Ah, sweet love!! We all know what it feels like to be in love, even if we’ve never actually been in love. How do we know?? Our media tells us so! Movies, TV series, magazine articles, websites, Facebook, cartoons, TV commercials, print ads, billboards, song lyrics, music videos, wedding pageantry, advice columns, greeting cards, probably even cereal boxes are eager to show us exactly what love looks like, who is supposed to have it, how to know when we have it, how to know when we don’t have it, and what to do about that. The moderators of culture are so eager to inform us about love that, by the time we’re 4 or 5 years old, most of us are fully informed on romantic love (although pretty far away from needing the information).
The Ideology of Intimacy
Okay, so what are the hallmarks of true love? A group of sociological researchers outlined the following very specific expectations for intimate relationships that are recognized in our society as markers of that very special kind of love:
♥︎ One True Love
This tells us that there is one and only one perfect “other” out there for us; one person who fits us exactly for always and forever. This love is completely unique and irreplaceable. We must relentlessly search for the One and never let go once we’ve found them.
♥︎ Love at First Sight
This is the idea that True Love can occur without prior interaction, that it is an on-the-spot choice that is clear and decisive. We either know it or we don’t and we can tell immediately. If that doesn’t happen, then what we have is just a passing fancy, not the Real Thing.
♥︎ Love Conquers All
With this aspect, all we need is love! We come to know True Love as the answer to all of our problems. Once we have met the One, we are transformed. It can be a means of salvation, a lifeline. True love also prevails over all obstacles and outsiders. There is nothing that cannot be solved once we have true love!
♥︎ Happily Ever After
This is the clincher—once we have found True Love, we will be happy for the rest of our lives. Unhappiness means that the person we’re with isn’t the One. True Love endures to the end of time and if it doesn’t, it wasn’t the Real Thing and we were just fooling ourselves.
I have no doubt that, if you have been exposed to mainstream Western culture, you are quite familiar with this way of thinking about romantic love relationships. It’s all so obvious, isn’t it? Sure it is! Until you actually fall in love…
When we actually fall in love, we find that this model of love is full of holes. Real life almost never matches up to this ideal and when the ideal fails to happen, we may decide that we ourselves are unworthy of love or that we are unlovable. Belief in the Myth of True Love can bring about feelings of deep disappointment, frustration, anxiety, stress, depression, or anger. How is that good for us or our partner?
Let’s look at a different model, a model much closer to reality. I call this one the Truths of Intimate Love. Here’s how it goes:
♥︎ Many Loves & Ways to Love
The truth of love is that we can love many people in a variety of ways. We can—gasp!—have the same feelings of love and attraction for more than one person at a time and it doesn’t make us horrible people; it makes us complex, mulitlayered humans. We may also consider that someone who was “right” for us at one stage in our lives may be “wrong” at another stage in our lives. Again, that doesn’t make us horrible people!
♥︎ Love Grows As We Do
Love does not require a sudden illumination or dramatic moment of choice. It may happen by accident, or something that emerges from certain life circumstances, or even just by going along with whatever is happening. Not only that, but more often than not, love is ambivalent or confused. There’s so much to know about another person and so much changes all the time. Some days we’re all in; some days we’re not.
♥︎ Problems Happen
Love alone cannot solve our personal problems or problems in the relationship. Love is not the answer to dissatisfaction with out lives. Love can’t save us from ourselves, erase our destructive patterns, or resolve interpersonal conflict. That kind of thing takes applied intention and problem-solving skills. Relying on love alone will only dig the hole deeper.
♥︎ No Guarantees
Long-term love relationships require open, honest communication. To be in an enduring love relationship, we must be willing to negotiate, compromise, and change. True intimacy is contingent on the ongoing satisfaction of both partners and true happiness is found within. If we aren’t happy, the first place to look is at ourselves, not at someone else who is “making” us unhappy.
If I’ve burst your True Love bubble, I apologize. I think it’s better that I burst it here rather than you having your rosy expectations come crashing down around you. It’s important to be aware of when your expectations for your partner or your relationship are coming from the Myth of True Love because the Myth is usually a set up for disappointment and disillusionment. Shift your perspective to the Truths of Intimate Love and you’ll probably find what you were searching for. Because your partner isn’t the problem—the myth is.
Interested in learning more about the different types of love? Tune in to Love Is In the Cards (https://www.greeninkradio.com/tarot-talk-with-mystic-kat-1/), for details on nine different kinds of love that we may experience in our lives.
Lantz, Herman R., Jane Keyes, and Martin Schultz. 1975. “The American Family in the Preindustrial Period: From Base Lines in History to Change.” American Sociological Review, February 40(1):21-36.