The Myth of Romantic Love

At first glance, the article below is a bit tiring to read. However, if you devote enough time and energy to really understand what Peck is saying, you’ll realize the profoundness of what he’s saying…

A lot of people have asked me about my thoughts on love.

I find the below article (and a few more I’d post in a couple of days) to explain quite while my thoughts on love.

For me, there’s a difference between infatuation/spark/attraction that comes at the start of every relationship, as compared to genuine love that blossoms after that spark is gone.

I’ve had people tell me that they are looking for that in-love feeling. And I’m pretty sure you guys know what I’m talking about, ’cause almost all of us are lucky to experience this at some point in our lives. Personally, I felt this with my ex-boyfriend, with whom my relationship was an emotional roller coaster ride.

I think this spark is important in the beginning… you have to be at least attracted to that person you’re with. But spark is effortless, either you have it or you don’t. Even the most immature of people could find that spark in their relationships.

But mature love and healthy relationships… ah, that comes with the decision to love that person even when you don’t feel like loving them anymore. It comes with the commitment to stick with him/her through thick or thin… and share your life together.

But no.

People still chase after that myth of romantic love. They want that up and down giddy feeling they have when they see the other. They want the feeling of being madly in love. Their logic is, “If I feel it, then it must be real love.

I disagree.

Feelings come and go. We know this. But what makes a healthy mature relationship is not the feelings (though it’s the instigator of a relationship), but rather how both man and woman are willing to give and take in the relationship, and how much they’re willing to work at it. Meaning, it’s in how willing they are to love the other even if they don’t feel like loving the other.

That’s why arranged marriages have a higher success rate than those who marry out of “love.” And we wonder why people get divorced all the time?!

*scratches head*

Well, read the article and tell me what you think. I’d really want to know what you think about the concept of romantic love. Do you think it’s a myth of reality?

Till then!


The Myth of Romantic Love by M. Scott Peck

To serve as effectively as it does to trap us into marriage, the experience of falling in love probably must have as one of its characteristics the illusion that the experience will last forever. This illusion is fostered in our culture by the commonly held myth of romantic love, which has its origins in our favorite childhood fairy tales, wherein the prince and princess, once united, live happily ever after.

In effect, the myth of romantic love tells us that for every young man in the world, there is a young woman who was “meant for him” and vice-versa. Moreover, the myth implies that there is only one man meant for a woman, and only one woman for a man and this is predetermined “in the stars.”

When we meet the person for whom we are intended, recognition comes through the fact that we fall in love. We have met the person for whom all the heavens intended us, and since the match is perfect, we will then be able to satisfy all of each other’s needs forever and ever, and therefore live happily forever after in perfect union and harmony.

Should it come to pass, however, that we do not satisfy or meet all of each other’s needs and friction arises and we fall out of love, then it is clear that a dreadful mistake was made, we misread the stars, and we did not hook up with our one and only perfect match. What we thought was love was not real or “true” love, and nothing can be done about the situation except to live happily ever after or get divorced.

While I generally find that great myths are great precisely because they represent and embody great universal truths, the myth of romantic love is a dreadful lie.

Perhaps it is a necessary lie in that it ensures the survival of the species by its encouragement and seeming validation of the falling-in-love experience that traps us into marriage. But as a psychiatrist, I weep in my heart almost daily for the ghastly confusion and suffering that this myth fosters. Millions of people waste vast amounts of energy desperately and futilely attempting to make the reality of their lives conform to the unreality of the myth.

Mrs. A subjugates herself absurdly to her husband out of a feeling of guilt. “I didn’t really love my husband when we married,” she says. “I pretended I did. I guess I tricked him into it, so I have no right to complain about him, and I owe it to him to do whatever he wants.”

Mr. B laments, “I regret I didn’t marry Miss C. I think we could have had a good marriage. But I didn’t feel head over heels in love with her, so I assumed she couldn’t be the right person for me.”

Mrs. D, married for two years, became severely depressed without apparent cause, and enters therapy stating, “I don’t know what’s wrong. I’ve got everything I need including a perfect marriage.” Only months later can she accept the fact that she has fallen out of love with her husband but that this doesn’t mean that she made a horrible mistake.

Mr. E, almost married two years, begins to suffer intense headaches in the evening and can’t believe they’re psychosomatic. “My home is fine. I love my wife as much as the day I married her. She’s everything I ever wanted,” he says. But his headaches didn’t leave him until a year later when he is able to admit, “She bugs the hell out of me the way she is always wanting, wanting, wanting things without regard to my salary,” and then is able to confront her with her extravagance.

Mr. and Mrs. F acknowledge to each other that they have fallen out of love and then proceed to make each other miserable by mutual rampant infidelity as they each search for the one “true love,” not realizing that their very acknowledgement could mark the beginning of the work of their marriage instead of its end.

Even when couples have acknowledged that their honeymoon is over, that they are no longer romantically in love with each other and are still able to be committed to their relationship, they still cling to the myth and attempt to conform their lives to it. “Even though we have fallen out of love, if we act by sheer will power as if we still were in love, then maybe romantic love will return to our lives,” their thinking goes. These couples prize togetherness.

When they enter couples group therapy, they sit together, speak for each other, defend each other’s faults and seek to present to the rest of the group a united front, believing this unity to be a sign of the relative health of their marriage and a prerequisite for its improvement. Sooner or later, and usually sooner, we must tell most couples that they are too much married, too much coupled, and that they need to establish some psychological distance from each other before they can even begin to work constructively on their problems.

Sometimes, it is actually necessary to physically separate them, directing them to sit apart from each other in the group circle. It is always necessary to ask them to refrain from speaking for each other or defending each other against the group. Over and over again, we must say, “Let Mary speak for herself, John,” and “John can defend himself Mary, he is strong enough.”

Ultimately, if they stay in therapy, all couples learn that a true acceptance of their own and each other’s individuality and separateness is the only foundation upon which a mature marriage can be based and real love can grow.

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