I’m fairly certain most of you do. It’s an ideal that has been fed to you since the moment you were semi-conscious. It all started with those fairy tales your mother used to read you at night: lost princesses saved by knights on white horses, and a happily ever after.
Then you grew and slowly transformed into a lanky teenager with pimples and hormones. You spent your days fantasizing about the perfect girl, the perfect boy. You probably had your heart-broken for the first time, but you kept believing in mister or missus Right. The romantic lead in your personal story. The person who pulls all the strings of your life together.
Now you’re seventeen. You switch on the radio and listen to a couple of songs. Without fail they all have titles like “I will always love you” or “You didn’t have to hurt me so” or “Come back” or “Forever”. You bop your head to the sound of the music. You know the lyrics, you love this song.
At home you settle in to watch a film with your family. It’s an action flick, but still, there’s a romantic interest on the side. At the end of the film the new couple drive off into the sunset and all is well. Your personal dream of finding a partner grows every day. It becomes a benchmark in your life. The search is on.
Romantic Love. A Soul Mate. That one person that’s going to spin your life around and turn every piece of crap to gold; the one who will understand you, be your friend, stay with you regardless of how awful you might be to them and keep you entertained, cared for and happy for the rest of your life.
Inevitably the reality of marriage or a long-term relationship, and the fantasy of romantic love simply never match up. After all, how can they? They are two diametrically opposite things, engineered for different purposes.
Not too long ago a marriage was simply seen as a partnership. Two people vowed to support each other from here on out, no matter what. In many cultural traditions love wasn’t even factored into it: what was considered important was that the two individuals came from similar backgrounds, and had matching ideals, hopes and dreams for the future. Most important, their families needed to get on, in order for the relationship to truly prosper and grow.
Nobody wants this kind of marriage anymore. We have all bought into the idea of finding “hot” love: you see someone across a crowded room, your eyes lock and you know – you just KNOW that you want to be with them. You have a whirlwind romance. You yearn for one another. You feel consumed by the other person’s hands and eyes and love.
But then time passes, and eventually you wake up to the fact that they are “just a person” with faults and problems, and soon the flame of love dies away. You realize you have absolutely nothing in common. It ends. It’s totally over.
If this only occurs two kids and four years down the isle, things can get fairly complicated. Throw into that a great sense of disappointment, and you’re looking at three quarters of our society. Eventually you find somebody else who’s not that great, but you decide to “settle” for them. You are never truly happy, always believing that somehow you lost out. Your expectations are never met.
Let’s face it:
We have mountains of expectations from our partners, whether we can verbalize them or not. Most of us aren’t looking for a partner to only be a loving companion. They’re also supposed to be your lover, your best friend, your psychologist and your psychic (they need to be able to read your thoughts, at the very least), all neatly rolled into one easy-to-us package. In many cases, people really don’t want a partner at all. They’re waiting for a savior.
Consequently, marriages are dissolving faster than you can say ketchup. Commitment means about as much as buying a lottery ticket means you’re going to be a millionaire.
There was a time, not so very long ago, when romantic love was something people generally feared, and hoped would never befall them. Risky, potentially heartbreaking and unpredictable, it was considered best avoided all together. It burns too fast and too hard. The heart cannot sustain it.
Shakespeare wrote Romeo and Juliet as a cautionary tale to warn people of the dangers of romantic love. Both lead characters lost their marbles completely in the throws of their love for one another. It results in great tragedy when they both off themselves.
I can imagine a family going to watch one of these productions, and the parents afterwards sitting the children down and saying: “Now you see? THAT’S what happens when you fall in love. Don’t be a stupid girl. Guard yourself against it, or tragedy is sure to befall you!”
It is only in the last couple of hundred years that people have embraced the idea of romantic love as one to be coveted and sought out, chased and dreamed of. Why did this happen? When did it change? Who fed us this lie and why? The ferocity with which it is being fed to us seems to increasing all the time.
We have fallen in love with the idea of love.
Falling in love is often more about us than it is about the other person. It is mostly an awfully narcissistic affair: we crave seeing our own reflections in other people’s eyes. We love them for reflecting what we perceive to be a beautiful part of ourselves. When they stop reflecting our “good” side, we feel betrayed. We hate them for it.
We want the dream of love, but become despondent and depressed when we have to deal with the reality of it. Love relationships are never simple. They confront us with ourselves in a very powerful way. They reflect what is good about us, and what is bad. If you are in any kind of denial about your life, you can be sure that relationship upon relationship will keep revealing to you what you don’t want to see or know about.
What drives your need to be in a relationship?
What would happen to you if you never met mister or missus Right?
What kind of love are you really after, and why?