Real romance lasts a lifetime.

I’ve written a few posts on romance and what it should look like (here, here, and here are three examples), and a common theme in these posts has been a criticism of the fact that modern romance has replaced love and virtue with lust as its central defining foundation.  Well, a few days ago a friend of mine posted this on facebook and I thought that it would make a good example of what we should be seeing.  This is something that her uncle said about his parents (and if you read this I’ll let you decide if you want to identify yourself): “Now, I admit I like a good rom-com as much as the next guy…errr, um gal…even like sweeping epochal romances like Pride & Predjudice. However, last night I watched my mom, feet twisted by bunions, failed surgeries and arthritis walk from one side of the room to another to find the salve she had packed. Then watched as she applied it gently to my dad’s lower back, hip, and leg lovingly trying soothe his pain while ignoring her own. Then she curled up next to him with her arms around him tight, gently raised up and kissed him lightly on the cheek or forehead. In her kindness I saw more passion than movies can muster. The care, the respect, the dignity she showed in those minutes to her husband of 56 years…without soft lights, air brushed bodies, or a sweaty soundtrack. Hollywood just doesn’t understand. Thanks to God for parents who have taught, but more importantly shown me a living example of love. May I live/love worthy of this gift.”

Instant gratification seems to be the norm in our pursuit of love.

The vast majority of 20th and 21st century romance (even back to movies like Hello Dolly) has displayed and encouraged an increasingly selfish notion of love.  This version of love is centered around two aspects of a single concept.  This concept is that ‘love is about me’.  Modern romance presents an idea of love that says ‘I want, I need, I deserve’.  It presents these concepts in the focus on passion and need.

Modern romance adds to these the belief that love and romance are based in emotion, a fickle foundation at best.  Thus, what we see is an idea of romance that says, “Love is all about me, my feelings, my needs, and my wants.  You have to fill the hole in my heart, and as soon as you fail, I’m moving on.”  It creates an idea of love that is akin to a match: it blazes bright with momentary passion, and then disappears.  Unfortunately, this idea does represent the concept of romance among much of the American populace.  I am always hesitant to blame cultural norms on media, but in this case media has (at best) created a descending spiral in which media reflects the worst aspects of the culture, and the culture then moves to make those aspects the norm.

But real love takes time, and work, and effort. It ignores pain, and it never gives up.

The kind of love shown in the above quote does not exist in the vast, vast majority of modern media.  It is selfless, focused on what it can give instead of what it can get.  It is passionate, but not the burning, reckless, heedless passion that fills our romance novels and movie screens.  Instead of a match the love shown in the quote above is a gentle fire filled with lasting embers.  It is the kind of love that has been built over a lifetime of mutual respect and devotion.  It is commitment, admiration, and concern not for oneself, but for the other.  It is hard, and it is often painful, but it is lasting, exalted, honorable, and far more intense than any momentary passion could ever be.

I use the example of a match for a reason.  Try this sometime: light a match and run your hand through the flame, even hold your hand in the flame for a while.  There’s instant heat, but it’s minimal and doesn’t last long.  Now try this: build a fire and keep it burning all night long.  Build up a heap of red hot coals, and then try putting your hand into the coals.  This is the difference between the kind of romance that we see in the media, and the kind of romance that we see displayed in the quote above.  One is immediate, but ultimately brief and unsatisfying.  The other is hard, it takes time to build, and it takes commitment through trials, but it will keep you warm through the long, dark night.

So, let’s fill the shelves with books and movies that display real love, not lust and momentary desire.

Another friend of mine pointed out some time ago that true love isn’t blind to a person’s flaws.  True love sees a person clearly, and loves them regardless.  It doesn’t say ‘I love you because of what you can do for me’, or even ‘I love you for who you are’.  Instead it says, ‘I love you. In spite of your flaws, and regardless of what you can do for me, I love you.’  So, I leave you with this, the definition of love: Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy, it is not boastful, is not conceited, does not act improperly, is not selfish, is not provoked, and does not keep a record of wrongs.  Love finds no joy in doing what is wrong, but instead it rejoices in the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.  Love never ends.

If this sounds frightening to you, it should.  Love, actual love, is a terrifying thing.  It means putting another person before yourself.  It means letting them hurt you, and forgiving them when they do.  It means committing to someone, even when they aren’t committed to you.  So, stop letting fear run your life.  Grow a pair and love someone.  And let’s start writing some real love into our fiction.

7 thoughts on “Modern Romance

  1. I actually thought of another example of this kind of love that I want to add here. I once knew a man whose wife left him, about twelve years before I met him (with reason, he openly described himself as angry and neglectful in their early marriage). For eighteen years this man pursued his wife, sometimes passively, sometimes actively, but always with fervent, consistent love. During this time his wife lived with a long string of other men, never marrying any of them, but moving from relationship to relationship. Finally, after eighteen years of pursuit, his wife returned to him and they were reunited. I remember talking to him, hearing his pain, his consistent prayers, and his love for her through the six years of the process for which I knew him. This is the kind of love that I want to give, and the kind of love that I want to be given in return.

  2. You are so right. We need to be reminded (often) of what real love and commitment are like. We are so constantly bombarded by false concepts!

  3. Thank you. I am proud of my grandparents’ example in the quote. Passion is great. It is fire and heat and romance. But it only lasts, is only worthwhile, if tempered with the patience, grace, understanding, and mercy of true love. If love is there, passion will be there too. But passion without love is meaningless.

  4. Not sure where, or how you found this post. I am the original author of the quote, so thank you for re-posting. We were at a hotel where we had taken my dad (the hospital where he was to ahve surgery is three hours from “home” and as early as he had to be at the hospital for his surgery, it was just better to get there a day early.)

    Anyway, I had been spending a lot of time reflecting on mortality, my own relationship with my father and how it has developed through the years. That evening he was in a great deal of pain and was facing a potnetially life-threatening surgery. Moments like this breed introspection. As the evening wore on, though, I was distracted from my own thoughts by the scene I saw playing out before me.

    I stopped and had to write it down before the moment was gone. It honestly was one of hte greatest moments of my life. Seeing how deeply in love my parents are. Seeing this kind of love, tempered by the years. I was jsut overwhlemed with the thought…boy, MY and future gnerations…we have missed it somewhere.

    Well, anyway. Thanks for the repost and I am glad that it found meaning with you (and hopefully others). My parents taught me how to love, they would be pleased to know that others may have been blessed as well.

    1. Uncle D. I (your lovely niece, formerly east of the Mississippi daughter) gave the quote to him, one of my bestest bestest friends. It’s also why I tagged you in the post on fb. Thought you should be proud. I am. 🙂

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