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What Is Romantic Love? (Version 1)

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Category: Key Concepts
By kelgood - Saturday, January 03, 2015 - No Comments


This is the first post I'm publishing on this blog and it is an important one. It provides the central definition that everything I write here will flow from.

It is my definition of romantic love.

I believe it is always important when we are going to discuss anything that we define our terms.

Not because there are right or wrong definitions. We're free to define words any way we want. But when we seek to communicate with each other it is important as best we can to make sure we're talking about the same thing.

As I proceed with writing my posts here I will also provide a glossary of terms. This will grow over time as I feel the need to add to it. I want you to know what I'm saying by being as clear as I can.

One problem that immediately arises of course is that we can only define a term by using other terms.

Those terms also must have some sorts of definitions, which must themselves consist of yet more terms.

So there is no way we can completely prevent talking past each other, because we all come to think of what different terms mean based on our experiences.

And isn't this where a big part of relationship challenges start?

You think a certain way because of how you experience the world, and you're trying to mesh your way of seeing the world with somebody else's...your partner's.

Not only is your partner a separate individual from you with separate experiences that led to his or her definitions. In the context of heterosexual relationships - my focus on this blog - you also approach the world from the perspective of opposite genders.

Not that you are truly opposites of course or that there is just one way of seeing the world that can be called male and another that can be called female.

But I do believe as a generalization these two ways of seeing can be identified across the broad population of males and females.

Some of it is based in our actual biology.

At times as a male I don't process things like most males do but instead see things more like most females do. When this happens we can say on that level I'm functioning more on female energy or perspective.

It doesn't make me a female, it just means I'm not a typical male on that point.

The same thing happens with a lot of females. They show more male energy at times.

There is nothing right or wrong about any of this. It just is.

But it makes defining our terms tricky.

Obviously I've shifted into talking about other terms besides romantic love that will need definitions from my perspective too - terms like male, female and energy.

But I'll leave this for future blog posts.

The main thing I'm trying to emphasize is that definitions matter if we're going to communicate.

All I can do is try my best to provide you with my definition of certain terms as I tell you what I think about them, and if you disagree or have further thoughts I'll welcome you to share yours both in the comments below and in the Discussions.

But it will be important we try to make sure we're talking about the same thing.

If you define romantic love one way and I define it another way, and then we disagree about it, we may not even be disagreeing about the same thing.

Then we end up talking past each other.

And of course we always need to recognize our perspective is not necessarily correct, it's just how we see things. Other perspectives are possible.

I'm never here to just tell you what to think.

This blog will be my reflections on relationships and the options I think you need to consider as you think about guys and girls, yourself and your present or potential partners, and how you might find happiness in your relationships.

Even this gets complicated.

Is happiness in relationships really the point?

Some people don't think so.

They think the purpose of relationships is to learn things. To grow.

If that's the plan happiness isn't necessarily the best option. We often learn better through our pains and hardships.

If the purpose of a relationsip is to cause you to grow maybe you're already getting what you need in your relationships, even if you don't like it.

I don't personally think that but as you can see we'll have lots to talk about as we proceed in the coming weeks and months!

Hopefully you'll find my perspectives helpful.

If you do, feel free to implement my suggestions.

If not that's fine too.

And feel free to suggest your own ideas.

I'm not posturing myself here as some sort of guru. I'm just a fellow traveler seeking to understand this amazingly complex world of relationships.

I want this to be a conversation.

Your comments will influence where I take things with future blog posts.

I promise to read them so please feel free to join in!

Okay I promised you my definition of romantic love.

What I'm giving you is my current definition.

I am open to this changing as I continue to learn and experience and grow. But I have to start somewhere.

So here it is:

Romantic love is the desire to experience sexual fulfillment and emotional connection that is mutually shared and enjoyed.

I debated getting more complex with this definition but thought better of it. I want to keep the basic definition simple and then expand on it a bit here before I finish.

As you can see I've emphasized a few things: Sex and emotion. Mutuality. Enjoyment and sharing.

I've also left out some things. I want to start by talking about those.

The first thing you'll notice is I've said nothing about this desire occuring in a marriage, a cohabitation, or any other form of monogamous arrangement.

Obviously romantic relationships often take such forms, but I make no assumptions they must.

In my definition of romantic love polyamory, polygamy and other such arrangements are also possible relationship options. I do not assume it is impossible to romantically love more than one person.

You may feel you could not, in which case such a relationship might not be for you. But many people feel otherwise.

Some of these arrangements - polygamy for instance - are not currently legal in the western world. Although they have been legal in the past and in other cultures, and may become legal again.

I do not advocate breaking the law. Any exploration I make into such options is solely for completeness of reflection. Please observe the laws of the land where you live when you make your relationship choices.

I'll have lots to say about the pros and cons of these and other relationship options as we move forward.

Another thing I have not mentioned in my definition of romantic love is family and children.

Obviously couples frequently join with a common desire to grow a family and share parenthood together.

The desire for this is especially strong in girls and there is a biological basis for this though there are definitely girls who do not want children too.

While having a family is a wonderful option that a romantic relationship potentially makes possible, it is not central to romantic love as I define it. In fact often family and parenthood wreaks havoc on romantic love.

Couples who desire to pursue that course should be very clear about the implications of it for their love. I will also reflect on this in future blog posts.

So what about the things I have included in my definition of romantic love?

Let's start with enjoyment.

What I mean by this is that if you are not finding your relationship with your partner meaningful to you, it is no longer a healthy romantic relationship.

What is the point of being in a relationship you don't find worthwhile?

This is one place where I take major exception to how society has designed our concept of marriage. "Till death do us part" and all that. Commitment come hell or high water!

People think they have a successful marriage because they are still together, they haven't divorced. As if the quality of what together means isn't relevant.

Many couples who haven't divorced have been emotionally divorced for years.

The story of a girl staying married for the sake of her children is a common one.

Guys enduring their partner's disinterest in a sexless marriage is well known too.

Whether you look good as a couple on the outside or not is completely irrelevant. The question is how you look on the inside, where nobody else sees your relationship.

Naturally you may have found your relationship enjoyable in the past but now you no longer do. If that's the case you are no longer experiencing romantic love as I define it.

I'll have lots to say about the whole Disney fantasy of falling in love eventually but if there is one thing that romantic love must entail it is that you are finding fulfillment from your relationship.

Please don't misunderstand me either to be saying that if your relationship is no longer enjoyable you should just bale on it. I believe relationships ebb and flow and they deserve our effort to revive and sustain romantic love.

Too many people these days are ready to bale with the slightest affront.

I think girls are more susceptible to baling when the emotional state of the relationship sours than guys are. I'll have lots to say to you girls about this as we go forward.

And I'm not saying in romantic love both partners are just out for what they can get from the relationship, like enjoyment vampires. This is where the element of sharing becomes important.

When you are truly experiencing romantic love you find just as much joy from giving your love to your partner as you do from receiving in kind.

In healthy romantic relationships there is a commitment to ensuring that giving and receiving, sharing and enjoying, is balanced.

In fact, much of the enjoyment of romantic love comes from showing your partner how much you love and desire them.

Romantic love is the pinnacle of the western concept of the value of the individual.

In romantic love you affirm your partner's value, showing them that you find them worthy of your desire and affection.

As romantic partners we share our love freely with each other.

This brings us to the concept of mutuality.

If you feel fulfilled but your partner does not, something is amiss.

If you are working on the relationship and giving but your partner is not, things are not as they should be.

The point of romantic relationship is that you desire both your own and your partner's enrichment.

You want to be meeting your partner's needs and seek to have your needs met by your partner. There is mutual giving and receiving, sharing and enjoying.

When you lose this balance people start getting hurt and resentments grow.

When you love each other you don't want to hurt each other. You want to ensure you are both protected.

So there is a strong element of mutuality in romantic love.

When this is gone romantic love is gone too.

I'm not saying when romantic love is gone it can never be revived.

Many of you girls seem to feel this way but I think you are mistaken. More on this too in future posts.

I truly believe lost love can be revived.

But it must be mutually desired and sustained for it to come alive again and to stay alive and flourish.

Staying together without this mutuality makes a mockery of your love.

Obviously what I'm saying here has implications regarding the concept of monogamous marriage, and I will definitely be expressing my thoughts about this too going forward.

Okay then how does this all play out regarding sex and emotion?

I believe we all have two primary systems within us that impact our romantic relationships. These are sexual desire and emotional connection.

In her book Why We Love: The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love Helen Fisher suggests romantic love is a third system but I take exception to her here.

I think romantic love is the merging of these two systems within our psyches.

There must be sexual attraction, desire, and fulfillment as well as emotional bonding, attachment, and connection for romantic love to take form.

It remains as long as both these elements continue.

In its beginnings it can come on like a torrent, though sometimes it grows gradually between you and your lover.

It can only be sustained by understanding these two elements of your psyche so you can ensure you do the things that will keep it alive and thriving within you.

Since I'm a man I suppose its typical that sex made it in there first in my definition.

But don't misunderstand me. It was coming to appreciate emotional connection that led to my definition.

Without emotional connection sex is just sex. It has nothing to do with romantic love. But I would equally insist that without sex, emotional connection is just emotional connection too.

That may be a form of love, but it is not romantic love.

Romantic love requires both sexual desire and emotional connection to be the real deal.

If you want sex with a girl but are not truly connective with her emotionally, you are not romantically in love with her.

If you feel emotional connection for a man but do not desire to be with him sexually, you are not romantically in love with him either.

In romantic love we naturally desire to be as close to each other as we can both physically and emotionally. How could it be otherwise?

As a guy I never really understood what sex had to do with love.

But I had an experience that changed that for me forever. I'll share about this in the future.

The result was I changed from being a person who didn't see what sex had to to with love, to being someone who cannot imagine wanting sex without a deep emotional connection with my partner.

Let me be clear.

I'm not telling you if you just like sex you're wrong.

That's not a relationship option for me anymore but it is still a relationship option.

It may be the one you choose for yourself, or you may choose it for yourself at this point in your life and then come to see things differently at a later point.

All I'm saying is if you're interested in a relationship that includes sex but lacks emotional connection with your partner, then you're not romantically interested in your partner according to my definition.

Obviously many guys are quite comfortable with a "sex only" relationship and frequently guys are like I was, finding sex naturally compartmentalized away from emotional connection.

I actually think this is because most guys enter the world sexually addicted.

This isn't their fault. Testosterone's a bitch. I'll have a lot to say about this in the future too.

But in case you guys think I'm giving you a hard time here, let me talk to the girls for a moment too.

You girls usually come at this from the other side.

You strongly desire emotional connection and sexuality is only important to you where emotional connection is clearly present.

Yes girls I know some of you aren't typical here. You're DTF as they say! But in my view of the world that is because you have more male energy.

Since the 1960s western girls are encouraged on one level to be this way.

Again this is not wrong. It just is.

But despite the girls who express their sexuality with more masculine energy, most of you are still more emotionally inclined even when you express yourselves very sexually.

You usually don't just want sex.

You want to know your partner really cares about you and is not just using you for sex.

There are exceptions but this is usually the rule.

But what many of you girls don't recognize is that just as guys frequently have their focus too heavily on sex, you often have your focus too heavily on emotional connection.

In doing this you de-emphasize the importance of sex in a relationship.

Because it is not as strongly a need for you, many of you girls can be quite content to "just cuddle" and forego sex altogether.

The vast plague of "sexless marriages" is a well known phenomenon.

It isn't caused just by insensitive guys who don't help with the kids and the household chores. There are reasons you lose sexual attaction for the man you love.

Many guys bemoan that their partner has abandoned a desire for sex.

Even a great number of girls actually bemoan that although they truly feel emotionally connected with their partner, they simply have no remaining desire to be sexual with him.

I will definitely have a lot to say about all this too.

If you think about it, when either sexual fulfillment or emotional connection are missing, you don't really have what makes romantic relationships distinct.

I think most of us would agree that it is possible to have sex with someone for recreation only, without this constituting a romantic connection.

Even if as a girl you don't consider yourself capable of that, I imagine you won't deny guys often seem capable of it.

And we know prostitution has been on the market for centuries.

This ability to separate sex from emotional connection is also where the relationship option of Friends With Benefits comes from.

Despite Hollywood's claims that such people inevitably fall in love with each other, the facts speak otherwise.

There are indeed people of both genders who carry on such relationships with no further interest than their mutual sexual enjoyment.

The fact you're having sex with someone doesn't necessarily mean you have a deep emotional connection with your partner.

It doesn't mean you're romantically in love.

My second claim that you can be emotionally connective without being sexually interested takes more convincing, especially with girls.

As a girl you may think if you have a deep emotional bond with your partner you will desire to be sexual with him.

This often isn't the case however as the girls who bemoan their sexual disinterest with somone they are emotionally connected with show.

But even if such cases did not exist we could still show that emotional connection itself does not require sexual interest by noting how emotional connection is not relegated solely to romantic relationships.

I can have an emotional connection with another male friend.

Parents have emotional connections with their children.

Even emotional connection between people of the opposite sex does not always move in a sexual direction.

Guys can have deep emotional bonds with girls in friendships with whom they have no sexual interest or relations. So do girls at times.

So a deep emotional connection by itself does not constitute romantic love.

In my definition what makes things distinctly romantic is when these two aspects of our natures combine: sexual desire and emotional connectivity.

I'm going to return to this theme of the sexual and emotional aspects of our natures over an over again in future posts.

I believe understanding how these two elements play in yours and your partner's psyches is a central key to figuring out what relationship options best fit you and how to approach the relationships you embrace.

Well there you go. I've laid my cards on the table. Let me know what you think both in the Discussions and in the comment section below.

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