Romance just doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t go on and on if we’ve found the “right” person. Romance in relationships, or any other romance, is measured by our effort, our presence, and our time.

It’s a cultural myth with, as most myths go, a lot of power. It’s deeply entrenched, and we’ve had many years of absorbing it.

It’s the stuff of Disney, movies, and romance novels. We’ve learned to invoke it to explain our personal failures to find Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty.

It sets up expectations and dreams that overwhelm our thinking about relationships. It nags us into feeling that the relationships we do have are less than what they should be.

It sets us up to be victims rather than actors in our lives. And it keeps us from exploring what real intimate relationships can be.

It’s the cultural romantic myth. And it goes something like this —

if the stars are right and the moon’s just right,
if I’m in the right place and it’s the right time,
if my face looks right,
if my hair’s just right,
if my body’s just right,
if I smell just right,
if I dress just right,
if I smile just right,
if I’m the right age,
if I drive the right car,
if I say the right things,
if I don’t over-do it but I don’t under-do it,

then maybe, just maybe, I’ll find the one Ms. or Mr. Right that’s right for me.

This romantic myth certainly helps sells us products with advertising that says the right product will make things “just right.” It sells books and movies that get us caught up again in the fantasy world of believing in the “just right.”

It also makes us victims of all these “ifs.” And the more we believe in our culture’s myth, the more we’ll criticize ourselves for not being, doing, or looking, “just right.”

Instead of believing that I’m really all right and communicating to the world that I’m at ease with myself, I communicate my disappointment, act out of the insecurity of being judged by these ifs, and seek again to get things “just right.” In reality, if my relationship isn’t fulfilling and promoting my growth, it’s not about luck, but about my own choices.

It might be less work to blame luck, our astrological sign, our Enneagram number, or our Meyers-Briggs score. But romance, relationships, and, as we know, anything worthwhile, is about choices, understanding ourselves, and the work we put into them.

Romance just doesn’t happen. It just doesn’t go on and on if we’ve found the “right” person. Romance in relationships, or any other romance, is measured by our effort, our presence, and our time.

Romance doesn’t happen if it’s our goal. Seeking romance as an end can actually become an addiction, writes Anne Wilson Schaef in Escape from Intimacy.

Romance is a result, an on-going product, of the choices we make, the amount of time we spend with, and the attention we give to an object, an idea, or a person. But it begins with our relationship to ourselves, no matter how corny that idea might sound.

It’s built on the conviction that I myself am Ms. or Mr. Right for me. It’s built on rejecting the idea that we are a victim of the fates, the stars, or the products.

It arises out of a comfort with ourselves, the conviction that we are the masters of our fate, and the expectation of always learning what that means. Romance is not an accident that hasn’t happened to us yet.

Romance is work because it arises out of what we do and what we love. It’s a process not a product. It doesn’t result from getting things “just right” and standing pat.

It means not taking the past for granted but building on it to nurture a relationship, and the one to whom one is related, to continue the growth that means we are still alive at any age.

Contributed by

Bob Minor

University of Kansas
Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies
A national resource for information on gender issues and gay/straight relationships for organizations, businesses, educational institutions, and media outlets such as NBC and USA Today, Bob Minor, Ph.D. …

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