Sunday, November 28, 2010

Glorifying Romance

Ah...romantic love! It can be sweet, intoxicating, overwhelming, confusing, scary, exhilarating, enticing, comforting and so much more. Most of us have grown up in cultures that romanticize the glories of romance. Being "in love" with another person has been cited as the motivating factor in everything from war, abuse, and obsession, to being in unsuitable relationships, The Morally Correct Reason to be sexual with someone, and martyring oneself to another.

Now, reading that last couple sentences, you may be under the impression that I'm not a fan of romantic love. Quite the inverse! I write notes, send flowers, stop off to snag that special something for that special someone(s), cook favorite dishes, stare into eyes, dress in ways that may not be my particular favorites (but really do it for my SOs!), take care of the ill, give soft kisses, share music, and touch and caress with conscious intent to appreciate fully the person I am with. Where the cultural norms and I part ways on the topic of romantic love is when hurtful behaviors and negative judgments about the choices others make ensue. In short, I don't think romance is a good reason to abandon logic and trot about leaving a wake of destruction.

Romantic love doesn't make a relationship that isn't supportive of your objectives in life into a good partner choice. A lack of romantic love doesn't make a sexual or relationship connection with another person into a poor choice. As poly people, we run up against the myth of "The One" person who we fall madly in love with, and live happily ever after pretty consistently. If romantic love is the main basis for partner selection, is it any wonder that so many relationships, mono or poly, explode in a blaze of glory?

Certainly, it seems very helpful to a long-term, stable, healthy relationships to involve an element of romance. Romance can provide motivation to put in the time and effort to create that environment. It feels good to have those fizzy hormones in the early days. Frankly though, I've found it much more useful to have developed the skill to sustain and recreate romantic feelings for myself over time in my longer-term relationships. How many times have you heard someone say something that boiled down to, "I just don't feel like I'm in love with partner x anymore, so I'm moving on to chase that feeling elsewhere."?

"Love is a choice." might be an oversimplification, but it has some level of validity. One of the ways that I am able to sustain and recreate romantic feelings as a poly person is by recognition of the choices that are available to me, and to my partners. We all have other options, other possibilities, and are still choosing to stay with one another. When I choose someone over and over again, and they also continue to choose me, it reinforces the romantic energy I have to put into that relationship.

Actions count, words count. If you feel warm and fuzzy, or hot and sexy, SAY SO! If you want to spark more romance in your current connection, treat it like a new relationship again. Put the time, energy and effort in that you would with the new shiny person into the old and linty one. Do the things you did when you were first dating. When's the last time you made a mixed cd to share? Got flowers just because? Watched a movie type that isn't your personal favorite because the pleasure of snuggling and spending time together is far more important to you than the personal entertainment involved?

Romance is a relationship tool, like communication skills. It can be used well, or poorly, and has no moral value to impart. In looking at romance more objectively, rather than elevating it to a mysterious feeling that is put in the driver's seat in our relationships, we can make stronger partner selection choices, including the ones we make in our existing partnerships.


Racheal Jacobs said...

I too believe that romance is way too glorified, but sometimes after a relationship has endure for a number of years, partners tend to drop all forms of romance. This seems sad to me.

polyfulcrum said...

Agreed. It's one of the things I try to be pretty conscious of, even if the definition of "romantic" changes over time.

When my daughter was small, for example, the height of romance was getting up with the baby so I could sleep in. Now, it's things like going to the ice rink with me, so I have company while I'm waiting and she's skating, unloading the dishes without being asked, or sending a spicy email regarding how enjoyable the intimacy shared the previous day was.