Romantic love in today’s world, is it possible? Is the high tech, hurry-up computerized world with its digital mentality and remote controls eroded our capacity for genuine romantic love.
The fervent attraction between man and woman that is known as romantic love can create the deepest joy. It can also engender, when thwarted, indescribable pain. Yet, for all its passion, the disposition of that connection is little understood. To some, who associate “romantic” with “irrational”, romantic love is a short-lived fixation, a touching tempest, unavoidably short-term, which leaves disappointment and dissatisfaction in its path? To others, Romantic love is an ideal that, if never reached, leaves one feeling as though one has somehow missed the secret of life.
Looking at the tragedy and confusion so many experience in romantic relationships, many persons have concluded that the idea of romantic love is somehow basically wrong, a false hope. In consequence, more and more people are experiencing with different kinds of relationships, one that do not entail the intimacy and vulnerability of an intense commitment to another person. Some people have given up the hope of passionate attachment as not only false but also destructive. Romantic love is also under attack today from psychologists, sociologists, and anthropologists, who frequently scorn it as an young illusory ideal. To such intellectuals, the idea that an intense emotional attachment would form the basis of a lasting fulfilling relationship is simply a neurotic product of modern Western culture.
We have long been witness to the fact that many persons begin a relationship genuinely in love and with goodwill and high hope for the future, and then, across time, tragically, painfully, and with a good deal of bewilderment, watch the relationship deteriorate and ultimately collapse. They think back to a time when they were deeply in love, when so much seemed right, good, and rewarding, and they are tortured by not knowing how and why they lost what they had. If that love could die, they find themselves feeling, can any love last? Is lasting romantic love possible for me at all? Or for anyone? Perhaps it is time to put the dream away along with the rest of the toys of childhood. In addition, sometimes they reach a time when some of these questions are forgotten, when the anguish of why and how has long since faded, and all that is left is numbness. Sometimes they console themselves with the belief that this numbness is what it means to finally grow up. And in our culture, there are many persons who encourage them in this belief.
Yet, people continue to fall in love. The dream dies only to be reborn, like a life force not to be stopped. The drama continues. Moved by a passion they do not understand toward a fulfillment they seldom reach, they are haunted by the dream of a distant possibility that refuses to be extinguished.
The vision refuses to be extinguished because it answers profound human needs. Nevertheless, what is the nature of those needs? What is the nature of that possibility that eternally inspires our imagination and ignites our longing? In addition, what bars the way to the successful fulfillment of our longing?
For older people who have been especially affected by disillusionment and have lost their will to revive their quest for romantic love, romantic love is not just the prerogative of youth. Nor is it some kind of immature ideal, inappropriately adapted from the literature and the “Hollywood media” that must crumble in the face of “practical reality.” On the other hand, romantic love in our cyberspace world requires more of us, in terms of our personal evolution and maturity, than we generally appreciate. We must define romantic love in the setting of modern culture.
Romantic love is a passionate spiritual-emotional-sexual attachment between a man and a woman that reflects a continuing high regard for each other’s person. The word “Continuing is all-important in romantic love. A love that “flames out” shortly after takeoff can hardly be described as romantic love.
A relationship cannot be described as romantic love if the couple does not continually experience their attachment as passionate or intense, at least to some significant extent.
It is indeed a time when romantic love and Christian commitment to marriage and the family and lasting relationships should be reborn.