Romantic Love?

What do I mean by “romantic love”; what comes to mind when I think of it?

That lovely subtle, deep thrill of knowing my beloved lives in my world: I will see him, he will see me, with the light of joy in his eyes to behold me, with the delight of sharing in our hands to touch, ah the electricity. The wonder that he is here, he is, he has a body I can touch, feel, hold….
The longing to be with him when I am not, the mind returning when not firmly held to some task, returning to wonder and drink in the energy, feed hungrily, fed as never before, nourished at the source never otherwise flowing, primal unequaled nutrition, my heart’s desire, my heart fulfilled.

The fulfillment of being seen, known, valued, blessed, loved. To be loved is to be blessed. Filled overflowing, and still… there’s that hunger, that longing creeping back, wanting to be with him, wanting to get closer, ever closer, to merge, to become one. To have him mirror my values, confirm my values, support me, make me valid, validate me, love validates me, makes me real, makes me respectable, makes me stand tall in others’ eyes and in my own. To be affirmed confirmed firmed by the firmament of my belonging, of my longing, no problem as long as I’m with him but when I’m not, well then I just remember I still am fundamentally, essentially, in our hearts, in our souls never separated, never separate, eternally united, not put asunder, my other half, completed, shadow side out front no longer cowed by the culture cowed by rejection cowed by my father’s yelling, oh my lover would never yell at me, never neverland….

Those are the thoughts that arise. Eventually, my mind shies away completely, into sleepiness. When roused, she comments acidly “I’d rather write on what is meaningful to me now.”

But there was a time when I wanted to create a perfect romance. When I was determined to do it right. When I fell in love at the drop of a hat, just to see if this time I could get it right. I was sure it was possible; sure this dance of beloved and lover could be done in such a way that the delight was titillated, the energy was raised and raised again and then cherished, nurtured, heightened so we achieved something rare, rarified, exalting, enlightening….

How much of these thoughts reflect any ultimate reality? I know I’ve been trained by the culture — and I recognize in that training a lot of baggage I don’t agree with. Not that I expose myself to much of it. I don’t read romance novels. I can’t stand popular music about relationships, it too often seems to fall into what I think of as the “Boo-hoo: my man, he done me wrong” category. Though I watch a lot of movies, I shy away from out-and-out romances. Still the conditioning, the definition of what love is, pervades any depiction of relationship. And Jesse, who loves movies about romance, occasionally gets me to watch one I would have avoided.

Recently I watched Something’s Gotta Give, written and directed by Nancy Meyers. I laughed uproariously where Erica (Diane Keaton) howls with grief & anger, and writes laughing at the situation at the same time! Such a good depiction of the objectivity a writer must cultivate, such good counsel for anyone to achieve it.

But Meyers used jealousy as a proof of “love”: as if being jealous of you, of any other relationship you might have… means I love you. However I don’t think so. I think truly caring for the beloved means compassion, and joy in anything that enriches their life. A “love” that holds tightly, possessively, dependent for satisfaction on being the only one, does not celebrate the beloved as a real being, but introjects a fantasy lover in order to feel complete.

In the end of the movie, when Harry (Jack Nicholson) won Erica, I felt sorry for his competitor, the young doctor (Keanu Reeves). I felt as though the story just kind of brushed him off, as though he didn’t count. He certainly seemed to be “in love with” her, too. He said he’d never felt about any other woman, the way he did about her. But we were not supposed to feel compassion for him. Instead, the final scenes seemed designed to emphasize that it was a happy ending — and it seemed forced to me. The complexity of real life, real love, was reduced to a shallow formula.

It seems to me our culture defines romantic love as including lust, jealousy, obsession with the beloved — and selfless caring for that person. What an impossible recipe!

The culture dictates that we should “open” to that experience, value it, seek it, trust it. It says that this condition just “happens” to you, that you’re lucky when it does. It commands us to nurture it nevertheless, and to marry for it. What a crock! Marry for it, establish a life commitment on the basis of such a flawed motivation.

Still the culture acknowledges, occasionally, that the magic doesn’t last. Though when it does, it offers nothing more substantial. Instead it prescribes strategies for holding onto this illusion of love, for renewing it. A perennial subject of the women’s magazines.

Looking for remedies, I investgated these approaches:
• Psycholoical studies of the cultural phenomenon of “Love”[1]
• Psychoneurological studies, analyzing the cascade of brain hormones in the progression through stages of Love[2]
• The ancient sex magic called Tantra[3]

[1] See Love Theory, in Chapter 2: Getting Programmed > The Culture of Romance.
[2] See Psychoneuroendocrinology, in Chapter 3, Biology’s Clout.
[3] See Chapter 10, Hunting Tantra.