Romance is a gift from God. I believe we’re meant to enjoy it. But if we only pursue romance, our foundations won’t be able to sustain the relationship we are craving and trying to build. We need to remember it’s not enough on its own to make a relationship last.
(The following extract is taken from page 48-50 of The Dating Dilemma book, read the introduction for free.)
It’s fascinating to see the rise of romance and how it goes hand in hand with dating. We now have a dating culture because Western societies accept that:
1. We are free to choose whoever we want as our boy/girlfriend or spouse.
2. Relationships are allowed (often expected) to be temporary and non-committal.
3. Romantic desire or ‘falling in love’ is the most important ingredient in any (new) relationship.
‘Dating’ might go by lots of different names: ‘going out’, ‘hooking up’, ‘getting together’, ‘going steady’, ‘seeing someone’. But whatever we call it, dating is always about two people looking for and fostering an emotional bond. By its very definition, it doesn’t need to be exclusive or committed, and if it’s not satisfying, end it!
Catching Our Eye
Today nothing receives more attention in popular media than romance.
We love the idea of falling in love. Nearly every song is about being in love – or losing it. Every good film needs romance, whether it’s a chick flick obsessed with ‘the one’, or an action movie where the hero gets the villain and the girl thrown in for good measure, or the kids’ story with the happily-ever-after ending.
The rise of romance has made love and romantic relationships the meaning of life
Magazines and newspapers are filled with tips for finding love, and a whole industry rotates around celebrities’ love lives. Closer to home, social media provides us with immediate updates on friends’ relationship statuses, complete with snaps of their happy moments.
Everything is telling us that romance rules and that, without this kind of love, we can’t be happy. The rise of romance has made love and romantic relationships the meaning of life.
But our focus on romance has its problems. In her sequel to Eat, Pray, Love, author Elizabeth Gilbert travels the world, exploring attitudes to love and marriage. Her discovery is that:
‘Whenever a conservative culture of arranged marriage is replaced by an expressive culture of people choosing their own partners based on love, divorce rates will immediately begin to sky rocket. . . about five minutes after people start clamouring for the right to choose their own spouses based on love, they will begin clamouring for the right to divorce those spouses once that love has died.’
Romance is something that looks good in the shop, but when you take it home it can sometimes be a bit of a let-down.
Fragile, haphazard and selfish
The side effects can’t be ignored. Dating in a way that focuses primarily on romantic feelings makes the relationship more likely to be fragile, haphazard and selfish.
Relationships become fragile because feelings are always shifting and changing. If people believe that relationships are only ‘successful’ when they have romantic feelings, then when those feelings are lost, or weaken, what happens to the relationship? The result is a rise in the divorce rate in recent times, which has clearly risen overall in the last fifty years.
They become haphazard because valuing feelings above commitment can leave the relationship in a kind of no man’s land. Instead of intentionally and selflessly investing in their relationship, people think, ‘I’ll see how I feel.’ Thinking this, or ‘It’s not serious or anything; we just like each other’, means that no-one knows where they stand.
They become more selfish because, in the end, you’re focused on how you feel and what you want, and the relationship just rolls along unintentionally with no defined purpose or commitment. It also breeds a selfish attitude towards relationships and to each other: ‘I’ll date as long as I am happy’; ‘I’ll only commit to you as long as I want to. If it gets hard, it’s over.’
Is there another way?
Dating lots of people, and pursuing temporary relationships in search of an ‘emotional high’, can cause damage.
We can end up feeling hurt, rejected and lonely. So if dating this way is causing so much heartache and insecurity in relationships, should a romance revolution do away with romance altogether, or is there another way? (Read 2 Strategies for Surviving The Changing World Of Dating)
I have written many times about the fact that we should enjoy dating and relationships, but we need to approach it with healthy expectations and lay good foundations too (Read 15 Questions for Building Mutually Enjoyable Fulfilling Relationships)
Imagine if we remembered that romance is amazing, but on its own it is rubbish. Healthy long-lasting relationships involve many other elements too. These elements, along with romance, can help us build the great relationship we’re looking for.
How often do we get told relationships are about more than just romance? Comments welcomed below.