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A Brief History of Romantic Love and Why It Kind of Sucks

The industrial age changed romance

For most of human history, there was no time for romance. Marriages were arranged by families and were a purely economic arrangement designed to promote the survival and prosperity of both extended families.

It wasn’t until the industrial age that things began to change. They didn't have to rely so heavily on family connections any more. Consequently, the economic and political components of marriage ceased to make sense.

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A Brief History of Romantic Love and Why It Kind of Sucks

A Brief History of Romantic Love and Why It Kind of Sucks

https://markmanson.net/romantic-love

markmanson.net

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Key Ideas

Plato on love

The ancient Greek philosopher Plato argued that the highest form of love was brotherly love or platonic love.

The industrial age changed romance

For most of human history, there was no time for romance. Marriages were arranged by families and were a purely economic arrangement designed to promote the survival and prosperity of both extended families.

It wasn’t until the industrial age that things began to change. They didn't have to rely so heavily on family connections any more. Consequently, the economic and political components of marriage ceased to make sense.

"Happily ever after" ideal

The economic realities of the 19th century mixed with the idea from the Enlightenment about the pursuit of happiness. The result was the Age of Romanticism.

People became economically independent and love (or emotions) became valued in society. These ideals of love have been heavily promoted and marketed during the 20th century.

Love is complicated

People often overestimate love’s ability to overcome whatever issues or problems present in their relationships.

Love can sometimes be unpleasant or painful. It requires self-discipline, understanding and a certain amount of sustained effort over the course of years. It comes with a requirement for personal responsibility.

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The faulty logic

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But in most cases, ther...

Unrealistic expectations

The gap between expectation and reality is the cause for many of life’s disappointments.
We like to create detailed fantasies of how our lives are going to be. But when we expect our reality to match a fantasy but life turns out nothing like it, we feel disappointed.

Asking the right questions

"Are you the right person for me?" is the wrong question to ask, because nothing outside of ourselves can fix us or bring us happiness.
A more constructive question to ask would be "Can I accommodate your imperfections with humor and grace?"

Unresolved conflicts

The idea that couples must communicate and resolve all of their problems is a myth. The truth is, trying to resolve a conflict can sometimes create more problems than it fixes.

Being honest

The last person you should ever have to censor yourself with is the person you love.

It’s important to make something more important in your relationship than merely making each other feel good all of the time. The feel-good stuff happens when you get the other stuff right.

Being willing to end it

Romantic sacrifice is idealized in our culture. 

Sometimes the only thing that can make a relationship successful is ending it at the appropriate time, before it becomes too damaging. And the willingness to do that allows us to establish the necessary boundaries to help ourselves and our partner grow together.

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The ultimate savior
The ultimate savior

We tend to see romantic love as the ultimate savor that will overwhelm us with such passion and devotion, that it will take away all of our problems.

When we take care of our partner, we do...

The danger of escapism

We may help our partner figure out their issues but neglect our own. We find refuge in our partners, and sometimes a refuge where we can escape from ourselves. That is dangerous and unhealthy in the long run.

Real love

If we want to live in a society where we take our emotional health seriously, where self-care, self-awareness, and self-love are valued, we will teach each other more about different perspectives of love.

With real love, we will accept and value ourselves without relying entirely on someone else for validation.

Falling in love

To us, being loved in a relationship is perhaps the highest ideal. It gives our lives meaning and purpose. Being loved validates our sense of self-esteem and soothes our fears of loneliness.

Whom We Find Attractive

Our self-esteem, mental and emotional health, positive and negative life experiences, and family relations all influence whom we’re attracted to. 

The Ideal Stage of Romance

There is an amount of healthy idealization that helps us fall in love.

However, if we’re depressed or have low self-esteem, we’re more likely to idealize a prospective partner and overlook signs of trouble, such as unreliability or addiction, or accept disrespectful or abusive behavior. A lack of a support system or loneliness might also blind us to potential faults.

It is far better to first deal with these concerns before entering into a relationship.

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Free And Lonely

Most Americans of this generation are now more free than the earlier generations. They are free and spoilt for choice to date, marry, divorce or have casual sexual encounters.

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Modern Dating Scene

Mark Regnerus provides some insights into the modern dating scene:

  • A casual relationship is now preferred to a committed one.
  • Sex is now a field for marketers to provide products and services.
  • It takes considerably less time, effort and risk for one to get sexual gratification through online dating or porn.
Marriage is now an Option

Youngsters are now wary of a life-long relationship and consider it as an option.

  • One-third of people who are in their twenties may never marry.
  • The increase of freedom to romance has changed the definition of romance.

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The forms of love

Love is not just found in romantic love directed at one person.

Love includes the depth of close friendships, the sense of belonging in a community, the intensity of an artistic practice...

It takes a village to feel loved

In history, marriage was a pragmatic institution. A sense of identity was more embedded in community, and not solely in marriage.

The shift to individualism and choice has meant that we feel the need to find our identity in an all-encompassing romantic partnership. We are asking from one person what once an entire village used to provide.

Recognising that one person can't be your everything can help you find a broader definition of love.

The love of friendship

Sharing your experiences with others is an essential ingredient to feeling connected.

This conncection doesn't have to come in the form of a partner or having friends around you all the time. Rather, it is the quality of your close relationships that has an impact on your well being.

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Stop entering relationships

... that you know are doomed.  We should not be pursuing every relationship that comes our way, but only those relationships that have the potential to work.

Get curious about how you act

... when you’re in a relationship. Think about those four horsemen of the relationships apocalypse: criticism, defensiveness, contempt and stonewalling and how often do you exhibit any of them.

Try to observe your actions and strive to understand the reasons behind them.

Relationship as a partnership

It helps to view your relationship as a “work of art” that you two are co-creating together, in real-time.

The work-of-art mindset can help counter that pessimistic self-narrative. Instead, you get to stop thinking about yourself and what you’re gaining or losing in your relationship, and you get to start thinking about what you have to offer.

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