Romantic idealism: true love conquers almost all

More romantic people tend to be vocally in favor of more romantic fidelity in my experience. If you think about it though, faith in romance is not a very romantic ideal. True love should overcome all things! The highest mountains, the furthest distances, social classes, families, inconveniences, ugliness, but NOT previous love apparently. There shouldn’t be any competition there. The love that got there first is automatically the better one, winning the support and protection of the sentimental against all other love on offer. Other impediments are allowed to test love, sweetened with ‘yes, you must move a thousand miles apart, but if it’s really true love, he’ll wait for you’. You can’t say, ‘yes, he has another girlfriend, but if you really are better for him he’ll come back – may the truest love win!’.

Perhaps more commitment in general allows better and more romance? There are costs as well as benefits to being tied to anything though. Just as it’s not clear that more commitment in society to stay with your current job would be pro-productivity, it’s hard to see that more commitment to stay with your current partner would be especially pro-romance. Of course this is all silly – being romantic and vocally supporting faithfulness are about signaling that you will stick around, not about having consistent values or any real preference about the rest of the world. Is there some other explanation?

 

9 responses to “Romantic idealism: true love conquers almost all

  1. Many romance stories do in fact assume someone thought they were in love, but realize their mistake when their true love arrives. Unhappy wives love these stories. :)

  2. Katja, I’m pretty sure there are no romance novel readers on your blog to bait with this :)

  3. You seem to be equating romanticism with the intense in-love feelings, while many people equate it to long term commitment feelings. If someone falls in love and over the course of the relationship those feelings fade, is it not true love? If that person meets someone else and falls in love again, their current feelings for the new relationship are stronger than the current feelings for the old one, but I don’t think that means the new one is truer, or more romantic.

    • Whichever is better, my point is that they are best off not competing in the eyes of many who would cheer love on to compete against anything else.

  4. “The highest mountains, the furthest distances, social classes, families, inconveniences, ugliness, but NOT previous love apparently. The love that got there first is automatically the better one, winning the support and protection of the sentimental against all other love on offer.”

    The question of how to honestly tell someone that you love them and would never leave them, even for someone better, has always vexed me.

    I think I have a solution, though. Human preferences are really over histories, not over states.

    For example, suppose that there are two amazing guys out there for a hypothetical woman called Xena. Call them, for the sake of argument, Abel and Ben, and suppose that Ben is, in fact, marginally better. This means that if Xena is presented with a straight choice between Abel and Ben, she will choose Ben.

    Now suppose that Xena has already committed herself to Abel, already fallen in love, etc, and that Ben comes along. Xena could have a preference for histories where she is a faithful and committed lover, and resist Ben’s charms, even though he is, in himself, more of a match for her.

  5. I’m not sure I understand. If it really is The Greatest Love of All, then by definition there is no serious competition, just like there is no competition between Tiger Woods and me with respect to playing golf.

  6. Anecdotally, I think I’m above-averagely romantic, and I tent to favor (in the abstract) polyamory, for reasons including ones similar to this post.

  7. I’m long married and explaining Roko’s point to my wife was in fact one of the best things I ever did for that relationship.

  8. Pingback: Definitions matter | Rival Voices

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