Few things excite us more than the possibility of relationships. The more intimate, the more alluring. We imagine the power of sex and the joy of being cared for. We see the cure to loneliness and the promise of support and affection. From Romantic Comedies to pornography (believe it or not) to whispered gossip among friends, we have bought into The Romance Trap. And it affects much more than just the dating world.
We view dating and marriage as the highest achievement in personal relating. And rightly so. As such, the way we approach our pursuit of marriage (whether we call it that or not) informs the way we approach our friendships, our business partnerships, and every other relationship in our lives.
We encounter relationships with romantic aspirations. And romance asks one question – what’s in it for me? It often disguises itself around ‘togetherness’, but it is really a ‘togetherness’ that is about My fulfillment, My betterment, My needs being met. Romance is clever in its disguise. It makes itself look just enough like true intimacy to entice us.
The problem with romance is that it is unsustainable. It feeds on overwhelming passion and self-preservation. It starves in the face of sacrifice or boredom.
Marriages end in divorce. We cheat on one another. We quit our job. Friends turn to enemies or strangers. The romance trap lures us in with untenable promises.
The Heart of The Issue
In essence, we have not accepted the way things work. We are trying to shortcut The Mood Curve. We do not believe the deep truth that everything worth doing will cost us just as much as it provides.
Romance is allergic to turmoil. And if we cannot find any value in turmoil, we take the only other option. We quit. It is no great secret that we give up when things are hard. We view difficulty as defeat, and trouble as a sign of disease rather than an opportunity for growth.We fail to realize that intimacy happens through perseverance. It is in difficulty that relationships are truly established.
The romance trap keeps us on a well-established cycle. We get excited and hopeful, all elbows and expectations. We enter into a new relationship, friendship, etc. believing the best. Hoping for something that will change our lives for the better. We’re dreamy and starry eyed. That is not inherently bad.
But it is not sustainable. It is the beginning of a process, but not the end. We try to build our house on this shaky ground, putting all faith in our jolting emotions.
When the inevitable happens, we feel blindsided. How could this person be imperfect? How could this new trouble have arisen? We cannot fathom that the people we love the most are not only the ones most capable of edifying us, they are also the ones most capable of disappointing us. And so, the romance fading, the expectation unmet, we find ourselves in the pit of despair.
As firm converts of the romance trap, we quit and look for the next thing to get excited about. And on and on the cycle goes.
A Better Way
I know a pastor who often gets his congregants to chant, There is a better way! ‘Say it with me’, he prompts.
Are you stuck in the dizzying cycle of the romance trap? Heightened expectations, disappointment, quitting. There is good news. There is a better way.
The better way is the way of perseverance. Slow down. Take a breath. Realize that the loss of expectation is a natural part of an innovative relationship. It is necessary for intimacy to grow.
Certainly, not every relationship is a good one. Sometimes quitting is the proper response. But not nearly as often as it happens. Sometimes the solution is commitment, perseverance, and a truer perspective.
The first step to this better way is to be aware of the romance trap and how it affects your expectations. Celebrate the fireworks. But if you want a healthy relationship, you must be prepared to celebrate the boredom, celebrate the consistency, and – as strange as it sounds – even celebrate the struggles.