In the West we spend a lot of time thinking about, promoting, and even consuming the idea of romantic love. If I am not mistaken, it was the West that championed the idea of marrying for the sake of love, unlike much of the world that, to this day, still adheres to the tradition of arranged marriages.

But what is romantic love?

So that we may better define—or confine—this discussion thread, let’s start by excluding a few things:

1.) Let us not be concerned with inanimate things that we claim to love, i.e., I love chocolate, I love to golf, I love my new car, or I love my country.

2.) Let’s exclude the love we may have for our parents or children, as this love is familiar, often involuntary, and quite often obligatory.

3.) Let’s also exclude the love we have for our pets, which lacks romantic connotations (hopefully), and which is probably not reciprocal (or at least not on the same level, if it is).

4.) Finally, let us exclude love as a consumerist expression, such as sending roses and giving diamonds as a representation of love or commitment.

Let’s talk only about romantic love here—the love we long to give to others, and hope to win from others in return. The love that brings with it joy, eagerness, light, and, quite often, a greater sense of self-worth. Let’s look at the bare bones of love and try to figure out what motivates and sustains it.

As a child and teenager, I had very idealized and romanticized notions of love. I grew up in a home where I did not feel wanted or loved, so the idea that someone could one day choose to love me appealed to me greatly, and occupied a prominent place in my thoughts and hopes.

When I was in college, a great deal of my art and writing centered on the nature and quality of desire, and it struck me that humans are little more than a bundle of desires—diverse, ceaseless, and unquenchable.

I even toyed with the idea—though never really taking the concept seriously—that humans were nothing more than vehicles for desires, and that the various desires were the true life forms, the true sentient beings; incorporeal, alien creatures who used us much like we use tools or machines to achieve our goals. We existed for their benefit only.

As a young adult, I decided that love was nothing more than need fulfilled. In other words, we all have needs—needs for security, affection, attention, and sex to name a few. When another person satisfies or fulfills those needs, we convince ourselves that we love them, when it would probably be more accurate to say that we gain satisfaction from them.

I still hold to that belief today. It seems obvious to me that we cannot love someone who does not sate our desires (we have little motivation to do so), and that the undesirable are equally unlovable. Consider, too, how quickly love turns to hate or animosity when desires cease to be fulfilled. Couples break up because they no longer satisfy one another’s desires for intimacy, acceptance, sex, emotional rapport, or even financial support.

Yet, in spite of that belief, I find it difficult to completely destroy all idealized notions of love, such as unconditional love and love for the sake of loving. Well, perhaps we never outgrow foolish things.

So, what are your ideas and beliefs about romantic love? Is it something sacred and unknowable? It is too elusive to attempt to define? Is it possible to have unconditional love, or is love very conditional? Have you been in love? What are your opinions on love, either personal love or the love you see shared by other couples? Is love tangible? Or is it, as I have suggested, merely the satisfaction that comes with needs fulfilled?

Please remember to confine your comments to romantic love only.

Tags: couples, desire, heterosexuality, homosexuality, intimacy, love, marriage, romance, sex

Views: 22

Replies to This Discussion

Do you think monogamy is basically a contemporary phenomenon? (Contemporary meaning last 500 years or so.)
I wish I could match Sekani in eloquence and expression.

I don't think I've ever been truly in love. I feel I've come close, damn close.

For me, it's best described as a particular connection. As an autistic, it's harder for me to find that connection with others. I describe it as feeling like The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, but on an emotional level rather than physical. I can put my emotional hand up against yours, but there always remains that barrier, even if just a plastic sheet as thin as saran-wrap.

But then there are moments when it feels like someone has actually stepped inside my bubble (or I've managed to step outside of it?). I'm not sure if that analogy make a lot of sense but it's the best I've got. I've felt that (or come close to it) with a few people in non-romantic ways, family, friends. But when it's a romantic partner there's that added element of trusting that person physically. It may sound sappy but my body is the temple and I'm picky as to who gets to worship at it. Anyone can touch my happy place, but when the touch of that happy place comes with that intimate connection that I so rarely get to make with someone ... that's what makes the sex amazing!
I don't think I've ever been truly in love. I feel I've come close, damn close.

For me, it's best described as a particular connection. As an autistic, it's harder for me to find that connection with others. I describe it as feeling like The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, but on an emotional level rather than physical. I can put my emotional hand up against yours, but there always remains that barrier, even if just a plastic sheet as thin as saran-wrap.


But how could you know for sure, and how can one compare one's emotions to another's emotions, since we can only expeirience our own? I mean, you may be feeling exactly what others feel. How would you know the difference?
That's why I qualify it with "I don't think so/I feel I've come close."

I think it's that as close as I've come I feel there's definitely another level I haven't had the privilege to reach yet.
The bubble. That's kind of how I described being shy, back when I was very shy.
Like Dallas said, romantic love is the irrational attachment to another. As you call it, a pledge with conditions. So, I guess romantic love is simply an abstract agreement between two individuals to agree on terms of how they see each other and why?

For those who do not breed, there is possibly the greatest love that is not diluted.

So biological responses towards children dilute love? I'm not sure I agree. Can't you just add "father" or "mother" or whatever to the terms of the abstract agreement and further solidify the bond?
I like it!!!
Jean Marie, thanks for posting this videos. I finally got around to watching them. Interesting stuff. I'll bookmark her page to explore in more detail later on.
I see romantic love as an addiction which causes nurturing behaviors (parental love) and dependent behaviors (love of child for parent) to bleed over onto sexual partners. I don't see love as anything mysterious but I see it as no less "sacred" for that fact.

While many will say that romantic love doesn't need to have a sexual aspect, I will disagree. The potential, whether real or imagined, for sexual interaction must be there otherwise we wouldn't bother having a separate term for it.
I've always been someone who blurred friendship, love, and lust. Each relationship is unique so I thought I don't want to try to fit it into a mold of what it is "supposed" to be. I had friends who I had that soul-mate feeling with, so it felt kind of like being in love. Or I was attracted to certain friends, but after being friends for a long time I got past it and it didn't matter. Lust can also make people want to act sweet and romantic toward each other (and not just to get laid) and there are partners that I think I love even though I wouldn't say we're in love. Well, I don't think there is such a thing as true love, but there are a lot of different elements that can add up.

I've watched quite a few Bollywood movies. So many of them are melodramas about romantic love. This must be a fantasy fulfillment or escape, in a society where arranged marriage is the norm (although it's less prevalent than it used to be).

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