Romantic love—probably the most desired experience on earth. More than adventure, travel, fame or success, we want to be loved in the passionate and all-encompassing way we have seen portrayed over and over again in film, literature, theater, opera, song and TV commercials. I mean, who would not want to dazzle a breathtakingly gorgeous woman with jewelry from a mall chain store, right?
Okay, that was snarky but I’m making a point—our ideas about romantic love are mostly both fictitious and commercialized. Although I have no doubt that at some time two lovers have killed themselves in frustrated passion and some guy has probably even given his wife a Lexus for Christmas tied up in a giant bow, these experiences are not the norm. Nor should they be, obviously.
Searching for romantic love is a little bit like Waiting for Godot—we think we’ll recognize it when it comes along (IF it comes along), but most of the information we have about it is conjecture. This is why so many of us screw up our relationships, frankly. We entered an uncharted territory without a reliable map and unless we were lucky enough to have an open-minded and flexible travel partner, we most likely got lost along the way—and lost each other in the process.
But in most cases, this will not stop us from starting the search all over again, often with not a lot more usable Intel than we had the first time around. So how do we break the cycle of dysfunctional attachments and disappointed expectations? How do we form a healthy romantic bond when we are not even sure what that would look like?
First of all, it would be helpful for the ladies to turn off the Hallmark Hall of Fame Christmas movies and for the fellas to turn off the porn (or vice versa, please forgive my gender stereotypes). You will learn absolutely ZERO about healthy relationships in either of these places and they will give you false expectations for both emotional intimacy and sex. Not only are they both totally divorced from reality, what they are modeling as an “ideal” is actually far from it.
Awesome relationships (and awesome sex!) are both about one thing: awesome communication. A Lexus in a bow communicates nothing more than “I have money to burn” and a gorgeous physique communicates nothing more than “I was genetically blessed”. Neither of these things has anything to do with great love.
So if we can’t trust Hallmark, TV commercials and porn to teach us about love, where can we turn?
My first suggestion is to try REAL LIFE. We all know couples who make it look easy (it isn’t) and we all know couples who barely tolerate each other but for some reason still cling to the format of the relationship they formed many years ago. The most important takeaway from these observations will be this—true and healthy love is hard to find, and just because someone is in relationship doesn’t mean they have it BUT it is possible and it is not “magic”.
There are SO MANY people who are married or in relationship that absolutely SHOULD NOT BE that you can stop judging yourself for NOT being in a relationship this instant. This is part of the TV commercial mythology that somehow couples are superior to singles but this is a smug lie. It is EQUALLY possible that you are IN a relationship because you are an emotional train wreck as OUT of one.
Let’s dispense with the idea that marriage (or committed relationship) is some kind of hallmark (pardon the pun) of evolvement or lovability. Some of the most hateful people on the planet are married and some of the loveliest are single. And vice versa, obviously, but the point being: it is proof of nothing about your value as a human being.
My second suggestion would be to look WITHIN. People HATE this advice but honestly looking for romantic love when you are unwilling to take a long, hard look at YOURSELF is like trying to find car keys when you don’t even own a car. Social media has turned us into approval ADDICTS and the thing about external approval is—it is ALWAYS fickle.
You cannot be gorgeous, brilliant, successful or famous enough to gain universal approval, it is NOT a thing. And it doesn’t matter if 100 million people tell you that you are gorgeous, brilliant and successful, it will be the ONE person who doesn’t agree that sticks in your head. Because you are looking outside of yourself for something that doesn’t exist instead of looking inside of yourself and getting really comfortable with what you find there.
It is the people who inhabit their skin and soul with acceptance and grace that are able to form those amazing relationships with others that we look upon with envy. They came home to themselves first and didn’t try to make someone else build a home for them (Hallmark movie spoiler, sorry!). It is when you realize that no one else can complete you that you ironically find the people who resonate with you most deeply—your soul tribe.
And yes, they do exist. Pro-tip: we are usually not related to them by blood.
Okay, now that you accept that being part of a couple is not some kind of Holy Grail and you are digging being who you authentically are, you are ready for romantic love! But what you will figure out on this particular journey is that “romantic” love has no more value than well-formed platonic or even familial love. Love, is love, is love and the rest is hormones.
You can have great love for a parent, friend, child, pet, mentor and yes, lover. But this person is not separate from the others, elevated. This person seeks not to be worshipped by you, but merely integrated with you with respect, reverence and HEALTHY BOUNDARIES.
So much of what we have been lead to believe is “romantic” (boom-box over the head in the rain comes to mind) is actually dysfunctional and disrespectful. When you have respect, reverence and healthy boundaries, you feel safe, cherished and sovereign. Why should you settle for anything less?