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Temporal Romance (instead of Eternal, or Selfless)


(I wrote this essay on 12/26/02)

As typically deployed, romance is something we add to reality. Romance is a powerful emotional connection communicated by symbolic words and gestures of eternal and selfless love. Romance is an attempt to destroy existential angst and low self-esteem with an omnipotent emotional bond between two (or more) lovers.

I've always had a soft spot for romance. Unfortunately for me, some of the most painful of my short-lived relationships began when an attractive guy told me he loved me before either of us knew each other well. I am now wary of the word "love" ... I doubt I will ever accept it so credulously again. I no longer have a good grasp on what that word really means.

-----

I haven't given up on romance. Not at all. I've redefined it.

For me, romance is no longer eternal. I will not profess to "always" love you. Always doesn't exist, the future is unpredictable, people change and their needs change too. We can't know whether we have a long-term relationship until we've been together for a long time, and endurance is not a perfect predictor of additional future success.

For me, romance is no longer selfless. I will not pledge my love "no matter what". There are definitely behaviors and circumstances that will lead me to end or downgrade a relationship. The relationship is not more important than the people inside of it.

So ... what is romance to me? Romance is the special gift of spending time together, focused on each other. Romance is the special gift of making decisions together, as a team, in ways more powerful than one person can do on his own. Romance is the special gift of making small, unexpected sacrifices that do enormous good for another. Romance is about making shared reality a better place right now, right here, every day, together.

For me, romance is like a drug, and -- like all drugs -- can be used wisely or unwisely. The next time somebody offers to share this drug with me, I'm going to hold back a bit before accepting, to see whether he is nuanced enough to share a temporal romance with me, without relying on the supercharged symbolisms of eternity or selflessness.


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