I was today years old when I learned that romantic love is selfish as F@&$. I realize it sounds jaded, but that is not how I mean it. What I mean is that there is a problem with how we look at love and romance. First, romantic love, as you know it, is not real. It’s a mental construct made up to soften the harsh reality that is romantically loving someone. Hear me out.
Everything about how we are raised teaches us that when you love someone you devote yourself to them, you honor them, and you care for them. What’s implied is that when someone loves you they are doing the same in return and as such the resulting harmony is true love. We learn that these acts of devotion, honor, and care are the most profound form of love and romance and therein lies the problem.
The cold, hard, truth, is we all want something. Its probably not to ignore our need for security, identity, and accomplishment and focus exclusively on someone elses needs. Let alone to have that gesture constantly canceled out by someone else. Take this dialogue as an analogy:
Person 1: “What do you want to eat?”
Person 2: “I don’t care what do you want to eat?”
Person 1: “Whatever you want to eat is fine by me.”
Person 2: “I’m easy I’ll eat whatever you choose.”
Nobody wants that. In fact, what that analogy depicts is F@&$ing gross.
If you can accept -as I am suggesting- that we are all selfish by nature then you have to admit that today’s idea of romantic love (which is selfless and sacrificial) is actually a constant game of who gets to be the next martyr. Basically, who’s wants are going to get set aside in order to preserve the other’s feelings. Since every person is different, the results vary from couple to couple. In some cases to tolerable levels until it’s normal. In other cases, all it builds is resentment and ends in break-up.
I am not saying this is bad in general because it happens to be the exact inverse of what we are taught about romantic love. As a result -in large part- in can result in similar outcomes.
If you are drawn to someone with what feels like the gravitation pull of a 1000 suns thats cool, but it won’t matter unless they feel it as well. Romantic love is hard and painful because most people think it’s about being selfless. Really, it’s about two people being powerfully selfish about wanting the other.
Anything else is just settling, and this is where things get muddy super fast. Because like the good ol’ greeks say, there are so many ways to feel a real and true affection for someone. It’s just that Romantic Love (or Eros) is the only form with the intensity and passion that are hallmarks of the storybook, cinema-grade, no holds bar romantic love we all dream about. These other types of love like Universal, Duty, Familial, Friendship, and Lust are still important, but it’s not that feeling we all read, dream, and want. Duty (Pragma) is not romantic love. I mean, who really wants love out of duty? Friendship (Philia) is not romantic love. Have you heard the term friend-zoned? Lust (Ludus) is not romantic love. Walk of shame anyone?
I suppose what I am getting to is that today’s idea of love is too smashed up with other things. So please, if you are reading this, sort out what kind of love is driving your romantic relationship and -if it exists- put the powerfully selfish kind at the top.2