Romanticism and Our Partners
Ah, Romanticism, thank you for letting the world know that we are all good people and without sin and that we will one day find the perfect person and everything will be beautiful and easy and wonderful from there on out.
Now, before we get too far into this article. I must say that I myself have been a hard romantic, so hard I’ve basically knocked myself off the magical floating cloud and into a bit of grounded, realistic reasoning. (Doesn’t mean I still don’t float off the ground from time to time when in the the throes of the woman I love.)
Even Shakespeare, the ultimate romantic before Romanticism was even a thing, saw where the problem truly lied:
‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves…’
Julius Caesar (I, ii, 140-141)
Given, I’ve taken this phrase a bit out of context, but I like it and want to use it for this particular case.
The ideas of Romanticism are indeed very beautiful and we all live through them. I’m not trying to say we should completely out reason our culture and favorite stories and philosophies from the past 250+ years.
But as we must do for any form of self-awareness and self-growth, we should try to get a handle on it. We should try to appreciate the more lovely aspects of it, while realizing and overcoming the more disastrous parts of it.
Don’t worry, we won’t be doing all that today, I’m working on an ebook for that, but we will examine at least one issue today in the hopes it can lead to a chance at a better, long-lasting relationship with your current or future partner.
Some History on Being ‘Romantic’
Before Romanticism, we looked at ourselves and fellow humans as delicate and damaged. Oh how very sinful we all were.
Yes, I am referring to Christianity’s influence on us. I know. I know. I’m usually having a laugh at what Christianity gets wrong about life, or more accurately, that which its followers get wrong from their metaphorical book of life. This time, however, I’m going to say we may need to balance our more current and popular and ‘romantic’ views with this old idea of being imperfect beings.
Romanticism, being sweet and loving and ‘romantic’ told us that all that Christian original sin stuff was very uncool. I concur, it is pretty uncool, but the problem with abolishing this idea completely is it gave us the idea, the false hope, that we are all ‘good.’
That our human nature was born into goodness, rather than sin, and that we are made ‘bad’ by our society. The poor children.
We aren’t going to have a debate on original sin here between St. Augustine and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, but I think we can all agree that we are some combination of ‘nature v. nurture.’
We are all sinners and potential sinners. Now before you get too excited and crawl around in the dirt towards your favorite shrine or idol or church in shame and guilt, I only mean to say that we should maybe ground ourselves of how perfect we think we are and be, at least a little, at the mercy of others (and/or of some form of the divine) to better handle this thing called life.
Whether Romanticism can be blamed on or is a direct result of the decline of organized religion is another debate, but it is does coincide perfectly. We still have our ‘feelings’ and ‘angels’, but instead of feeling the faith, we feel the love of each other, and instead of imaginary angels in the clouds, we see our lovers as impeccable ‘angels.’
Romanticism is one of our strongest secular replacements for religion.
Halo. Halo. Halo.
We’ve lost our wings, but we still sing songs about our halos.
We’ve pretty much decided that we are great people, more or less untouched by ‘original sin.’
Unfortunately, if you think you’re pretty much perfect, and your partner is too, well, it doesn’t take long for disappointment to set in when you realize that they aren’t (that) perfect.
If we go into our relationships with this ‘halo’ ideology that you and your partner are particularly angelic in nature, we can never argue or constructively criticize or simply point out minor annoyances in each other without the other getting defensive that we may be calling them ‘a bad person.’
No Offense, but You’re Mad
Maybe it is too stoic on my part, but I prefer to see all of us as rather deeply… crazed. Absurd.
I may not know exactly how you’re crazy, you may have figured out mine if you’ve read enough of my writing, if not, I may tell you anyway. Not now, probably not now, but in some way or another we are all ‘mentally ill.’
‘I think that we're all mentally ill. Those of us outside the asylums only hide it a little better - and maybe not all that much better after all.’
It’s okay. It isn’t a bad thing and it shouldn’t be expected of anybody to be perfectly ‘sane’, whatever that is, after going through our enlightening yet chaotic childhood, adolescence, and so on and so on. It is indeed insane to be completely ‘out of the box’ in mint condition after going through the ‘growing up’ process. We are bound to have a few nicks and scratches along the way, physically and mentally.
We’ve been pushed and pulled in so many directions that we are going to come off, and be, bent and warped in a few places, each of us in our own very unique ways. Which makes us all alike, but also very difficult to relate to by anybody other than ourselves.
It could take us a lifetime to see ourselves as we truly are, but we should do our best to be as aware as possible of this vital knowledge as we go into a relationship. A sort of notice or operators manual to prevent injury for both parties involved.
I know it’s romantic to find the one who can see our souls through locked, wooden bathroom doors and just understand what’s wrong, but if you are having a hard finding that special someone, keep reading.
Nosce Te Ipsum
Now, we may be saying, ‘I know who I am.’
Well on the assumption that we may not be so… ahem, self-righteous… ahem, the reason it is so difficult for us to be aware of ourselves as these imperfect, damaged, and crazy creatures is truly a lack of self-knowledge.
'That which is the Knower, the ground of all knowledge, is never itself an object of knowledge.'
It isn’t entirely our faults if it makes all this more digestible though. Self-knowledge from an outside perspective is really difficult to acquire these days. It’s like a bad joke of silence from those closest to us to keep us in the dark about our true nature.
People don’t really tell us what they think of us. Ironically enough, we end up knowing less of ourselves than a stranger on a 2-hour flight.
That’s crazy, right? Why wouldn’t people tell us these things, especially if we are lacking or have obvious flaws?
Well, to be quite honest, what is the motivation?
Our parents can probably see a good deal of us and our shortcomings as well-balanced and completely integrated individuals, but well, they are our parents. They’re pretty nice to us and want us to only think the best of ourselves. That and they may be blinded with that special and unconditional parental love.
Our friends, well, they really just want someone to hang out with from time to time. A laugh. A consoling shoulder to cry on perhaps. But to really give us strong criticism is a bit out of their business. No offense to our friends, but they really just don’t care enough (usually).
You really have to care about someone to go down that road with all that sort of talk about someone’s true character.
So our lovers. What about our lovers, past and present? Surely, they cared about us. They loved us. So they said anyway. They would surely have made some complaint along the way about how imperfect we are. Usually at the end of or during a fight, right?
Well, yes. They probably did.
But in the big picture, they are an ex, right? They didn’t care enough on the whole to really find you a worthy investment into all that. Don’t worry, it’s not you, it’s them.
Either way, they got out of your craziness by saying things like:
‘I need some space to grow.’
‘You deserve better than what I can give you.’
‘I need to focus on my career.’
Or simply, ‘It’s for the best.’
Nonsense, of course, but they no doubt saw certain things about you and decided… ‘Nope, not worth it. Can’t be bothered dealing with that mess.’
They just want out and to let somebody handle the fragile and broken (and lovely) person you are.
So we trudge through life with failed love lives and oblivious to who we really are. It really is sweet though, if not a bit sad, how we continue thinking, that we are, generally speaking, easy to live with, easy to be with, if only the right person came along.
We Are All Trouble
Like any true romantic, I spent most of my early adulthood thinking that all I was missing was the right person. Later, I realized I was missing the right career and many other things, but the right one wasn't something I believed in intellectually, but nonetheless ‘felt’ to be true ‘deep down.’
If only we meet the right person, everything would fall into place and be easy, right?
But I’ve grown a little... a little, and now, I know I am very difficult to live with… in many ways. Different habits, different beliefs, and just simply different visions of how one should live life. We can all see that in others, but not so much ourselves.
‘How can they not see how money is important?’
‘How can they seriously leave the bathroom towels on the floor like that?’
‘Why is that dog on the couch?’
But it should be okay to see the practicality in finding someone who has the same beliefs about money or towels for your feet or whether your priorities are puppies/material.
So we should try to get past this very misleading idea of ourselves. Of course we are difficult to live with. This probably gets truer and truer as we get older and older and more set in our ways.
‘This is my life. It always will be. Nothing else...just us. The camera...and those wonderful people out there in the dark. Alright, Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my close-up.’
Norma Desmond (played by Gloria Swanson), Sunset Blvd.
How interesting it would be if we introduced ourselves on our first dates with, ‘Okay, here is how I’m a little bit off in the head… What is your strangeness?’ All of this in sincerity, not seriousness, and without any sort of debaseness.
Then we could have a laugh and continue to talk meaningfully and thoughtfully about all of this in a very non-defensive and non-hysterical way of sharing yourself with another person.
Oh my, the time we could save. You wouldn’t have to move in and lose sleep and try to recover your lent book from his or her friend when things went sour.
Brave New Romance
We don’t need our partners to be perfect in our relationships. We just need them, and ourselves, to have a better grip on the imperfections.
We just need a little help in seeing ourselves for who truly are without getting ‘crazy’ about it.
We need to be prepared and prepare our partners of the more destructive quirks we carry with us in our personalities hopefully before those said traits have deeply upset the other.
It can be hard. Very hard. But to wait for that critical moment when things can end because someone was caught off guard with one of these destructive characteristics could lead to a loss of something great. Could lead to the loss of something more than one night’s sleep.
If we discover these faults, or just things we disagree with, in our partners before they inform us of them, we are more likely to be hurt. Deeply hurt. And therefore less sympathetic as the frail beings they are.
So before you say, ‘I do,’ in the beautiful and romantic gesture that it is, give your love the gift that will keep on giving… your complete and unabridged insanities in a calm and thoughtful explanation.