Is “Romantic Love” Sustainable?

“Romantic love” as I’m using it here is defined as those first euphoric feelings we get when we are attracted to a new love interest.

I’ve had these feelings many times. They feel incredible and make me feel “high” with emotion.

As a younger man under this spell, I often felt I’d met “The One,” as the rush of emotions overpowered me.

Inevitably the feelings would fade and I was left scratching my head wondering what had happened. Who was this person I felt so strongly about just a month before?

As a result, relationships that began with feelings of romantic love often ended shortly after the initial attraction wore off.

As I grew older, I learned that this was a natural occurrence – many of us go through it. Still, I found myself chasing that high in every new relationship.

I don’t recall pursuing too many women for long term relationships unless that strong ping of attraction was there at the beginning. I thought that that was how everything started.

Then one night while I was in my 30’s I was having beers with Larry Pastorius. Larry and I worked together and he was probably 20 years my senior.

I was talking to him about my challenges with regard to sustaining relationships with women and he shared a story that stuck with me.

He said, “Mike, I know what you mean. Before I met my wife, every relationship I’d had began with those euphoric feelings. Every one of those relationships was prone to huge up and down swings. And you know what? Every one one of those relationships failed.

“When I met my wife, there was none of that. We just liked each other. And that’s what has lasted.”

Hmmm. Interesting, I thought. Could “like” be more important than what I’d thought was “love at first sight?”

It’s always made me wonder in the 20 years since that conversation with Larry.

And yet, I’ve been addicted to that feeling most of my life. I’ve looked for that strong physical attraction over and over, only to realize after a month, “I don’t even like this person!”

So, I recently started a relationship with a woman and we’ve shared with each other that neither of us feels those “romantic love” feelings.

From my perspective, I like her. I’m attracted to her and after we met I felt we could talk together, had a nice connection and maybe wanted some of the same things out of life.

But I didn’t feel this overwhelming physical desire for her that I’d felt at the start of other relationships. In fact, the lack of this addictive feeling has caused me to question what we’re doing and I know it’s caused her to ask the same questions.

When the two of us get out of our heads and focus on how we feel when we’re together, everything is fine. We’re sweet to one another. We cuddle. We talk. We share stories and are getting to know each other a little at a time.

But still, we question: Shouldn’t we be having all those strong feelings couples have at the start of a relationship?

Pondering this question is what has led me to the title of this blog post, “Is Romantic Love Sustainable?”

The reason I ask that question now is because I’ve seen and experienced so many relationships go off the rails after the shine wears off.

So, are these relationships that begin with stomach flutters long lasting? Or is this initial ping we perceive to be an intense connection merely a sexual attraction that really has no foundation?

Whenever I hear of a couple who has broken up and then gets back together, I know they are experiencing great sexual chemistry. The lure of that physical connection is so strong, it’s like a drug.

But I’m not sure it indicates anything other than what it is – a strong physical connection.

I have another friend, Randy Kirk, who is 20 years my senior and a year ago I asked him, “What is love? What does that even mean?”

He said something really interesting. He said, “When I was married, I liked my wife. Each day, I woke up and decided to love her.”

With love seeming like such an elusive, undefined thing, this is interesting. Maybe “liking” someone is a better foundation for a relationship than all those endorphins that fool us in the beginning.

Maybe that’s why this woman and I have been questioning our relationship. Maybe that’s why it will last – because our foundation is built on all the things that make friendship successful – not because our foundation is built on stomach flutters and skipping hearts.

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