Falling in love with someone is portrayed as a wondrous and spontaneous process filled with glitter and fireworks. It can sound strange and maybe even insulting to suggest that pairing up can be determined by culture, society and attachment more than we care to think. In fact, when we think about it, the concept of love and attraction have developed over the years, in the context of a particular culture. The ideas we form as we grow older can determine how we approach conflict, what is ‘normal’ in a relationship, were we should put our emotional emphasis and what we should tolerate and accept.

In this blog I would like us to reflect on some notions of romanticism and how they influence our relationships of love. I would  also like to invite you to challenge these ideas and think of alternatives that can be more in tune with what we need from our long-term relationships.

True love involves complete self-sacrifice: Romanticism insists that if you love fully you should completely forget yourself and your needs and give all your time, love and energy to the one you love. Self-growth, hobbies, rest and personal needs are not important. Couple and family needs should always, always, come first. This notion is fallacious in the sense that unless we give some self-care and see to our needs on a regular basis, our relationships can become very strained because we expect from our partners, what we should be doing for ourselves.

Marriage and long-term relationships will be exciting and fulfilling forever: Romanticism tells us that the elating feelings and butterflies we feel in the beginning of a relationship will last forever. Passion will be everlasting. We will swoon over our partners until death do us part. Therefore when daily life takes its toll, and work and marital responsibilities start weighing us down, we feel as if we failed in our relationship as if we are on the wrong tract. To make matters worse, romanticism fused sex and love together and made sex the ultimate expression of love. Therefore sexual difficulties in a long term relationship can be experienced as catastrophic.

Your feelings should determine your choice of partner: Romanticism believes that choosing our long-term partners should be guided by emotions and ‘chemistry’. So we need to ‘follow our heart’ and not ‘our minds’. However, studies indicate that we fall in love with those who care for us in ‘familiar ways’. In our adult relationships we attempt to re-create a childhood attachment that is familiar. To choose our partners wisely we might need to work on and explore why we are always attracted to the same kind of individual. When we are in a relationship we might like to consider what they bring to the table and if they will help us become better persons. We need to think beyond the fireworks that a new relationship brings and focus on what this attraction is saying about my needs of a romantic relationship and the relationship itself.

Anna Catania is a counsellor with Willingness. She has had a special interest in working with clients facing intimacy and sexual difficulties and runs a service for families going through cancer and chronic illness. She can be contacted on anna@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.