For thousands of years, reaching back to the French Troubadours in the Middle Ages, we’ve been indoctrinated in the ways of romantic love, so much so that many now believe that romantic love is the purest – and perhaps the only – form of true love.
As a result of our miseducation, many have held out blindly for “the one” and destroyed good relationships, fueled by the myths of romantic love. These false representations of love do a great disservice to those seeking fulfilling, long-term relationships. Have you knowingly or unknowingly subscribed to these myths?
Myth #1: Love Is Eternal
Passionate and exciting, romantic love can be irresistible. Even beyond the physical desire of new love, romantic love may feel like an infinite and spiritual experience that transcends other experiences of love. Many would give up anything to “lose themselves” in romantic love or find that “special someone” the universe created just for them. When found, the world seems like a magical place.
How could something so special fail to stand the test of time?
Love, in all forms, is fragile; it requires ongoing effort in order to endure life’s ups and downs. Couples who do not tend to their relationship may find that even the deepest love can dwindle over time. The difference is that in healthy relationships, founded on substance rather than infatuation, partners can reconnect with the qualities they love about the other person and experience renewed intimacy over and over again.
Myth #2: True Love Can Be Easily Distinguished from Infatuation
In the early stages of a relationship, the feelings can be so intense it’s hard to imagine that they could be an illusion that dissipates over time. But it is impossible to sustain such an exhilarated state. Since romantic love is an emotion, it inevitably fluctuates. And what you’re left with when the excitement wears off are the realities of being human – annoying habits, character flaws, physical imperfections – all of which may be less than exhilarating for the individual seeking to maintain the delusion of romantic love.
Until a significant amount of time passes, it can be difficult to assess whether a bond is based on genuine compatibility, mere attraction or an infatuation with the feeling of being in love. Real love requires commitment, which develops over time, often through a series of trials and tribulations.
Myth #3: My Soul Mate Will Know What I’m Thinking and Feeling
Expecting a connection so profound that it borders on mind-reading is a set-up for failure. The strongest relationships share one thing in common: good communication. Only by getting to know someone over time and working toward mutual understanding can a relationship survive. Couples who have been together for decades may know each other so well that their interactions appear clairvoyant, but this comes only after years of learning.
Myth #4: Love Is All You Need
In Western cultures, where many of the myths of romantic love were born, we’ve become obsessed with the idea and pursuit of romantic love. Once achieved, we believe that romantic love will be the root of all happiness, yet with each relationship that follows we find ourselves wondering, “Is this it?”
Love, especially romantic love, is not the only requirement for a satisfying relationship, and it certainly won’t solve all relationship problems. A partnership requires communication, shared values and goals, and plenty of give and take. “But I love him/her” is never a good reason to stay in an unhealthy relationship.
Myth #5 When I Find the Right Partner, I Will Be Complete
From the tender age of 1 or 2, we begin our education in romantic love with seemingly innocuous fairytales that end with the fair maiden and her prince living “happily ever after.” As we grow older, these lessons about how to fall in love are reinforced through books, songs, television and movies.
Consciously or subconsciously, this vision of romantic love becomes the ideal we strive for in our personal lives. Later, when the pursuit of romantic love is nothing but a wistful memory of the past, many continue to long for those intense, but ultimately unsustainable feelings.
Many men and women believe that when Mr./Mrs. Right comes through the door, they will finally feel whole. All of their needs will be fulfilled; they will be able to accomplish all of their goals; and they will finally be happy. Many go so far as to paint a picture of what Mr./Mrs. Right looks like, typically fitting the stereotyped images of the taller, stronger man and the nice, petite woman.
No man or woman can live up to these expectations, nor do they need to in order to be healthy, loving partners. The “right” partner cannot be “fixed” or “rescued,” and will not (or should not) change who they are or how they look to fit the mold of your ideal man or woman. Healthy relationships are formed between two independent, whole people who decide to share their lives.
An extension of this myth is the belief that when you find the right partner, the sex will be great. Like all aspects of a solid relationship, sexual compatibility requires open communication, trust and ongoing effort.
Separating Fairytale Fantasy from Relationship Reality
The problem with these and other myths about romantic love is that many of us logically know that they are false, but still our hearts and actions are governed by them. We commit to a relationship only to find years later that we resent our partner for failing to meet our every need and desire; we date nice, appropriate people only to find that inside, we are still yearning for the fairytale prince to sweep us off our feet.
It can be difficult to let go of the fantasy that romantic love is real and sustainable. But when we build our lives around the pursuit of romantic love, these myths can lead to depression, abuse, divorce, emotional trauma, relationship and love addiction, and other problems.
Giving up a false ideal opens the door to healthier, more gratifying ways to love. Recognizing these distortions of reality and over-simplified stereotypes is the first step toward personal growth and relationship satisfaction. With self-awareness and a willingness to do the work, you can choose to accept the truth: Loving relationships are the bedrock of our lives, but only when founded upon honesty, mutual understanding and acceptance. Perhaps not the stuff movies and books are made of, but the reality nevertheless.