Anecdotal evidence, the history of our species, aged wisdom, and empirical knowledge, all arrive at the same conclusion; romantic love is a temporary phenomenon. It drifts in on the wind and fades away with the same certainty as the passing seasons. But for all the romantic souls and eternal lovers who are aghast at such a bleak commentary on one of the greatest experiences a human can undertake, such pronouncement is not designed to convey a sense of negativity, and neither does it imply that, as a species, we are doomed to short term relationships.
It is all a question of what supersedes the romantic love, once its magic has lost its sparkle – which, ultimately, it must. If we are fortunate it will be transcended by a deep, meaningful love, born out of common bonds, trust, care and desire, to nurture the one to whom our attentions are focused. This is the love without bounds, the love not being measured by time, performance, gesture, or any other scale of assessment. It is the love that goes unquestioned and rides out the storms that are an inescapable facet of life. It is real love with a capital L. It is not roses and satin and whispers by moonlight, but it can be and, for some, it probably is; romantic gesture should not be confused with romantic love.
But what about those who are not so fortunate to transcend to this less magical, but far deeper and more intense state? What remains for them? Well, not very much. They see the cracks, lose the buzz and wonder what they were thinking about when they entered into this union. In fact, they realise the truth of the statement that romantic love is a psychotic state. They are struck by the dour face of reality, and in that moment, the illusion is gone, leaving not so much as an echo of the sensations that enthralled them during their illusory episode.
To label romantic love a psychotic condition might seem extreme, but it is a sound example of two people maintaining a tenuous grip on reality; and, is psychologically recognised and acknowledged as an illusory state. During the romantic love phase we expose ourselves in a way, that we have not done since we were babies, just weeks out of the womb. We were helpless, totally dependent, trusting without reserve. Our very existence was in the hands of another, and we lived, or died, on the basis of that other’s ability and sense of responsibility toward us. But this innocent, naive condition was relatively brief. As we grew and learned, we gained independence, we demonstrated preferences, we questioned our trust and, slowly, our personality developed. Never again would we expose ourselves so wholly, so vulnerably, so unconditionally; that is, until we fall victim to romantic love. And victim is the operable word, for we feel helpless and enter an unconscious state of being; unconscious, not in the common sense of the word, as in being asleep, but unconscious to our instinct, our logic, our acquired wisdom, and our sense of awareness and boundaries. But fortunately, this phase passes, as it must and always will, and then we can reclaim our independence and our sense of self and, continue, to function in the world.
Portrayed in such a dismissive light it might be concluded that romantic love is dangerous and should be avoided. The avoidance of things that might be considered dangerous for us have been the challenge of humankind for as long as we have existed. Only a very courageous or very foolish individual would claim they could never to succumb to the spell; for a spell it is, in all the mystical tradition and legend of the stories we were weaned on. Its potential danger should not be overstated, but an air of caution would favour the wise of heart. How many marriages born out of whirlwind romances arrive in the divorce court before the first anniversary is celebrated?
But the real danger is the one that strikes those who are addicted to the magic and lure of the psychotic state. What one might call the serial romantic lovers. They live for the thrill of the first kiss, the first promise, the exhilarating uncertainty that shrouds every moment of fledgling love. They are the true victims of romantic love, and like any addiction, they crave its indulgence at any cost, and fail to see what they have become. They appear capricious as they flit from one love affair to the next, deluded in their belief that they are forever shackled to the quest of true love, though in truth they seek not lasting true love, but the temporal thrill of the romantic encounter. It has become something of a cliché today, but often, people unable to engage fully in a single, long term relationship, are charged with accusations of failure to commit. There are inexhaustible reasons why such people may project such a disposition, all of them legitimate, including not having met the right person, but the possibility of romantic love addiction cannot be entirely dismissed.
To avoid it consciously, is to risk repression of something that is completely natural and, for many, inevitable. We cannot live life vicariously, and must, for the sake of our personal growth and development, make our own mistakes, although, being armed and forewarned, can help us limit the number of times we have to say “if only” in later years.
In my recently published book, The Evanescence of Being, romantic love is one of the features I explore, in a way that, I hope, many will identify with, through their own experiences of love in its varied forms. Undoubtedly, romantic love is, to some degree, an essential element of the majority of movies, literature and music. It sells and always will, because we want to buy it. We believe in it because we want to and need to, and only when we have experienced this reckless imposter of real love; lost it, and found the less beguiling, but more intense true love that can stem from it, will we be at peace and, go on to engage in, and develop, the reality and authenticity of deep and lasting love.
The Evanescence of Being is published by Aquus Publishing