Rethinking Friendships and “Romance”: The Romantic Myth

By | April 18, 2011

My thoughts in this section are a bit less solidified. I may revisit and update them later. I’m trying to be as honest and realistic as possible, but it’s a bit difficult. This is in part because I know people have a wide range of experiences, though I only have limited experience myself.

  1. “Falling in love” and/or sexual attraction are among the strongest desires and emotions known to men and women. It is easy to think that a “romantic” or sexual relationship will fulfill all our deepest relational desires. Or put differently, it is easy to think that the “right” “romantic” relationship is the ultimate relationship. Our culture has bought into this belief very heavily, and it is propagated through all forms of media. We believe that the “romantic” relationship should be and will be the source of fulfillment of most all of our relational needs. Specifically, we think that a couple should be best friends, activity partners, lovers, etc. In another way of looking at it, we think that a “romantic” couple is the ultimate and deepest possible type of friendship. If I understand correctly, this is what Dan Brennan refers to as “the romantic myth”.
  2. The main problem here is the idea that most all relational needs must be fulfilled in a “romantic” relationship, and if they’re not being fulfilled, the relationship is broken. On the flip side, it’s easy to think that most all of our relational desires could only be fulfilled in a “romantic” type of relationship.
  3. A “romantic” relationship can and hopefully will be very positive and life-giving. Yet people in these relationships will discover that the feelings fade eventually, and holes will open in a person’s heart (unfulfilled desire). Sometimes people change, and/or they realize they may not have as much in common as they thought. But if the myth is fully believed, then the person will conclude that they must be in the “wrong” relationship, and/or with the “wrong” person. If the only way to be whole is through a “romantic” relationship, then the only solution is to try and find the “right” relationship with the “right” person. This is certainly one reason for unfaithfulness and divorce (though not all cases of course).
  4. The problem is that we’ve often connected all sorts of things so closely with “romantic” relationships, that we don’t realize that most of these things could also (at least in theory) be found outside of the “romantic” context as well.
  5. Another problem is that the “romantic” type of relationship has been focused on so heavily that other types of relationships are almost forgotten. Since people seek to satisfy all their relational needs through a “romantic” relationship, people don’t think much about neglecting other relationships. A priority is put on this “romantic” relationship, and since people often do have their life-sharing need fulfilled in this relationship, there is a good possibility that other relationships will drop off significantly.
  6. A person not in a relationship or for whom a relationship has ended, will feel like they’re not satisfied and won’t be satisfied until they are in the “right” “romantic” relationship. This is complex. Most people have sexual/”romantic” relational desires, which, it would seem, won’t be fulfilled outside of that type of relationship. But there is also the desire for life-sharing relationships. These can exist outside of “romantic”/sexual relationships, however our culture doesn’t make much room for this (with the partial of parents and children). Even if they do develop, it will very likely be with another person not presently in a “romantic”/sexual relationship. But this brings with it the danger that the person will end up in a “romantic” relationship, and will leave the friendship behind in large part. So for many, it seems that the only likely way to have a life-sharing relationship is in the context of a sexual/”romantic” relationship.
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