True Love, Romance or Just Plain Sex… What’s It All Mean?

Although “falling in love” is probably the most wonderful feeling in the world and the most mysterious state of mind one can find him/herself within, science tells us that “falling in love” is very transient and not the answer to most of a person’s problems. There is no “happily-ever-after” fairy-tales in real life, say the social scientists who study this phenomenon. The (informal) definition of “true love” in Western Societies really only refers to one thing: strong and passionate feeling that consumes both partners in “a strong romantic (or sexual), mutual feeling,” which is scientifically and empirically short-lived.

But hopelessly romantic authors, poets, philosophers, and – of-course — today’s media (which has intimate knowledge that “sex sells”) strive to differ from what social science plainly tells us as the empirical truth to a temporary phenomenon. For example, William Shakespeare considers true love as such: “…[love] is an ever-fixed mark,/ that looks on tempests and is never shaken”(5-6). Love is the “…star to every wandering bark,” (7) a constant guide as we go through life. For Shakespeare, love is not “…time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks/ within his bending sickle’s compass come” (9-10). For Shakespeare, strong and passionate “romantic love” (and endless love-making, which he calls “loving acts” during his period of social censorship) as ‘an everlasting guide in life that is never to be shaken.’

Another poet and philosopher Anne Bradstreet expresses the same passion as Shakespeare in her poem “To My Dear and Loving Husband.” Bradstreet writes that she prizes her husband’s relationship “…more than whole mines of gold/ or all the riches that the East doth hold.” She also expresses – as Shakespeare did — the eternal quality of the process of “falling in love” and “romantic love” by stating, “…when we live no more, we may live ever” (12).

Consider another hopeless romantic poem, “True Love,” by Wislawa Szymborska, the existence of “true love” is never refuted, but stated as a matter-of-fact. However, (diverging from the others), she states, more realistically, such strong and passionate love occurs ‘as a rare and a nauseating act’ that is forced upon the rest of the majority of non-lovers, describing most people as either have fallen out of love or (more realistically) in a companionship, loving-relationship. Szymborska believes that “true love” is something that’s too rare to be taken seriously (diverging again from the hopeless romantics).

Having these excerpts of poems on “love” read, let’s see what science has discovered and has to say about this – quite modern — social phenomenon called “true love” or “romantic love” – described by these poems/philosophies. (Love in the old days was mostly confined to necessity and bestowed mostly upon individuals with the same social status/class within society. But nowadays, we all have enough to eat and are fat and plump, the very definition of (modern) love have long changed since the past. Or has it?)

Within most Western cultures, “true love” (interchangeable with “romantic love” or sometimes even “puppy love”) has the connotation that it transcends worldly qualities. “True love” is sometimes depicted as a classless utopia created by lovers who have transcended above the material world to seek deeper love and higher meaning. What the Western culture does not focus upon is the unstable and fleeting qualities of this intense feeling – an emotional state that is both idealistic and unrealistic. Shakespeare, for example, believes that true love thrives without rules or boundaries – including the boundaries of marriage.

Shakespeare says “let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments” (1-2). Shakespeare also believes that true love is timeless, which changes in personal needs cannot do it alteration. “Love is not love/ which alters when it alteration finds” (2-3). “Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, /but it bears out even to the edge of doom,” (11-12). What Shakespeare portrays about “true love” is that it lasts past worldly circumstances, even if it leads its lovers to their final doom. This figures for this “nut” who wrote Romeo and Juliet, a story about two “nuts” dying in the name of “True Love.”

Full of idealism and possibilities, I believe Shakespeare engage in extended speculations about what “fantasy love” he subjectively desired for himself and for others around him. Shakespeare promoted the finding of “true love” as a cure-all solution to most of life’s hardships. In Shakespeare’s search of his transcendental ideal of that eternal, passionate love, I think his thoughts may have taken a fantasy flight, with the innocence of a child, into the unrealistic realms of divine and what “divine, unconditional and mutual love” can offer – existing only in religious scriptures. (Not in the real world.)

And like Shakespeare, others authors such as Anne Bradstreet also shares in this belief of what “true love” can be. In her poem, Bradstreet stated that she values her husband’s affection more than any amount of money (or any amount of bling blings someone else can offer her). Also, Bradstreet stated that the power and the thirst of her love “is such that rivers cannot quench” (7). What a beautiful metaphor representing her sincerity and faith in “true love.” And what a statement!

But to some other people, they are sickened by this type of popular advertising and hype of what “true love” can be. There is another side to the Western cultures that refutes this claim of “true love” by artists, poets, and bumper-sticker philosophers, such as musician, Bruce Springsteen. If you listen carefully to his popular song called “The Secret Garden”, you’ll find that this illusive feeling promised by “true love” is like “a secret garden, where everything you want, and everything you need…, will always stay a million miles away.” Another word, it’s not there. Bruce Springsteen claims.

“Romantic Love” is a lie, a bait, a façade, a pair of “golden handcuffs” (to tie your man down and make him provide for his and your children), a trick played on us by Natural Selection (to help our lazy asses to ‘be more fruitful and reproduce, says God in the Bible). Science backs this claim all the way with representative research.

Scientific research has taken side with Bruce Springsteen, stating that the intense passionate “love” brought about by romantic love – or “true love” – lasts 2 years maximum between lovers and marriage couples. After such a period, the intense feelings take a nose-dive, and the relationship, recedes into a cooler and less-intense, companionship oriented type-of-love.

This is also a period of time when the divorce rates jumps to its highest point. In Western societies – where romantic love is prized as a “make-or-break” point of a “loving” relationship, partnerships many times cannot stand the strain of lack-of-passion and romance. That’s a “no deal” under such heavy spin of cultural myth and pressure. This is probably why, for the people who have chosen to marry (in Western countries such as America), there are more divorced couples amongst these married than couples who still willingly keep and maintain their “cooled-down” marriage, after the strong passion and romance have quieted down.

After 2 years, a romantic relationship usually recedes into the afterglow of an equally-reciprocal friendship. The relationships that are most likely to last at this point forward are couples with similar education level, similar income level, similar social-status, similar looks (beauty and handsomeness), equal share of house works and choirs, and etc… But one must remember, each of these qualities is like interchangeable currency: say, I trade my beauty and style for your high salary and social-status.

If, however, after 2 years and you are still married to someone “way out of your league,” unless you are a magician who can produce potent love-potions, divorce is very likely to happen in your future, especially with another quality that defines Western societies — individualism. “The heck with you,” he/she says (knowing he/she has no cultural obligations to stay loyal to “a looser”), “I found someone way BETTER than YOU!” (Now, does that remind you of some historical past that our ancestors’ culture shared about the necessity of “equality” in marriage?)

Companionship and intimacy (after “equality” has been established) then become the couple’s main relationship bond, features, and sustainer as opposed to passionate romance. Couples watch movies together, like to eat at the same restaurant, or talk aimlessly together on the couch… This is what social-scientists find as the “average” characteristics of a sustainable love life – “real love,” or “love in the real-world,” as they call it.

But there is always hope that he/she who left you will come back or that passionate romance (“True Love”) will last a little longer. In “True Love,” by Wislawa Szymborska, the poet acknowledges that “True Love” – as defined by Hollywood and fairy-tales – is not in the average, scientific vocabulary. But she does speak for and represent the existence of a few and very rare, hopeful ones, such as in “Shakespeare’s” lovers who have begotten such a gift.

But she maintains her cool and realism, labeling these “hopeful ones” as statistical outliers of social science, as she concludes that “true love” is “unfair” and chooses only a very few and “…disrupts our painstakingly erected principles” (such as the equal-reciprocity principle stated prior). “True love’s” scarcity makes it something that cannot be taken seriously by the majority, says Szymborska. It’s just too darn rare, she expresses. And in a final statement of common sense, she says, “[True love] couldn’t populate the planet in a million years, [as] it comes along so rarely.” (31-32). “Let the people who never find true love/ keep saying that there’s no such thing. Their faith will make it easier for them to live and die.” (33-35).

Finally, there’s one last band of philosophy of “Love?” we have not looked into or considered: “True Love” as described by gangsters, hustlers, and rogue scientists – who don’t know where his next meal is gonna come from. “True Love?” as these people scratches their head. “’True Love’ is when you’re smoking a cigar with the taste of P**** still in your mouth and an oily piece of fried chicken prepared and put in front of you – after your girl had just rode you and grinded you for the last 20 minutes while screaming your name.” ‘Ah… now that’s living the good life and “True Love Baby!”’ ‘That somthin rich folks ain’t never gonna experience… “banging” your girl against some brick wall… in the cold, cold rain.’

Author: Charles L. Wang

I lived a good life - a hard one, but I sleep peacefully at night knowing that I have made a difference in someone's life... Oh by the way, I'm from China: Downtown, China... Read my full bio.

2 thoughts on “True Love, Romance or Just Plain Sex… What’s It All Mean?

  1. “Romantic Love” is a lie, a bait, a façade, a pair of “golden handcuffs” (to tie your man down and make him provide for his and your children), a trick played on us by Natural Selection (to help our lazy asses to ‘be more fruitful and reproduce, says God in the Bible). Science backs this claim all the way with representative research.”

    Geez Wang, God said “lazy asses?” I have to get my Bible back out.

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