Sonya Thomas lcsw

Romantic Realism, Part 1

A website I admire, The Book of Life, has recently published an essay that is chock full of wisdom I believe could be useful for anyone in a long term, committed partnership.  I will not pretend it is a “warm and fuzzy” read.  It does, however, provide a sobering look at what we can likely expect from our adult, primary attachment relationships.  The gist of the article is around a concept referred to as Romantic Realism, defined as “a correct awareness of what can legitimately be expected of love and the reasons why we will, for large stretches of our lives, be very disappointed by it, for no especially sinister or personal reasons.”  The author goes on to say “how happy we are is to a large extent dependent on whether we judge certain problems to be normal or not. And because our societies have failed to normalise – and speak honestly about – a great many issues in love, it is absurdly easy to believe ourselves uniquely cursed.  The sadness we end up feeling must be someone’s fault: and naturally enough, we conclude that the blame has to lie with the partner. We avoid the far truer and gentler conclusion: that we are trying to do something very difficult, at which almost no one succeeds completely.”

The many sorrows of love include:

  • I’ve become a monster”meaning I treat my parter far worse than I ever thought I could, much worse than I treat many other people in my life.
  • “They’re not who they at first seemed to be…”, meaning our parter, as do we, have things that are wrong with us, things that are not readily apparent in the first blush of romantic love.
  • “I didn’t make the right choice…”meaning we fear loneliness, therefore we choose hastily. Also, we choose a partner thinking we are choosing based on happiness, but in reality, we are choosing based on familiarity.  And if the way we were first loved was imperfect (and it was), we will be imperfectly loved in a familiar way again.
  • “I wish I was still single”meaning we glorify single-hood when we are in the throws of relational disappointment, not recalling all the loneliness and longing we experienced when single.
  • “There’s so much laundry”meaning how we handle the day-to-day minutiae of the domestic sphere ends up mattering a lot.
  • “It was supposed to be nicer…” meaning, even if things are not overtly terrible, there is a general sense of dissatisfaction that our needs are not perfectly understood and met.
  • “I can’t tell my partner everything…”meaning, at some point along the way, we come to realize that there are things we do not feel safe exposing, where once, we felt like we could share any and everything with our partner.
  • “I’m so lonely in my relationship”meaning a high degree of loneliness is an inexorable part of being a sensitive, intelligent human. It’s a built-in feature of a complex existence, whatever our relationship status.
  • “Sex is a let down”meaning we subscribe to an ambitious three-fold hope: to have a great sex life, to have it with someone we love and to maintain it for as long as we live.  Previous generations were wiser in assuming that only two of the three options could ever coexist.
  • “This is such hard work”as if it were supposed to be easy!

Stay tuned as we delve more deeply into the above sorrows.  Until next time, peace.