A lot of people like to imagine themselves as romantic people – “I bought her flowers last Tuesday and left them for her on the table and a letter…” or, “He took me to a movie and then we walked in the park it was so romantic.”
*sets Facebook profile to himself kissing his girlfriend on the cheek*
*shakes with delight at the likes and hearts*
But what does it mean to be a romantic?
For as long as I can remember I have had a pattern of loving people. First, I would catch a glimpse of them smiling and would be struck by their beauty.
Then, I’d talk with them and would find myself lost in the conversation; able to rest in my wondering just how they could be so very lovely with every word they spoke.
Pretty soon I would find myself thinking about them, writing songs about them or poems, and being tugged steadily onward by the gravity of my desire for them in my life.
If the feeling was mutual and we entered a relationship, this idea of them would manifest itself into projections of the future.
I would live each day in the relationship with them in a kind of tragically deluded but artistically lovely codependent burst of poetry and beauty – with the projection of perfection onto them. Sometimes this image would last months, sometimes it would only last weeks.
Eventually though, the grand vision would collapse and I’d write another song about heartbreak.
That was pretty much how relationships worked for me as a young romantic man.
The hard fall, the hand-in-hand future sight of us together forever, and finally the collapse of my inflated ideas under the weight of what was actually substantial between us.
In the summer of last year I went over to my brothers to drink a beer and vent about another failed relationship. I told him how difficult it was to carry the visions of that “perfect someone” whom had gotten away with me everyday.
He listened and told me, “That will never stop.” Which was sobering information to say the least.
But why would it not go away? What was I in love with?
“It’s your muse.”
Psychologist Carl Jung described the phenomena as the “Anima” – man’s projection of the feminine archetype within his psyche based off of all of his experiences with women and the perfection he sees in them. It is the thing that lures romantics to their grave; the siren’s call.
For some its the thrill of falling in love and not necessarily the idea of love that they chase.
All of us love that feeling, the thrill of new love – the heart racing moment when everything is on the line because everything is being built and destroyed right then and there between the two of you; the frothy chemistry of love bubbling into your heart.
We love the mystery, the sweetness and beauty of those whom we fall for. It captivates us, it imprints memories into our minds that seem absolutely perfect in nature.
I can remember clearly standing still atop the water fall and looking at my then girlfriend in July’s sunlight so many years ago. The way she smiled is impossible to erase from my mind – listen to my song, “Rest” and you can hear the image manifest itself in the chorus – but why is this?
This is what it means to be a romantic – you are so in love with the archetype of ‘perfect love’ that when it shines forth through anyone’s eyes, when anyone manifests anything beautiful that reminds you of it, it leaves a kind of imprint on your soul.
But, that is not love – it is romance.
Love is also psychological archetype and one that is higher than romance (romance is a part of love but is not love) – and in being so, love supersedes our ability to understand it wholly.
Like romance, we can catch glimpses of it, atop waterfalls, in the hills of Spain or even on the train when our eyes meet a strangers; but it is not ours to have permanently. In fact, it’s impossible to have it permanently.
I fell very hard for a girl once – I thought we shared perfect love. Kissing a new woman after we fell apart was an act of exposure therapy through the PTSD of my collapsed and very dead dreams of her.
But as I look back now at how I felt in our relationship, I can clearly remember that I allowed my own heart to be undermined for that “light” I saw in her – for that romantic pursuit.
This is when things get deadly in relationships; when the idea of what someone is to you romantically supersedes your desire to stand up for yourself. If that happens, you’re doomed to suffer life changing heartbreak or to suffer a lifetime of resentment in being ‘stuck’ in a relationship with them.
Human beings are far from perfect. To demand perfection from them is folly.
Many of us still strive to be valiant lovers despite all of this.
Plenty of myths talk about the hero who slays the beast to win the heart of the perfect woman. In that relationship, I was the hero whom slayed himself only to discover that the woman he had fought to defend was a monster and was then subsequently devoured by her.
A beautiful, soul crushing irony.
Who is to blame? What is to blame?
We love romance more than we love ourselves. Or, we love romance more than we love those whom we claim to love.
I once sat by an ex girlfriend and played an instrumental song I had recorded for her on piano. She cried and I was moved by her display of emotion. I convinced myself at that moment that she was emotionally ‘deep’ and mutually artistic. Again, I projected my desires and heart’s expectations onto her at seeing her cry.
I realized after everything ended that her tears were most likely not because she was moved by the beauty of the song – but rather because she too was overwhelmed by her romantic desires all being validated in that moment. It had after all been a lovely date.
So, in an honest sense, it really didn’t matter that it was me sitting next to her playing the song – anyone reflecting her desires would have done the trick. This also, is a sobering and humbling notion.
Our desires absolutely mess with our emotions.
I am always leery when people tell me they love me; especially if I know I haven’t shown the darker parts of my psyche to them.
Love is the understanding of and acceptance of the monster within our partners and them our monster. Likewise, it is also the hand holding and snuggling on a cold winter’s night. But its not all warmth and cozy moments; Hallmark movies be damned.
At some point the poet must look at himself in the mirror and ask, what is my desire? And then, why?
This will never be fulfilled by a single relationship. Not even a healthy relationship and a life lived in a community of like-minded individuals all facilitating one anthers’ success can stifle that longing in our hearts for perfect love.
Romantics then, in some lovely and yet tragic way, are witnesses of beauty itself as an archetype and, unless if we embody humility and allow the beauty of the sun to set and rise naturally, the thing we long for most will devour us.
It’s better to look for the monster in your partner and show them yours, rather than to fall in love with pretense.