When it comes to love, everyone seems to have an opinion about this most profound and mysterious of experiences. Often, our perspectives about the nature of love and relationships are unspoken, remaining in the recesses of our mind. But whether you are aware of your views on romantic love or not, your love-perspective can have a big impact on your marriage/relationship.
Let’s turn our attention to two major viewpoints on love and romantic relationships—as you read on, see if your particular love-perspective is captured below.
Two Perspectives On Love And Relationships (Which do you hold?)
1) The Romantic (The “We’re Soulmates, We Were Meant To Be Together” View)
“Love is an endless mystery, for it has nothing else to explain it.” ~Rabindranath Tagore
There are several assumptions that underlie the romantic view of love. Central to this viewpoint is that everyone has a “soulmate” out there in the universe, just waiting to be discovered. Therefore, your job is to somehow find Mr./Ms. Right, and once this occurs, you should be all set for a lifetime of joy in the love arena.
In this view, correct partner-choice is central to lasting love.
The power of this perspective is that it creates a deep sense of connection, a heady experience of “us-ness” that stems from the remarkable good fortune of finding your soulmate out of the hordes of people in the universe. Feelings of gratitude may exist, as well as a powerful sense that your love is incomparable to the rest of us mortals, especially in light of the divorce and breakup rates that befall the masses. This sense of elevated specialness imbues love with a powerful transcendent quality.
The downfall of this perspective is that once your relationship hits a rough patch (or series of rough patches—which, of course, it will), it’s easy to conclude that you were simply mistaken about finding your soulmate and that, sadly, you’ve actually ended up with “Mr./Ms. Wrong.” To make sense of such a troubling turn of events, it’s easy to conclude that your spouse/partner somehow masked his/her true self and therefore the entire love-experience was nothing more than a charade. Two options exist at this point: bite the bullet and stay with Mr./Ms. Wrong or end the relationship and restart the search for your “real” soulmate.
2) The Pragmatist (The “Let’s Fight To Make Our Relationship Work” View)
“When I look back over our marriage, it’s obvious it took both effort and love.” ~ Barbara, married thirty-two years
In this view of love, relationships are like airplanes: You can be lifted up to amazing heights and brought to places you only imagined existed, but sooner or later there will be turbulence and the plane will need to make regular landings in order to refuel and receive maintenance.
In this view, hard work and stick-to-itiveness are central to lasting love.
The power of this perspective is that little is left to chance. There are no assumptions that the relationship will magically take care of itself—and rather than finding Ms./Mr. Right, this view holds that is totally acceptable to end up with “Ms./Mr. Good-Enough.” In this perspective, there is plenty of wiggle room in the relationship (for good and bad, ups and downs, highs and lows) and that it’s up to you and your partner to work at keeping the scales tipped toward the good. Relationship challenges and the mundane are seen as inherent to the process of being in love, and it’s considered a given that a certain amount of elbow grease is required.
The downfall of this perspective occurs when the romantic is taken for granted, always placed on the back burner because of practical considerations. All-encompassing pragmatism can turn love into a series of banal jobs that strangle the emotional richness, spontaneity, and mystery out of romantic love. A relationship that’s reduced to a series of Powerpoint “how to’s” loses it’s vitality and playfulness—the all-encompassing focus on the practical denies the possibility of transcendent experiences that are part of the inexplicable nature of love. Is it fair to say that love cannot (or should not) be fully explained and managed? I guess your answer depends on your love-perspective.
So which category more fully captures your and your partner’s views of love?
Do you value the mysteries of romantic love over practical considerations? Or do you find solace in the pragmatics of managing your marriage/relationship? Is there room for some combination of the romantic and pragmatic in your relationship?
Until next time,
Dr. Rich Nicastro