16 February 2010

Dave's ideas on romantic love

I actually wrote this a couple years ago, but I figured for Valentine's being in the discount bin, I'd add my penny-philosophies.


A person will feel the most intense romantic longing for whichever individual that person perceives as being the most socially desirable. Failing to achieve the affections of this desirable individual, a person will then accept an individual of less social stature -- however, a person will always seek to be with an individual that they perceive as being more socially desirable than themselves, then of equal social stature.

Romantic love, therefore, is a function of sexual selection.


A disaffected person who views their own life as ruined, hopeless, or otherwise lacks faith in themselves is likely to feel intense romantic longing for someone whom that disaffected person believes will give them a new identity, a new start. This romantic interest functions as a redeemer, a knight in shining armor. The resultant relationship is likely doomed, as it is a palliative.


A self-actualized individual who acts authentically and derives meaning out of their lives will never need a romantic relationship. Nevertheless, two such people are likely to find happiness together.

I've heard it said that couples have a better chance of happiness in arranged marriages -- I think this is true primarily because of the inordinately unrealistic expectations people have of romantic love, and in particular what the role of the other person will be. I've also heard that not only is marriage work, it's hard work. I don't want to speculate on the nature of marriage, because I'm mostly ignorant and I don't feel like writing much anyway -- but as the desired outcome of romantic attraction, it seems that marriage might benefit from being more realistically portrayed (for example, who cares what happens to Bella after marrying the vampire? These romances are exploitative of sexual longing and irresponsible for the aftermath primarily because they're too weak to sustain further interest).

Ideally, romantic love is enduring, but I think we have few examples of any such portrayal. The story typically ends at Happily ever after. Everything just works after that? Seems like what happens next is the part where romantic love is truly tested. If love were a runner, it would have to run a marathon, not a three-meter dash.

The popular concept of romance needs a lot of work.

1 comment:

Peter McCombs said...

#1 It seems to me that people usually look for relationships within their own social stratum, or a higher one. In this case, the selection isn't sexual but social. The reason is that sexual selection is tied to specific physical characteristics or capabilities unique to the sex. You are talking about a selection based on an artificial social order.

#2 seems like a foolish relationship to get into. For my part, I wanted a symmetrical relationship where we could both identify with weakness or failure and therefore have less cause to judge the other. Still, I would not be surprised if lots of people fall into the trap of searching for the "perfect" mate. That's one of the worst things to look for, in my opinion.

#3 might seem like a good scenario if it minimizes the risk of excessive codependence (a controversial topic). Still, people who are overly passionate about their own lives may lack compassion for others. That would present a long-term risk to the relationship if two individuals get off onto their own separate tracks and eventually seek freedom for individual expression outside of the relationship.

Popular portrayal of relationships suffers from the same problem as any other cause that is portrayed (social or political). It is that we wish to paint these things as utopias in order to advocate them. There is a fear that anything less than ideal is bad and therefore ought to be avoided. The problem with this attitude is that people don't grow and develop much under "ideal" circumstances. Creativity is maximized when things aren't quite right whereas perfection leads to stagnation.