What is romantic love? People today have this obsession with jumping into marriage based on the feelings they have in the moment. There is a lot more to love than romance. Typically in first stage of a relationship, one is overcome by that magical feeling. They cannot get enough of that person when the dating process first starts. This is romance. People in the beginning of a relationship are more focused on how they can please their partner.
When people are focused more on the other person in the relationship it creates a void. This void cannot be recognized early in the relationship. People do not generally understand the amount of effort a relationship truly takes. This is the reason for the extremely high divorce rate. The main focus of the relationship is the here and now. How does this person make you feel? Are they doing a good job? Early in the process there are signals people do not pay much attention to because in the moment they are getting what they feel they need.
One thing about romance that a large number of people do not understand is that it requires a great deal of effort. If this effort is not put forth, inevitably romance will be lost. This creates a panic in the relationship and typically where people just throw in the towel. The reason for this is most people choose to take the path of least resistance. There is someone else out there that will be able to give them the brief sense of importance. And to them that is easier than putting forth the effort it takes to have an everlasting relationship. This leads to the idea of romantic love being a poor basis for marriage. Society has corrupted the institution of marriage through cultural expectations, the importance of commitment, and not understanding romantic love.
So what is marriage? The institution of marriage most likely evolved as the best way to pool labor of men and women to enable families to subsist and assure that children survive independence (Marano). However, marriage is in the process of constantly evolving. In Marano’s article, it wasn’t until the 18th century that it was thought that love had anything to do with marriage. Love was however kept in check by their sense of duty. She goes on explaining even in the 19th century it was thought that men and women were different and wouldn’t be able to understand each other very well. In the 20th century is when marriage began involving into men and women becoming companions and they should be passionate through receiving sexual and personal fulfillment from marriage.
While marriage began evolving in this direction, society today has made the main focus more on how the person feels about themselves. Emotions are a huge factor in relationships and especially marriage. If the relationship makes it to the marriage, people feel that their partners need to provide them with their happiness. This is where our society has gone wrong with the institution of marriage. We have developed an individualistic mentality when it comes to our feelings. At some point the marriage shifts into “this is not what I signed up for”. Then the cycle begins. The person that isn’t getting fulfillment from the marriage begins focusing on how they feel them putting more effort into this and not getting the same in return.
The focus becomes not on how they can work to fix the problem and work things out with their spouse but how they can get that feeling of fulfillment back. This is typically when they look for that sense somewhere else. The person is feeling betrayed by their spouse because they are not getting the self-fulfillment they once received. The feeling of being betrayed by their spouse causes them a great deal of hurt and directs the feeling of resentment. This can be due to many different circumstances but it doesn’t matter. The American culture has set an expectation for us on what happiness and marriage should look like.
For that reason, Americans have become so focused on what they are feeling here and now, in the moment. With entertainment, dealing mostly with cinematic adventures, the majority underlying theme is happily ever after. They begin watching these movies at a very young age, in turn causing them to think that happiness is easy and doesn’t take much effort. This is where he or she develops the perception that expectation of love and marriage being the fairy tale that is seen in movies. When in reality it actually takes a lot of work and effort.
The American culture is obsessed with unrealistic expectations. When someone expects the marriage to be perfect, they will always be disappointed! It is inevitable. In Marano’s “The Expectations Trap”, she explains how one of the biggest problems is unrestrained choice. This raises his or her expectations to a breaking point. She goes on explaining that a sense of multiple alternatives, of unlimited possibility, breeds in us the illusion that perfection exists out there, somewhere, if only we could find it. Marano gives examples like this one’s sense of humor, that one’s looks, another one’s charisma-he or she comes to imagine that there will be a package which all these desirable features coexist. So Americans are constantly searching for perfection because they feel they are entitled to the best-even if perfection is an illusion that is perceived through the unlimited amount of possibilities.
This illusion has over-complicated the institution of marriage. Men and women feel there are many options out there so they keep searching for that perfect person. This is a major issue when one tries to build a relationship on a strong foundation of commitment. When one is totally committed in a relationship, that person is not seeking something better. Society has created a monster with the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. Some people have it in their heads that if things get tough, then they can just go find someone else and that relationship will not require as much work. What these people do not understand is that relationships take a lot of effort. They do not just work.
In order for a relationship to be successful, the couple must be on the same page. A big part of being on the same page is both people in a relationship knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that their spouse is committed to them. Nothing can get in the way of how they feel about the other person. This is a challenge, especially in today’s society simply because people are always searching for that instant gratification. This makes the idea of a successful marriage almost something that is not attainable. Children today see their role models bouncing around from spouse to spouse. This sends the message of it being okay to keep looking for happiness without having to put in the work it actually takes to have a successful relationship.
Commitment measured by both personal dedication and by normative commitment to the institution of marriage is the surest path to authentic intimacy (Wilcox). He also goes on explaining that people, who feel that their marriage should last as long as their love lasts, are in for a rude awakening. This is where society has gone wrong. Most people learn from an early age to base a relationship on romance or the feeling of love being the foundation of a relationship. This misunderstanding is what leads so many to divorce. This is portrayed in so many ways through the media, movies, and even music that is listened to every day.
When dealing with commitment in a normative manner, there are many ways to define it. Wilcox has a number of definitions that he uses when he defines this type of commitment. One definition is the belief that children should be born in wedlock. There are many instances that his is not the case in our world today. Wilcox also states that a commitment to viewing marriage as a lifelong enterprise is another way to define normative commitment. There is an issue with how people look at marriage today. Back in the early days, it was much different. When people got married, they looked at it as a lifelong commitment.
Moving from understanding commitment, people do not understand the cycle of romantic love. In Gary Chapman’s ‘The 5 Love Languages,” he provides a plan for finding everlasting love. He explains the cycle of a relationship. In the beginning, people are focused on providing their significant other with what they need. They do not pay much attention to their own needs. This is where relationships go wrong when they decide to get married because everything is going so well. The couple that based the decision to get married on the feeling of romance will more times than not fail. The reason for this is because they haven’t dealt with the hard issues.
Chapman’s solution to this issue is the understanding of how your spouse needs to be loved. This is done by understanding the different love languages. The five different love languages are words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. These five concepts are the key to having a successful marriage and getting through the messy stuff that usually causes couples to get divorced. Early on in relationships there is the infatuation stage. This is the stage that people confuse how they really feel about the person with that person fulfilling all of their needs. The life cycle of this stage is about two years.
When you build a relationship on learning how your spouse needs to be loved, you are more fulfilled in that relationship. The first love language he addresses is words of affirmation. The idea behind this is to show your spouse you appreciate them. This is done by using words of encouragement. Every time they do something that deserves praise, it is important to let them know that their effort is appreciated. Chapman talks about how love is kind. The idea of doing this is not for flattery, but more so because it is the right thing to do. Using words of encouragement inspire the other person in the relationship and makes them feel loved. This is a deeper love than the romantic love that is felt early in the relationship.
Another important love language Chapman discusses is quality time. This is the idea of being actively engaged with the other person. Doesn’t mean sitting on the couch watching television together or talking to him or her while reading the newspaper. Quality time is making eye contact and having an engaging conversation with the other person. People do not understand they do this early in the relationship but they do. The problem with this is they go away from it when they feel that they are not getting their needs met. Most relationships move through this cycle. Quality time gives both people in a relationship a sense of importance which is very important. When the two people feel they are needed and appreciated in the relationship it is much easier to work through the major issues when they come up. This is important because it helps to prevent the “time to leave” feeling.
The third love language Chapman discusses in his book deals with gifts. To some people, a gift is a token of love. This of course has different meanings to each person. But it is important to understand if the person one is dating appreciates gifts, then they should receive gifts. When a gift is received, it lets that person know they were being thought of. Giving gifts is a visual symbol of love according to Chapman. He relates this to the rings exchanged in a marriage. For those who use gifts as their love language will not usually take off the ring after the wedding ceremony. However, people that do not look at gifts as a primary love language will maybe take the ring off after the ceremony and may not ever wear it again.
Another love language that is discussed in Chapman’s book is acts of service. This deals with doing things that one knows their spouse would like them to do. This can be as simple as doing the laundry or taking out the trash or even catching up on the grocery shopping. For example if one’s significant other was in the middle of an important deadline for work, doing all of these things would make them feel important and loved. An important underlying theme of all these love languages is making sure one’s love tank is full. Doing little things like taking out the trash, or taking the dog for a walk lets him or her know that they are important. This in turn fills their love tank.
The last love language Chapman discusses in his book is physical touch. This is where it gets a little messy early in the relationship. Some couples approach this part of the relationship too soon and then fall into the romantic love trap that is discussed throughout this process. Physical touch doesn’t necessarily mean being intimate with each other. This can be holding hands while taking the dogs for a walk around the neighborhood or even the idea of giving him or her a hug as soon as they arrive home from a long day of work. It is also more important to some just like the other four love languages. This is where it is vital to get past the romantic stage and learn as much as there is to learn about the other person. This will get one through the highs and lows that are synonymous in a relationship.
Chapman’s book explains that after the in-love experience fades away, most couples don’t understand how they got to where they are. This is because the in-love lasts about two years. After those two years of not caring about his or her needs, these needs begin to surface and they start to realize that they are two separate individuals. He gives the example of him dreaming of buying a new car but she absolutely refuses because they “simply cannot afford it.” This is where the relationship is truly tested and where people are faced with the harsh reality of the situation. They must decide if they are willing to put forth the effort to make the relationship an everlasting relationship or start the journey of looking for love somewhere else. “They fall out of love, and at that point either they withdraw, separate, divorce, and set off in search of a new in-love experience, or they begin the hard work of learning to love each other without the euphoria of the in-love obsession”(Chapman p. 32).
Although for the most part, society has corrupted the intuition of marriage, there are obviously instances where people have the romantic in-love experience that never goes away. These people are the fortunate ones who have to put little effort to keep both him and her happy. This of course is a rare few and one might have a better chance winning the lottery. However, there are couples out there that just work. Most relationships involve a lot of work and understanding but some require little effort in these areas because they just get each other. These are the couples that one can observe and know right away that they have something that is different. But there is a catch to this.
The relationship that built on romantic love and continues to feed off of that romantic love for many years have a few things that most people don’t have. They are the rare cases where things just seem to work out. This can be for a couple of reasons. One reason could be that they had a childhood where they were shown how to love and it was in a manner that they could repeat the process. It is typically not the case, however, there is a lot to loving your spouse that most people do not understand. For this reason, people do not understand how to truly love another person without feeling that need to have those exact feelings that are showed reciprocated. There is an abundance of misunderstanding that is wrapped around marriage and what it takes to be successful in this process. Society has done a phenomenal job with making this as confusing as possible.
Society has corrupted the institution of marriage through cultural expectations, the importance of commitment, and not understanding romantic love. Through this misunderstanding it is sometimes very hard to understand what it truly takes to be a successful spouse. From this people in society choose to take the easy way out, because actually putting in the effort required takes way too much energy, and decide it is best to move on and look for love somewhere else. When in all actuality, all they would have to do to be happy, is put in the effort to be a good spouse.
Courtney from Study Moose
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