The week of love has passed, and close to $18.9 billion dollars exchanged hands on cards and gifts for Valentine’s Day. What an investment in romantic love! Is romantic love real love?
This week I watched TED talks on the topic of romantic love. According to Helen Fisher, the lecturer of the day, the romantic love that people feel is not an emotion but a drive orchestrated by the Darwinian need to find a mate in order to procreate. Sounds a little like we are animals driven by instinct, which may be what Ms. Fisher is saying. The phase that follows romantic love, Ms. Fisher calls attachment. When she speaks of attachment, she speaks of a purpose of continuing the human race, but not necessarily continuing a meaningful relationship that lasts a lifetime. The term “attachment” sounds more like parasitic behavior to me.
I was thinking about romantic love and its evolution into what Ms. Fisher calls “attachment”. I prefer the word “commitment.” In a discussion with my husband many years ago on the topic of love, he suggested that the definition of love is “seeking the highest good in the object loved.” Although this definition was not original to him, I have never forgotten it. When I think about this kind of love in a relationship, I think about how much work it takes to regard the object of your affection as so important that he or she takes precedence over any personal goals and desires that you have for yourself. Though love is a powerful emotion, and everyone wants to experience it, this emotion has a price–selflessness. That is not a concept widely accepted today.
The concept of selflessness in a relationship is not widely accepted today. We live in a disposable society and relationships come to an end as soon as the parties no longer benefit from each other. The icons and stars of pop culture leap from relationship to relationship, falling in and out of love more often than I change shoes. They are in and out of what they call committed relationships in record time.
But I made an observation about my widow friends. Most of them remain single. Why is that? They have given me various reasons for remaining single, but why are they not out seeking new love relationships with the frequency of famous singers, actors, and tycoons? Perhaps it is because they understand how much of their emotional lives they invested and the commitment they made to put someone else before themselves and their desires.
Real love is earthy, heavenly, tangible, ethereal, silent, expressive; love is “patient and kind; it does not boast or envy; it is not irritable or resentful; it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends” ( ESV I Cor 13:4-8).
No amount of money spent on flowers, candy, jewelry, or fancy dinners can accomplish what true, lasting love will accomplish. So, for all of Ms. Fisher’s scientific evidence and optimism on romantic love, she misses the point of the commitment to love in sickness and in health and for richer for poorer and in all circumstances.