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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Do You Believe in Romantic Love? Sonnet 116 by William Shakespeare Let me not to the marriage of true minds Admit impediments. Love is not love Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove: O no! it is an ever-fixed mark That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks Within his bending sickle's compass come: Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom. If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved. In the first quatrain, the speaker defines love both by telling what it is and what it is not. He states that love does not change or turn ("alter when alteration finds"), but remains ever fixed. In the second quatrain, the speaker tells uses a metaphor to tell what love is: a guiding star to lost ships ("wand'ring barks") that is not susceptible to storms (it "looks on tempests and is never shaken"). In the third quatrain, the speaker again describes more specifically what love is not: love is not susceptible to time. Though beauty is cut down as time metaphorically wields its sickle ("his bending sickle's compass") , love doesn't change with passing days (it "bears it out ev'n to the edge of doom"). In the last couplet, the real rhetorical and emotional power of love is revealed not in its complexity; rather, the speaker simply affirms his certainty that love is exactly as he says. He delivers the force of his linguistic and emotional conviction ("I have never writ, nor no man ever loved"). So, this sonnet presents the extreme ideal of romantic love: it never changes, it never fades, it outlasts death and admits no flaw. And even more, it insists that this ideal is the only love that can be called "true"--if love is mortal, changing, or impermanent, the speaker writes, then no man ever loved. William Shakespeare, Bard of Avon, earned his distinction of being widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language. Romanticism, of course, was partly a reaction against the scientific rationalization of nature, and Sonnet 116 upholds this romantic view of love. To many today, romantic love is irrational and, if experienced, followed by disillusionment. They cannot see how or why their once romantic love was lost. Often, these people come to believe that romantic love is a false hope. They began their relationship with romantic feelings and dreams for their future. Once many believe, they felt a rewarding life, but eventually the relationship began to fall apart and became a painful experience. Is a romantic love possible? Is it a dream relationship? To those seeking a romantic love, here are some ideas about bringing the concept into reality. The following statements represent ideas, not necessarily research: 1. Marriage itself does not create or sustain romantic love. People can and do fall in love with the idea of a person who does not really exist and hope the relationship will endure. Then, love often doesn't last. 2. Most people never learn how to sustain a loving relationship. The reason is simple. Nobody showed them. Falling in love does not teach communication skills and problem solving. 3. When problems arise, lovers begin to see the other person more like they truly are and not what they needed them to be. They find faults and become jealous, angry, and bitter. 4. The desire for visibility is related to our desire to be understood. For any person, blind love may help numb or settle anxiety, but it will not answer the hunger to be seen and understood. Sustained visibility, being seen and noticed by another, will lead to self discovery. 5. The desire to be validated is important. People want their lovers to see and value the identity they were born with and have grown to become. They want their lover to see them as lovable and capable. In romantic love, two people see each other in a unique way. 6. Sexual identity is central to who lovers are. In romantic love, one perceives the other as a real or potential source of happiness. Desire is born, which leads to actions that result in pleasure and joy. If people are frightened or angered by their differences, love withers. 7. Differences in the lovers' sense of life, or conscious and unconscious values, present problems if they are not appreciated and accepted as differences. 8. One key to romantic love is whether the couple experiences their differences as complementary or antagonistic. This often depends on the willingness and ability of both people to appreciate and find value in the other person. 9. Individual rhythm and energy is deeply connected to whether or not romantic love actually ignites and endures. When a man and woman meet and feel "in sync", there can be an exhilarating experience of harmony. Neurobiologists have found that there is a chemical released in the brain when a couple falls in love. This chemical is called phenylethlamine and it functions in the body much like an amphetamine. This may explain the superhuman feelings of a couple who is falling in love such as "I feel like I can walk on air." Does this chemical fade completely with time? In a recent study in the Review of General Psychology, scientists found that romantic love -- defined as having intensity, engagement and sexual interest -- does exist in long-term relationships. And, they also found that the greater the romantic love was, the more satisfied people reported being, whether it was a short-term or long-term relationship (U.S. News, "Romantic Love," March 25 2009). Hooray for Shakespeare! Maybe he was trying to convey that very idea in the 17th Century.
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