The Western concept of romantic love is based on, or characterized by, the Arthurian myth of Tristan and Iseult. I highly recommend reading Robert Johnson’s, We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love. He explains it beautifully in Jungian terms. According to the story, Tristan and Iseult have accidentally drunk a love potion, thereby falling hopelessly in love despite Iseult being married to Cornwall, Tristan’s uncle who he is sworn to faithfully serve. They are relentlessly chased by the king, their love being chaste and pure, epitomized by them sleeping in the forest, Iseult’s sword thrust into the ground between them. Finally, the cruel king stabs his nephew in the back, and Tristan, at Iseult's request, fatally crushes his beloved in a tight embrace as his final act.Unfortunately, our society and culture have programmed us with a concept of love that has many contradicting aspects and make it unsustainable and unrealistic. Our belief of romantic love is that it is above logic and reason, a runaway freight train of emotion we have no control over. The object of our love is probably not the healthiest choice, perhaps even the worst choice possible, but true love transcends and conquers all. It is the two of us against the world, do or die, more likely do and die.
It has always amazed me how single people resist the idea of shidduch. They think shidduch means an arranged marriage, one in which they have no say. Shidduch is not like that nor has it ever been. Shidduch is more about friends, relatives, and other people close to you making a suggestion based on things they now about you. In pre-Google days, it made sense. But grown up children raised on sitcoms, sugar coated breakfast cereal, and romance, avoid it like the plague, preferring to march forward in their dating like lemmings to the sea. It is more romantic when the odds are astronomically against happiness. Love is blind. Yet twentieth century, post-disco, romance means falling in love with someone you barely know (at best), based mostly on how they look on a dance floor. The internet version of love at first sight is based on how the picture on their homepage looks and a personal profile that may be more fiction than fact. You’d be better off falling in love with their avatar. I know people who trust a search engine to find love more than friends or family.
I don’t believe in romance. Or more accurately, I believe romance tells the truth when it whispers stories about impossible love. Impossible love is. For a quick burst of passion, something to get the hormones humming, romance is just the ticket. But so is bungee jumping. If you want to be long-term happy in marriage, it is better to find someone who has similar life interests and values, and is also happens to be cute as a button. When I tell you to burn your romance novels, I am not compromising. The opposite. Don’t compromise on anything. I am saying have a romance with a person you like, someone you respect and can connect to. My definition of romance is much more idealistic and strict. You can walk into any room and close your eyes, pick a dozen people you know nothing about, and have a steamy romance with them, anguishing for months or even years before finally acknowledging that your differences are well and truly irreconcilable. But what about love at first sight? I believe strongly in love at first sight. I just believe in giving love at first sight a better chance of lasting longer than a day, by choosing to look at people who I have a better chance of having a healthy relationship with.
Again, this is all about relationships being based on self-definition and not on bargaining. If I choose to be with someone whose values and life goals are different than mine, than one of us will have to compromise in order for the relationship to continue. And when it comes to life values, compromising means killing a part of yourself that is dear. That makes it romantic. Romance and the story it is based on glorify death. If you choose to suffer and die, than romance is fine (Read the story of Tristan and Iseult, or Romeo and Juliet, again if you think I am exaggerating).
I suggest a new definition of love based on life. Love is the source of your life. No compromises. It is coming together with a part of yourself, someone who treasures who you are, and his/her happiness is dependent on every aspect of you growing. It involves the heart, the mind, and the body. It has legs and is meant to live as long as your life. Growing old together is the new romance.
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