Romanticism and Modern Day Love


Can You Have Your Cake and Eat it Too?

Much of your suffering can be traced back to about a half decade or so in 1800’s England when the Romanticism movement began.

Prior to Romanticism, relationships were largely perfunctory. You have a cow and I have a house, let’s get married. It made good economic sense. It was functional. However, the Romantics were no longer content with hooking up with the guy across the pond in order to secure a manor house or father some babes. They told us we must also love one another in a doe-eyed, butterflies in the stomach kind of way before combining our herds and loins. They added love to the equation of marriage.

The Romantics swooned over beauty in nature and saw emotion and imagination as the path to inner enlightenment. They valued feelings and intuition over logic and reasoning. These ideals helped move our marriages from a production culture to a service culture. Where they were once about duty, economic support and children, they also became about free choice, individualism, and self-fulfillment.

Does any of this sound familiar even now? Take a quick squiz at my Instagram and you’ll find a bunch of sunsets and odes to feelings; love and gratitude are a few of my favourites. Hello sun speckled meadows and warm, fuzzy feelings!

Sounds good so far doesn't it? Who doesn’t want a bit of magic in the milieu of everyday life? But, you can have too much of a good thing, and here’s what else Romanticism brought: idealisation.

Enter, The One. The soul mate destined to deliver us from loneliness whilst also making beautiful, healthy babies and building an empire. The person to satisfy all our financial, sexual, and familial needs. It’s a big ask. Especially when you consider there was once a village to shoulder some of the burden. Now, more often than not, there is just a team of two.

Was adding love to the relationship mix the straw that broke the camel’s back?

The idea of this slow, immersed in feelings kind of love was all very good for a bunch of middle-class Brits who didn’t have to work. As philospher Alain de Botton describes, “they had time to waste mooning over an expanse of water at dusk”. Nowadays, we’re lucky to leave the office in time to see dusk. With both partners often now working, the time to wax lyrical is squeezed out by arguments over how to stack the dishwasher and what an appropriate bedtime is for the children. And where does this leave us on the measuring stick of Romanticism? Falling well short of the ideal, that’s where.

It also leaves us sexless.

With so much time invested in raising children and earning money to pay for our aspirations, we neglect one of the most important goals for our time on earth: connection and meaning. Intimacy and sex has a key role in achieving this but we foolishly expect we will be ready to give and receive sex without any priming. The assumption that one can go smoothly from work or child rearing, to preparing a meal and cleaning up, to watching Game of Thrones, and then straight into the bedroom for something other than sleep, is a fallacy. Men may be able to, but women rarely can. Often it’s a bridge too far to go from the busy hum drum of the house to the melting laziness of sex. It requires too much of us. Women need a story, space and rituals to transition from their busy head to their feeling body.

Perhaps the pond sitters of 19th Century England were onto something after all. Connection and intimacy begins with taking time to be physically close with one another. Sitting next to each other in a restaurant instead of across the table, or side by side on the couch whilst watching TV and scrolling through Facebook. Better yet, putting your devices down and finding your own slice of nature to be inspired by, even if it is marveling at the moon from your own backyard.

Stop and bask in the closeness of another human and see where that takes you. You’ll be writing poetry before you know it.