Tech UPTechnologyIs romantic love nonsense?

Is romantic love nonsense?

If the Oscar had to be given to the silliest film of the 21st century so far, there is no doubt that Twilight would be among the candidates, and with many options for the award. This love story between a 500-year-old teenage vampire (what time he has had to mature) and a high school girl, who falls in love with his tormented little face, is the palpable proof of how we have the myth of romantic love in the deep in our bones. And it is that for 7 out of 10 Spaniards, according to a CIS survey, true love can do everything . Other studies carried out as a way of promoting Internet dating sites confirm how well rooted the myth of romantic love is in our brains: half of Spaniards believe in eternal love.

A love for life?

We live immersed in the myth of romantic love that has been forged in Western culture and that had its peak during romanticism. We continue to believe, and this is demonstrated by the surveys, in most of the clichés of the most pastel films, such as the existence of the better half or believing that there is a predestined partner for each one. Something absurd considering that most of us find our partner in our environment (workmates, studies, or residence) or casually.

Another myth is the naive belief that true love passion lasts a lifetime. In reality, that “eternal” passion in which a good part of Spaniards believe vanishes around the age of four . And what about the belief according to which, when you truly love, you are always faithful to your partner? Or the one that love can do everything?

The myth of romantic love lives comfortably installed in the West to the point that the crush is the epitome of the romantic ideal. Culturally it has its origin in the time of courtly love. Born in Provence in the eleventh century, it is that of Tristan and Iseult: ideal, indestructible and eminently adulterous , as in the Arthurian legend between Geneva and Lancelot. We are facing a tragic and fatal love, like that of the lovers of Teruel or the most comical of Don Mendo’s revenge . The love of Amadís de Gaula , whose oldest text can be dated to Zaragoza in 1508, between Amadís and Oriana is courteous and ideal. It is a love based on the image formed, it is a love at first sight, which was taken to the extreme by Cervantes when Don Quixote affirms that he is “in love with hearsay and with the great fame that the incomparable Dulcinea has for being beautiful and discreet”.

We remain anchored in this idealization of infatuation and romantic love, minimizing what poets and writers have made clear over the centuries: that it is essentially miserable and torturing . La Celestina defines Melibea as “a hidden fire, a sweet bitterness, a delightful ailment, a joyous torment, a sweet and fierce wound, a soft death.” For Fernando de Rojas, the passionate love of these teenagers, which has no drawbacks or obstacles, is tragic despite everything! Not to mention the turbulent and unhealthy of Wuthering Heights or the humiliating and miserable of The Lady of the Camellias.

love blinds your eyes

The epitome of this closure of our society to the obvious is in the famous song Every Breath You Take by the British pop group Police. It is a song that has accompanied tens of thousands of couples for several decades and they have even chosen it to play at their weddings. For those who do not know the language of Shakespeare, I will tell you that it is the song of a stalker, a controlling and sinister man who watches every step, every breath, every movement of the one who rejected him. That it is considered one of the most romantic in history makes it very clear that we have an idealized and distorted vision of love.

It is precisely this idealization that has achieved that in Europe, the homeland of romantic love and where couples marry for love, 50% of marriages divorce after five years of living together and 80% after ten . The sarcastic journalist from the beginning of the 20th century HL Mencken said it: “To be in love is to be in a state of perceptive anesthesia”. Few behaviors are more pathological . To such an extent are we incapable of understanding it that Bernard Shaw had to write in the epilogue to his Pygmalion : “The rest of the story need not be staged, and hardly need be told, if our imagination had not been misled by so many romantic plays.” foolishly sentimental, who have accustomed us to the fact that everything has to end well, despite logic and common sense”.

Love drug addiction?

Western myth tells us that love must be crazy . We don’t want it to be rational; it must be bold, unpredictable, unfathomable. That yes, in the rest of our life we choose -or we try to choose- rationally: work for money, position and hours, friendships for common interests… But the couple, oh, love!, must be chosen by impulse irrational. Passionate love is insane even if we do not recognize it as such : we are capable of crossing the country just for a kiss. If we believe that this fact is romantic, it is that we are imbued in the myth.

Only drug addicts are capable of something like this: in the 1980s, during a tobacco distributors’ strike that left the country without packs, many Italians crossed the border to buy their precious nicotine. In 2000 A. Bartels and S. Zeki of University College London scanned the brains of 70 people in love and discovered two interesting things. The first is that falling in love activates a different area of the brain than the one that is turned on by a close friend. And second, that the active brain of a lover is very similar to that of an alcohol or drug addict ; They are areas with many dopamine receptors, which causes euphoria, addiction and anxiety.

It is not uncommon then that love is associated with anguish . The poets reveal it to us as a disease. The great classical love poet, Sappho, experiences love as affliction. Legend has it that she threw herself off a cliff after being rejected. For the Latin poet Sextus Propertius, love is problematic: “it is an infection or contagion.” And in the work that marks the birth of German romanticism, The Sorrows of Young Werther , the protagonist commits suicide for love. Written by a 24-year-old Goethe under the influence of his passion for the girlfriend of a lawyer friend, Werther gets emotional, cries, exults and goes from the most overflowing happiness to the blackest sorrow… doesn’t it remind of a psychological problem?


Fisher, H. (2004) Why Do We Love?, DeBolsillo

Tallis, F. (2004) Love sick: love as a mental ilness, Da Capo Press

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