Our society sets up expectations that almost always fail to come to fruition. We are taught that romance means hearts and flowers and expensive jewelry and candle-lit dinners and an utter ignoring of anyone else other than the loved one.
And when we don’t get it, when one partner feels an attraction to someone other than “the one” or doesn’t seem to “want” to treat us to all the little “special” ideas of romance, then they just must not really love us.
It doesn’t matter that perhaps the problem is that the person we love is barely making ends meet, and each paycheck has to worry if they can cover their living expenses just for this week. No, because he/she doesn’t buy us gifts all of the time, or even give us the “gift” of ALL of their free time, they must somehow not love us.
I’ve NEVER received jewelry from a loved one. Mostly because most of the men I’ve fallen in love with have no “disposable income” to do so. I had one boyfriend who made me a ring, but I broke up with him before he could give it to me.
It’s not about things. It’s not even about time spent together. It’s about care. It’s about knowing that there is at least one person out there who understands, and supports us, and that we understand and support them.
The advertising economy and the entertainment industry want to tell us that that’s not enough. That in order to “prove our love” we must drag our loved one to the top of the mountain to hand him/her a diamond ring, and show her/him a huge heart walked into the pristine snow of the mountain (an actual Zales advertisement I recently watched).
All of the movies and TV shows that we watch tell us that those we love must crawl over broken glass (or some other huge obstacle to overcome) in order to PROVE their love. And that if someone isn’t willing to do that, they must just see us as disposable, casual sex.
I grew up with fairy tales and legends as my introduction to the world of entertainment, and I fairly quickly graduated to science fiction and fantasy.
Academia would like to tell you that it is those same fairy tales that are to blame for our unrealistic idea of what love means. But personally, I never saw them that way. Maybe it’s because I read the real ones, rather than the pablum-filled Disney variants.
In the real tales, the protagonist of the story (whether it was male or female) had to go through many struggles to get what they want. Not just “being good” but actually having to WORK to make their dreams come true. Even those given magic to overcome their difficulties had to WORK to make that magic go. Each and every one that I ever read relied on the cleverness and compassion of the protagonist (again, no matter if it was male or female) in order for them to get to their dreams. The evil sisters/step-sisters/brothers/etc all acted out of selfishness and a sense of entitlement.
Most often it was compassion that got them the magical assistance. Whether it was sharing what little food they had with an elderly person, or getting off their horse so that the elderly person could ride, or any of any number of different ways to show kindness to one’s fellow man, it was that compassion that won them the magical help.
And the ones where the Devil is involved tend toward not only encouraging a good and compassionate lifestyle, but ALSO required the person to be clever and know how not to fall into the Devil’s traps.
Every fairy tale I read was some form of a morality play, as were many of the legends of pagan gods that I read. Each and every one said that if you live a good and compassionate life, good things will come to you. It may not be miraculous, and fix everything in your life – it may just mean you’re happy with what you have. But it all comes down to making the best with what you have.
It doesn’t matter if it is monogamous romance or not. For me, romance is about the gentle brush of a hand against my cheek, or the few minutes of talking via Facebook or text just to let me know they’re thinking of me, or a phone call when they need me (or answering a phone call when I need them). It’s about knowing that I need them in my life, and knowing that they need me in theirs. It’s about understanding when their world goes crazy and they need every moment to fix what’s wrong, so they may not have a moment or two for me. It’s about them understanding my own forms of craziness.
I’m not into diamonds, and flowers fade quickly (unless they’re plants, in which case since I have a black thumb, they’ll probably die anyways). Doesn’t mean I’ll spurn those gifts if the person I love wants to give them to me. It just means I don’t expect those things as “gifts.” Hell, if someone wants to give me “things” to tell me that they love me, I’d rather an Amazon gift card, or a clothing gift card – because that tells me they know what I want, but can’t always buy for myself.
At this point in my life, I would have already pawned any jewelry I had been given. Not because I no longer love or have happy memories of the people who might have given me those things, but because the memories are in my head – and the money I would have gotten from pawning things would have kept things going for just a little bit longer.
Romance to me is about moments and memories, not things.