Pondering romantic love it would seem to be in retreat from the lives of people around me-I note the disappearance of romantic love within established marriages and the lack of aspiration for romantic love among the unmarried. I have been thinking a lot about how increasingly untenable belief in “the one” has become. Aside from the simple mathematics of each of us only having one soul mate, there is the reasonably high probability that if true, she would speak Chinese or a dialect native to India.
It’s interesting to think about speed dating, internet dating and other forms of systematic meeting and then realise that people are, more and more, making disciplined efforts to make wise “choices” when it comes to mates.
Going back say 300 years, it seems unlikely that many people believed in a coupling other than within one’s narrow class and physical environment for both practical and social reasons. A member of the aristocracy pairing off with a working man was not likely. A resident of Grasse would not easily encounter a citizen of Birmingham. Even within a group, there were many proscribed potential couplings. It seems that Romeo and Juliet is a dramatic story in part because of its rarity.
So, does that mean that we are on a book-end of a relatively short period where romantic love had such an important and unquestioned role in our lives and aspirations? Have we gone in the span of a few centuries from unimaginative marriages of practical value, driven in large part by the economics of complementary skills and fiscal necessity, to an enlightenment ideal built around romantic love, individual qualities and the underlying equality and nobility of all people and now, back to something completely different, a return to the practical for sure, but no longer partnerships of economic synergy but partnerships of consumption? It seems to me that what people are doing now is electronically narrowing down the choices and then shooting for the best. It’s a different distance away, a different direction away from romantic love, but it feels even more cynical to me, more self centred than even the old fashioned marriage of necessity. It may make people happy.
It seems that in this new world one cannot but see, and clearly, that there are many potential mates just as there are many models of car, and that we could be more or less happy with quite a number of them, even if we fail to pick the ideal.
And what does it mean to a relationship or a couple if somewhere, in the back of your mind, you know that while the relationship in question may be unique, your possibility for being equally happy with someone else is not? Doesn’t that deflate, at least a little, the depth and power of the relationship? The way any rare thing is diminished by nothing other than a little more supply?
Would you, Juliet-like kill yourself after the loss of a true love? Isn’t it a tad harder to listen to love songs, especially the 60’s and 80’s ones?