Have you ever heard the phrase, “I’m in love with the idea of being in love”? Turns out, it’s more than just a phrase. It relates to a real phenomenon. Many of us have been in love with the idea of love at one time or another. So when you’re surrounded by romantic stories that glorify the idea of love instead of love itself, how do you recognize the difference?
Well, like a lot of things in life, the first step is being aware. Let’s look at some of the different depictions of romantic love and how people react to them.
Love in Literature
It’s actually pretty easy to be seduced by a concept, and love is one of the most seductive concepts of all. Much of classic literature is riddled with hyperbolic, overwrought, and unattainable descriptions of what love means. Many our most famous love stories include tales of love wrought in tragedy, hardship, and sacrifice. In Goethe’s famous novel, Sorrows of Young Werther, the main protagonist actually takes his own life because the woman he loves doesn’t love him back. When the novel was published in 1774, it inspired a wave of “Werther fever” as young men throughout Europe began dressing in the style of the main character as described in the book. This Werther fever even lead to many copycat suicides as readers actually took their own lives when confronted with unrequited love. Goethe’s story was about a love so passionate and so extreme, people got too caught up in the story, the idea, and forgot that it was a story told, in part, to enliven and entertain.
And Young Werther isn’t the only tale of love gone wrong. If you read other popular tales such as Romeo and Juliet or Wuthering Heights, you’d think love and suffering were one and the same, that you couldn’t fully love someone without suffering great pain and loss.
Love in Film
Our most famous films don’t present love much better. Just look at movies like Titanic, Gone with the Wind, Moulin Rouge, or Casablanca. Even though the two main characters in all these movies are separated by the film’s end and even though the audience doesn’t get a happy ending, people blissfully watch these movies and look to them as examples of true love. And perhaps just as ridiculous are the films where the characters do end up together. How many romantic comedies are there where two people meet while one or both of them are in other relationships? To watch movies, you’d think starting a relationship by cheating was a perfectly acceptable, healthy, and even romantic. And hey, a lot of relationships do start that way, but it’s not easy.
Love in Real Life
And that’s the thing, books and movies, never show what happens after the happily ever after or the broken heart. They operate by a series of ups and downs, high highs and low lows, mystery and intensity, unexpected twists and turns. And, ya, they are amazing stories. But what makes a good love story doesn’t make a good love.
Real love, the kind that sustains over time and contributes to your life in a positive way, can be stable and rewarding in ways you wouldn’t expect. Sometimes love looks like going to the bathroom with the door open, knowing you can get in an epic fight with someone and you’ll both still be there in the morning, or realizing you actually think it’s endearing the way your significant other can’t spell or cook or show up somewhere on time. Next time you meet someone really amazing, don’t fall into the romantic trap of expecting them to be like the characters in plays, movies, or novels. Accept them as real people with real personalities. You never know, you just may find that the real thing is better than any love story.