. But something better. I'm not loved for the fantasy princess, but I AM loved for the very real person I am, becoming more real every day. I believe he feels similarly. It's a trade that, while lacking in goosebumps, delivers large in a BIG life.

Yvette said...

Hi Rebecca,
Yes, you have achieved what I think would be termed a "mature romantic love" -- the type we all hope for some day.

Read today's post about "limerence" as I delve a little deeper into exporing romantic love. I believe it's the "limerence" that we lose, but, if we're lucky, the best part of love remains...

David said...

Maybe instead of thinking of romantic love as something with a shelf life it would be useful to think about it as a form of energy, a phase which is necessary to launch the later phases in a journey.

Analogy...airplane engines often have a takeoff power level which may safely be used only for a short time, typically 5 minutes. You may not be able to run the engine at takeoff power for the entire flight, but without it you might not get off the ground in the first place...

Yvette said...

Interesting analogy, David.

I guess one question would be do we need to start with romantic love or can it develop?

As I've been reading more about romantic love, I don't think we lose it entirely. If we're lucky, it changes into a more mature love... one in which we recognize the real person, complete with faults.

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