This blog post is an important one.
It provides the central definition that everything I have written or will write here flows from.
It is my definition of romantic love.
I want you to understand this is my current definition.
I am open to this changing as I continue to learn.
Here is my definition:
Romantic love is the desire to experience sexual fulfillment and emotional connection that is mutually shared and enjoyed. You desire this because you value your partner and your partner values you.
I debated getting more complex than this but then I thought better of it.
I want to keep the basic definition simple.
Then expand on it a bit here before I finish.
As you can see I’ve emphasized a few things.
Sex and emotion.
Enjoyment and sharing.
I’ve also left out some things.
I want to start by talking about those now.
The first thing you’ll notice is I’ve said nothing about this desire occurring in a marriage, cohabitation, or any other form of monogamous arrangement.
Obviously romantic relationships often take those forms.
But I make no assumption that they must.
Other such arrangements are possible.
I am not assuming it is impossible to romantically love more than one person.
You may feel you could not love more than one person, in which case such a relationship option might not be for you. But many people feel otherwise these days and so romantic love is definitely not exclusively just for two.
My definition of romantic love also says nothing about family and children.
Couples frequently share a desire for this together.
In most of you girls there is a biological basis for this.
But it is not central to romantic love as I define it.
In fact, often children constitute romantic love’s demise.
So what about the things I HAVE included in my definition?
Let’s talk first about enjoyment.
What I mean by enjoyment is if you are not finding your relationship with your partner meaningful to you, it is no longer a healthy romantic relationship.
What is the point of being in a relationship you don’t find worthwhile?
This is one place where I take major exception to society’s marriage concept of “Till death do us part.”
Commitment come hell or high water.
I think this idea is very wrong headed.
It gets your eyes off of the real point of being together.
People think they have a successful marriage because they are still together and haven’t divorced. As if the quality of what “together” means isn’t relevant at all.
Many couples who haven’t divorced?
They have been emotionally divorced for years!
Girls stay married for the sake of their children.
Guys endure their partner’s disinterest in sex.
Just to keep the marriage together.
Whether you look good as a couple on the outside isn’t the point.
It’s how you look on the inside that really matters.
I’m not saying you should quickly abandon your relationship of course.
Relationships definitely do ebb and flow.
My talk about enjoyment also doesn’t mean you both are just out for what you can get from each other, like enjoyment vampires. This is where the element of sharing becomes important.
When you are truly in love?
You ensure that giving and receiving.
Sharing and enjoying.
These things are always balanced.
Much of your enjoyment comes from giving to your partner.
Showing them how much you love and desire them.
Romantic love is the pinnacle of the western concept of the value of the individual. In romantic love you affirm your partner’s value. You show them that you find them worthy of your desire and affection.
This brings me to the concept of mutuality.
If you don’t both feel fulfilled something is definitely amiss.
Are you giving to your partner?
Are they giving to you?
If the answer is no in either case then things are definitely not as they should be.
In a healthy romantic relationship there is mutual giving and receiving, sharing and enjoying. When you lose this balance people start getting hurt and then the resentments grow.
When you love each other, you don’t want to hurt each other.
You want to ensure you are both protected.
So there is a strong element of mutuality in romantic love.
When this is gone romantic love is gone too.
This mutuality must be desired and sustained.
For your love to stay alive and flourish?
You must not become complacent.
Staying together without this mutuality makes a mockery of your love. This has implications regarding the concept of monogamous marriage. I will definitely be expressing my thoughts about this going forward.
Okay then how does this all play out regarding sex and emotion?
You have two primary systems within you.
These are sexual desire and emotional connection.
Helen Fisher suggests romantic love is a third system.
I take exception to her here.
Romantic love is the merging of these two systems within your psyche.
There must be sexual attraction, desire, and fulfillment as well as emotional bonding, attachment, and connection for romantic love to take form.
It remains as long as both these elements continue.
In its beginnings it can come on like a torrent.
Sometimes it grows gradually between you and your lover.
It can only be sustained by consistently doing the right things.
Things that will keep both of these elements alive and thriving.
Since I’m a guy I suppose its typical that sex made it in there first in my definition. But don’t misunderstand, it was coming to appreciate emotional connection that led to my definition.
Without emotional connection sex is just sex.
It has nothing to do with romantic love.
But I would equally insist that emotional connection without sex, is just emotional connection too.
Romantic love requires both to be the real deal.
Do you want sex but don’t feel an emotional connection?
Do you feel an emotional connection but don’t want sex?
You are not romantically in love.
As a guy I never really understood it.
What does sex have to do with love?
But I had an experience that changed that for me forever.
I went from being a person who didn’t see what sex had to to with love, to being someone who cannot imagine wanting sex without a deep emotional connection with my partner.
You girls know guys can compartmentalize sex.
But did you know you can compartmentalize emotional connection too?
Just as guys frequently have their focus too heavily on sex?
You often focus too heavily on emotional connection yourself.
You de-emphasize the importance of sex in a relationship.
Because it is not as strongly a need for you, many of you girls can be quite content to “just cuddle” and forego sex altogether. The vast plague of “sexless marriages” is a well known phenomenon.
Just think about it.
When either sexual fulfillment or emotional connection are missing?
You don’t really have what makes romantic relationships distinct do you?
I’m going to return to this theme again and again.
Striking this balance is the key to your relationship life.
Well there you go!
I’ve laid my cards on the table.
So what do you think? Is this a good working definition of romantic love and can you honestly say you’re seeking to emulate it?