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Romantic Love Versus Rational Love

Romantic Love Versus Rational Love

By J. Bailey Molineux, Ph.D.


Barbara has everything that could make for a satisfactory family life: a devoted husband and two healthy children. While her husband doesn't make enough money to keep her in luxury, he does have a secure, steady job that provides an adequate income for their needs. When the children start school, she has a good career to fall back upon for emotional satisfaction and financial protection.

Yet Barbara is not satisfied with her life. She is restless and bored, and yearns for more adventure. She freely admits, although not to her husband, that her commitment to her marriage is not that strong. She assumes that she and her husband would divorce if any serious problems arose between them rather than try to work those problems out. She also imagines she would do quite well on her own, even with two small children and a reduced income. One thing that still bothers Barbara is her attachment to an old boyfriend. She has not seen or heard from him for years but she still thinks about him. Theirs had been a prolonged and stormy relationship in which each was very dependent upon the other, but she still misses the passion of it. She realizes, however, that it never would have lasted if they had been married. Politically and socially, humankind's struggle has always been between the interests of the individual and the interests of the group, with the pendulum of change swinging back and forth between these two extremes, Although neither extreme is satisfactory, the pendulum appears to be approaching the individualistic extreme today in America as evidenced by the dropping away of community support for marriage. If people like Barbara experience problems in marriage or find they are no longer in love, they assume they can get out of their marriages and find happiness else­where.

­There are two kinds of love called by various names: healthy versus unhealthy, mature versus immature or romantic versus rational. Barbara believes in romantic love, and because she no longer finds it in her marriage, she may be denying herself the chance to find a healthier, longer lasting type of rational love with her husband.

Romantic love is based upon pleasure and passion. It is rooted in the self and not the other because it is the emotional high it gives that is paramount and not the needs and feelings of the other.

In rational love, passion and pleasure are important but not paramount. It is equally rooted in the needs of the self and the other. In its ideal form, rational love arrives at a point after many years of commitment and struggle at which the needs of the other become as important as the needs of the self.

Romantic love is time limited. The passion usually burns itself out in a few short months or years. When that happens, the believer in romantic love may then try to rediscover it with someone else. Life then becomes a futile search for a continuous emotional high. Based upon commitment and cognizant of the needs of the other, rational love lasts longer than romantic love, perhaps even a lifetime! Although never reaching the high of romantic love, rational love can result in an increasingly satisfactory sex life between a husband and a wife. Sex can become better with each year of marriage as trust, familiarity and fondness are deepened.

Romantic love is based upon an idealized, unrealistic vision of the other. Clouded by passion, it either glosses over the faults of the other or assumes they will be changed with time. Rational love is more honest and realistic. It beholds the other objectively and critically yet still exclaims "I love you."

Romantic love can be a function of unresolved childhood problems. It may seek the fusion of the original mother-child relationship that leaves the child feeling completely safe, secure and protected but helpless. ­Rational love is based more upon maturity and independence. Although able to depend upon the other when appropriate, people who are rationally in love can also stand on their own emotionally. Because it depends upon the maintenance of an emotional high, romantic love fears change, growth and aging as threats to its existence. Rational love welcomes change as an opportunity to achieve greater intimacy and to grow together in life, not apart.

Since television, movies and Madison Avenue bombard our young people with messages about the glories of romantic love for the attainment of happiness, perhaps we adults should be telling them they are being duped.

 

About the Author: J. Bailey Molineux, a psychologist with Adult and Child Counseling, has incorporated many of his articles in a book, Loving Isn't Easy, Isbn 1587410419, sold through bookstores everywhere or available directly from Selfhelpbooks.com. Copyright 2002, J. Bailey Molineux and Selfhelpbooks.com, all rights reserved. This article may be reprinted but must include authors copyright and website hyperlinks.





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