In Defense of Romantic Love

“Romantic Love” evokes associations of valentines, violins, and soft music and knights in shining armor—for some people.  For others, it raises the question “Aren’t we too sophisticated for that today?”


            It is unfortunate that a few popular symbols of what people like to call “romance” have replaced the psychological reality of romantic love. We need to think more deeply than that. Valentines and violins have nothing to do with the essential meaning of love between a man and woman (as I conceive them in “The Psychology of Romantic Love”).

            And no, if we want to speak of sophistication, we are not too sophisticated.  We are not sophisticated enough.  The error is already evident in the use of the term “sophistication.”  In this context, it is a frivolous word.

            “Sophistications,” in the modern world, is often the last refuge of people who are simply frightened of passion, devotion, and commitment.

            Many people are so naïve as to believe that if they surround themselves with the trappings of “romance”—if they plant themselves in a glamorous restaurant with soft lights and music—something magical will happen to their relationship. They sit there helplessly, waiting for the ambience to work a miracle.  It never does.

            Externals can be very pleasant, but they are not the core of romantic love.  The core lies within the mind of the individual man or woman.  It is there or nowhere.

            “Being romantic” means treating the relationship as important, behaving in ways that underscore its importance.  Flowers can be a lovely gift, or a meaningless gesture. There are people who know how to be romantic in a hovel; there are people who do not know how to be romantic in a palace.

            As for the image of the knight in shining armor, it is an ambiguous.  It could represent a woman’s longing for a man she can admire.  It could also represent the immature wish for someone coming to rescue her, coming to make the world safe for her.   As such, it is more a projection of adolescent insecurity than a projection of mature love.  From the male perspective, it could represent a man’s desire to achieve an admirable soul and to be so perceived by the woman he loves.  But it could also represent the craving of a man to play hero for a “weak and helpless” female.  Romantic love is a relationship between independent equals, not between a waif and a rescuer.

            But wait a minute.  Nobody dreams of a rescuer on a white horse any more.  Sure they do.  Only the preferred color is black, not white.  And the dream isn’t for a horse.  It’s for a Harley or a Ferrari or a Bentley.

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