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article: your thoughts? The Western Myth of Exclusive and Everlasting Romantic Love

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what do you guys think of this article? I like it actually and more and more with my healing I'm trying to get to this place of more emotional/spiritual maturity (sure easier said than done, but why exist in a codependent relationship...too many of those around, too, right)?


''The Western Myth of Exclusive and Everlasting Romantic Love


The West has a long history with respect to the role of the idea of a future in romantic relationships. The future of a romantic relationship is very clear and narrowly defined. Perhaps it is one of the greatest and most unfortunate romantic myths ingrained in our Western culture that the love between and man and woman should be exclusive and everlasting. In fact, romantic relationships, marriages in particular, very seldom last forever and are rarely exclusive. Moreover, this is not only so, but it is also both emotionally unhealthy for the individuals and destructive of happiness in such relationships. Carl Rogers, among many other psychotherapists, was very clear about this, as I recall.


Most Westerners believe that obtaining such an ideal relationship is necessary for a sense of wholeness, fulfillment, and happiness. On the contrary, the very belief in such a definition of a romantic relationship is emotionally unhealthy. It undermines one of the most important aspects of emotional health. Genuine emotional health requires emotional independence. As each person matures, they must gain emotional emancipation from their parents and develop a sense of wholeness, security, self-reliance, self-love, and emotional independence. They must become capable of a sense of personal fulfillment and happiness that comes from within them rather that being dependent up any external thing or person. When this level of emotional maturity is attained, the person is unlikely to experience a prolonged and destructive feeling of abandonment by a lover. They are also unlikely to be plagued with a sense of loneliness. Otherwise, they are likely to experience loneliness not only when actually alone but even with other people, no matter how close or salutary the people are.

We envision a future with a criterion of a guaranteed permanence to buffer us against our fear of abandonment and loneliness. 'The future is a memory'. Memory is like putty in the hands of wish and fear. Making our memory jib with reality, with what really happened, is very difficult for humans. Consequently, most people tend not to remember the vast numbers of relationships in which the pledge of exclusiveness and everlastingness fell by the wayside with bitterness and disillusionment. Maintaining such memories would dash hopes and reify fears.

The future never entails a guarantee, not even when there is a written affidavit from a manufacturer; an insurance company; a bank; or a minister/priest, not even from a law of physics. Banking on a future state of a relationship in the midst of the present process of a relationship injects a perpetual need or even demand for that kind of affiant guarantee. No matter how often promises and assurances are made, the future remains uncertain. One feels one must secure an ironclad, unquestionable, promissory note. Any sign of weakening or wandering from the permanence of the bond injects insecurity.

This need for a certain future with a loved one means the person must maintain eternal vigilance. Therefore, the couple continues to need from and to say to each other, “You and only you.” and "Forever and ever!" This process undermines the ability to experience a wholehearted abandonment to the present and to live freely and joyfully in the moment. The nagging need for assurance prevents each from self-forgetfulness and immersion in the fullness of the joy of the moment. This means that joy is eventually depleted because one or the other is repeatedly shifting out of that once glorious present through replacement of it by a gnawing agitation of doubt.


An undermined present that becomes seldom or never fully enjoyed eventually becomes unpleasant, then irritating, then a boring drag, then longing to get away, then open anger and hostility toward the other, and finally results in a separation that may be freeing for one but agonizing for the other. For either or both, a painful and depressing sense of abandonment and/or loneliness is likely to result from this separation. It is often followed by a long period of distrust and avoidance of all possible future romantic relationships regardless of how unpleasant the loneliness may be.

This course of events is a major theme in so many of our dramatic plays, stories, poems, songs, TV ads, movies, talk show topics, and lectures by relationship experts. These media reinforce the Western myth. Rarely does one hear a critique or voice of dissent. An industry of advice is built around how to repair, move on from, or otherwise deal with the millions of broken relationships. We seem never to learn that what must be abandoned are the Western romantic myths of a guaranteed future, mutual devotion, and secure perpetual bond with or possession of a loved one.


When people are emotionally independent, self-loving, self-accepting, and secure individuals, they can plan for a future while recognizing the uncertainty of the future and that nothing offers guarantees. They can then refocus on appreciating and enjoying the gift they have now. They can enjoy whomever they are with in the present. They need not demand or ask for more. They do not require the vow or promise of being there and feeling the same way forever in the future. They recognize that life is a flow and not a dam.

I recall hearing a lecture by Erich Fromm in my early UT days and reading this book which made a profound impression on me. "Immature love says: 'I love you because I need you.’ Mature love says 'I need you because I love you." - Erich Fromm The Art of Loving (1956). Over the years, I have tried to mature into his position on this topic. My current version on the topic is in:

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For those rare individuals who come prepared with personal and emotional maturity and a readiness for mature intimate relationships, the nature and course of their intimate relationships is vastly different. Neediness and fear of abandonment and loneliness is absent. They have no urgent need to be or not to be in a relationship. They have no need to control what the other is like or what the other does. They do not see the other as someone they must ‘have’, nor do they see the relationship or some form of the relationship as something they must have. They can enter and experience fulfillment and let go with equal ease. They can let their significant others be, do, and have as they choose. They are free and they see and accept others as free. There is no anxious wrestling with their partners over the nature of their relationship.

In Western culture, the romantic ideal is like a full moon, ubiquitously casting its spell of love and madness. People who are not in love have an unquenchable hunger. They are constantly on the prowl for prospects, for that special someone to light up their lives with the excitement of romance. Eyeing the eyes of their types to detect enchanting, suggestive glances so that they can mentally crouch in wait for the opportunity to make their conquest. The flirtatious, lingering gazes they encounter are intoxicating. The romantic ideal is like the full moon invisibly causing the swell of the entire ocean. Sweeping through a whole nation like a magic dust, it captures and impels the hearts of all.

This one aspect of intimate relationships is common to all. Beyond this lodestone of hearts are the millions of ways individuals play out their unique quests for romance.

Exceptional are they who have the emotional maturity to escape from this obsessive, craze inducing myth and live with serenity and unconditional love for all, including their significant other.''

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