Romantic love is first love but it ends when anticipations become expectations. Romantic loves are doomed to end but romantic love performs a service to relationships. Our search for romantic loves gives us first love.
Romantic Love Blinds Us to Reality
According to Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., in his book “Keeping the Love You Find”, romantic love is the height of unconsciousness. In blinding us to reality, romantic love performs a valuable service for mankind.
Hendrix opines that we unwittingly choose someone like our parent/caretakers, then expect our mate/lover to love us as our parents never did. Therefore, our mate/lover is able to open all our old wounds. If we were not blind with romantic love, we would run screaming in the other direction.
Romantic Love Will Wane
Romantic love then acts as nature’s anesthesia so that we will stick together long enough to see if we can make a relationship work. Romantic love can last a few weeks or even a few years, but, unfailingly, the bubble will burst and lust or romantic love will begin to wane.
Hendrix writes “During the romantic love stage of a relationship-buoyed by hope and endorphins-each partner is voluntarily providing what the other wants and needs, so there is some basis in reality for the anticipation that the relationship will be fulfilling.”
Anticipations Become Expectations
But commitment which is most often the actual wedding ceremony changes that and things begin to come apart. As anticipations becomes expectations, both partners tend to withdraw some of the unconditional love and generosity that characterized the early relationship. At this same time they begin to expect, demand, or feel entitled to have their own needs met.
Harville concludes, “Since they have chosen partners with their caretakers’ failings, it is likely that the partner will fail them as well, in the same devastating ways. Each is doomed to disappoint the other.”
In the early stages of our relationships, we may have found ourselves anticipating those special home-cooked meals. Over time, those meals become expected and the partner responsible for them may become resentful in having to prepare them all the time.
Power Struggles Within Relationships
All couples go from romantic love to a less infatuated stage. Romantic love is supposed to end and it does – in a power struggle within the relationship. The relationship moves from romantic illusion to the disillusionment that heralds the onset of that struggle.
When the glow of romantic love dissipates, reality starts to set in. That resentment from having to manage and be responsible for the other partner’s expectations may mutate into a power struggle as refusals are made to complete these expected tasks.
Although the power struggle is not supposed to last – it is a way station on the way to real love – most marriages stall in the struggle, according to Hendrix. Some couples stay in the relationship or marriage, but remain focused on childhood issues that were never resolved. Many others leave the relationship and go back into the singles’ world in search of chemistry and romantic love.
Hendrix defines chemistry as a combination of:
- The worst traits of our parents or childhood caretakers.
- The negative traits that we possess but deny in ourselves.
- The traits that have been repressed in us by our upbringing.
- The traits that society denies our gender.