Is romance real?

Taking the War Out of Our WordsMy friend Sharon Ellison, M.S. emailed me this article and I thought you might like it. Sharon is an award-winning speaker, international consultant and the author of Taking the War Out of Our Words. Email her if you have a thought to share with her.

Billions of dollars are made on movies and novels about romance. People long for it. Yet many are skeptical, dismissing romance as an ultimately shallow, even false experience -— an image we create of someone during the “honeymoon” period of a relationship, before we really “get to know them.”

In fact, one definition of the word romance is “A fictitious narrative in prose in which the scene and incidences are very remote from those of ordinary life. This picture of “romance” was filled in with other words like, extravagant, invention, exaggeration, a picturesque falsehood,” and, bringing in manipulation, “To persuade into something by romancing.” We can imagine what we might be persuaded into.

Some scientists say they have unlocked the “mystery” of romance. The chemical reaction caused by pheromones creates a sexual attraction which then fades after the couple is propelled through initial rounds of procreative activities.

Is romance real? If so, what is it? A physical reaction? Courting rituals? True love? Can it have depth or is it an illusion? Can it last?

I believe that the essence of what we seek in romance is a powerful and real force. We can “see a stranger across a crowded room,” and have the kind of reaction that not only draws us together, but holds us for a lifetime.

Pheromones can play a part, but romance is much more complex. I’ve had clients who were immediately drawn to someone and later were shocked to realize that they had once again picked someone who had the same issues as their last partner! In my experience, that instant, magnetic reaction is more than physical. It can incorporate emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects.

To find a lifetime partner with whom we can continue to share romance is more than luck. It requires skill. The potential is there for many, but fulfilled for few. I think we have to follow a different story line if we are to find it more easily.

First, e need to focus much more on intimacy than on image. Often when we start a romance, the image we have of the other person is idealized and we may resist knowing things about the person that damage our ideal. This can lead to conflict and disappointment. (Try feeling truly romantic in a state of disillusionment!)

While the word intimacy is defined as profound friendship, no reference is made to the role of intimacy as a part of profound love. I think it is because intimacy involves a kind of understanding that’s easier to access in friendship than with those we love.

When we fall in love, we often become so dependent on the other person to meet our needs for intimacy that we become manipulative, controlling, sometimes demanding. For example, we may fear losing the other person so much that we become afraid to hear the truth. How can I hear you saying that you’ve thought of leaving me without trying to change your mind? Or even blaming you for causing our problems?

Mena came to me devastated, saying that her husband Todd had just said to her that morning, “Yesterday, I almost took all our money and left you and the kids.” Now, how can we even imagine this as a moment for intimacy, a time to ask with genuine curiosity, “What made you want to take all our money and leave us?” And to everyone in the group, initially, it seemed impossible to ask that question openly. But, it became clear to all that when her question radiated her pain and anger, it would certainly cause him to be defensive.

She practiced that one question until she could be genuinely curious. She came back a week later and said that she and Todd had had the best conversation they had ever had in their marriage. It turned out that he had been desperately unhappy in his job but her fears about financial security always caused her to resist when he suggested any change. The previous day at work he feel he just could not go on. Mena’s single, curious question, enabled her to know the man she’d fallen in love with more deeply and tenderly.

In doing so, she began to live out Scott Peck’s belief that “Genuine love is the willingness to do whatever is necessary for one’s own or the other’s highest good.” Mena and Todd made great changes in their lives. One of the unexpected results was that they felt a renewal of the love, romance and even adventure that they had felt for each other in the beginning. Most of us are not in the honeymoon phase of a relationship. We are in relationships that challenge us and we would do well to remember that an open question at a moment of intense conflict, fear, or even despair can be revitalize romance!

To achieve intimacy, we must foster curiosity. We must seek to understand the other person’s thoughts and feelings as we would those of a friend, instead of reacting in fear. It means we have to be able to hear things that may be threatening and still want to know where they came from, what they mean. To have the kind of intimacy that sustains romance, we must replace being controlling with being curious.

Sometimes, even if we are open and want a deep connection, we
may not get it when we want it. Then we risk sliding back into being unhappy and demanding. When we are demanding, we often lose confidence, become insecure, and see the other person as more valuable than we are. To avoid this, we must not keep all our intimacy needs in our partner’s basket.

Have you noticed that when you are in love, or you see lovers on the screen, the aesthetics of their surroundings are a crucial part of the scene? The way the light plays on the wall, the leaves rustle, the gravel crunches under foot.

The word intimacy is often defined as close observation or knowledge of a person or “thing.” If we pay attention, the light plays even when our partner is off in a funk, the leaves still rustle, the gravel crunches.

We just don’t allow ourselves to have the same kind of intimate experience when we are not getting what we want from our love. Then whatever else we do is second-best and we interact in a psychic state of loss. Ironically, we then lose the kind of spirit that is core to our capacity to experience intimacy.

Only if we learn to bring our full focus to a friend, a poem, a blade of grass, can we hone the skill of being intimate. We can practice. When we do, we begin to radiate, and the odds are higher that our partner will rekindle the feelings of romance he or she felt when we first met. Only better. If not, we will have already opened a new door to a path that can fulfill us.

As we enhance our capacity for intimacy the romance can happen anywhere. And if we have candles and moonlight, they can illuminate the romance that comes from deep love —- in one of many timelessness moments.

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3 responses to “Is romance real?”

  1. Chinedu Avatar

    Well-written, though I don’t think this is targeted at male humans.

    Also, in most of the world outside of America and Europe, so-called “romance” is not actually a requirement for a happy, wholesome, healthy, strong, meaningful, loving family unit. Romance is not meant to be something that you consciously DO. It’s attached to LOVE. It’s a PACKAGE. It’s a result of being truly compatible. You can’t have real love without real compatibility. You can’t have compatibility without the guidance of community.

    As a foreigner, I had to adjust to the fact that in America, it’s all about ME ME ME. American romance changes that attitude slightly to ME ME ME, a little of YOU, and more ME.

    When people start seeing love and romance from a more FAMILY and COMMUNITY perspective, only then can true LOVE flourish.

  2. Bigi Avatar

    I totally agree with the author. My perspective includes the fact that , as we get older and have more negative experiences, ie divorce, loss of trust, etc, we tend to change our attitude to one of self-preservation. And that causes less optimism ….less romance. It is the optimism and hope for unending fulfillment that is our romance. Is it selfish to want to preserve our sanity and by-pass the possible rejection? No, it is real. And I believe that it is THAT reality that diminishes our abililty to truly believe in the unreal possibility of rejection on some level. Ahhhh, romance…. the ability to believe that there would never be rejection, only total acceptance and, possibly admiration, for all that we are! And the ability to totally accept and admire our loved one for all that he is….yes, mistakes and all!