…the fall breeze blows her hair back as she lifts her gaze in perfect sync to meet his eyes, strolling past each other with heat, passion, and desire shared only in distance. instantly, time slows, noise fades, and love flares in the romantic union of two strangers. all in 3 minutes and 23 seconds, because that’s how long your favorite 90s r&b music video lasts.
my first impression of love was exactly that – passionate, flawless, instant, sexy, and easy – all the time. thanks to monica, erykah badu, avant, jagged edge, and the occasional salt-n-pepa, i inherited this fantastical perception of romantic love. what does your version of romantic love look like? #boysweepsgirloffherfeetandintoeverlastinglove
so we go through life expecting love is perfect all the time; so perfect that we cannot live without it. we will know it when it comes. it will feel so right we cannot deny it. it will come so strong we cannot resist. it will not hurt or break us because nothing that is perfect or right should. it should not require work because perfect love should be easy. we experiment in relationships with such standards, often being fulfilled at the start, but time inexplicably throws a curveball, snapping us back to the reality that i am imperfect; more unsettling, he is imperfect?! and so we become gravely disappointed because as it turns out, our relationship is flawed, difficult at times, and permanently under construction.
in her workshop titled Romantic Love vs. Everyday Disappointment, dr. judith simmer-brown offers a deeper explanation of romantic love in the West:
Romantic love has become a kind of religion in Western culture. First of all, romantic love thrives on separation. The unattainable love is the most attractive one—someone who is married to someone else, living in a distant city, or in a nexus of the forbidden. The girl or boy next door is not a good candidate for romantic fantasy, and neither is one’s spouse. Separation makes the heart grow fonder and more passionate, because with separation the fantasy of the lover can be kept alive.
Secondly, romantic love is frightfully impersonal. We are looking for our “type”—an intellectual, a jock, an ethereal blonde. Our typing can become very subtle, including our lover’s taste in clothes or way of walking. But we are in love with a fantasy; the person of the lover is absent. It actually helps not to have the person around too much, because they might destroy the fantasy.
gradually, the expectations of romantic love get out of hand, out of reach, and unrealistic. mom wisely cautioned that love is not about laughing at each others’ jokes all the time, at which point i scoffed, thinking how could he not find me funny, all the time?! (just kidding, i don’t think my mom ever cautioned that, though she did share something equally profound.) #howdomomsknowsomuch
turns out, the kind of love that sticks is a lot less romantic and a lot more real. the kind that hurts, breaks, makes mistakes, offends, apologizes, needs work, requires alone time, warrants self-help books, and mends with a deeper understanding of the self and the partner. the stuff so raw you just can’t make up. but really, if the obamas’ marriage is an ongoing negotiation, i can’t imagine who’s isn’t.