For Valentine's Day: Romantic Love Important for Relationships?

By “relationships,” I mean the ones that last, or at least quasi-last. I mean things that are rather spouse-like, whether legally or religiously married or not. And fulfilling, and motivating, and kind of exciting. As opposed to boyfriendships/girlfriendships, one night stands, living together to work the farm, or whatever it is Hollywood actors do.

And of course I mean gay as well as straight relationships.

You meet someone, and you fall in love–not necessarily “at first sight,” but soon enough. At some point you’re a couple. Maybe this feeling of “romantic” love continues–not that it is continuously felt, but that now and then it flares up. Yes, it’s infatuation; yes, it’s “sexual.” It’s not just a fond regard and an enduring affection. (Not “just”!)

I have heard that the best, most enduring, “warmest” relationships may never involve this sort of romantic feeling. That may be a good thing; I suspect only a minority finds romantic love that’s returned in kind. Some people may never experience it at all.

So what’s the verdict? Does a relationship that starts with romantic love die when it grows cooler? Or not?

Yes, I know that “everyone’s different.” I’m seeking the truest generalization. And Happy Valentine’s Day.

Important for what I would call a good relationship? Yes. Necessary for a lasting relationship? No (unfortunately).

Perhaps not essential at all times in a relationship. I give you my own happy marriage. Do I love Barb? Does she love me? Absolutely. Do we demonstrate that love in romantic ways? Sometimes. Sometimes not. Tevye and his wife do a song in Fiddler on the Roof that outline the things which they do for each other on an ongoing basis – with the cinch line “If that isn’t love…what is?”

We were friends for thirteen years before we married, each other’s support and with deep philia but not a whole lot of eros; that grew as we realized we were destined for each other in our late 20s. (Each had had romances of a sort before then that were just not meant to be, for a variety of reasons from the trivial to the tragic.)

Somebody coined the word limerence a decade or so ago to describe the attraction, in a mix of sexual and emotional need, that is “love at first sight” in the classic sense. And distinguished this from the actual nature of companionate love, of which it is the larva or seedling – the generally-necessary first step in growth, but not to be confused with the full-grown organism. I think that concept has a lot going for it – having observed my (foster) son and the girl he married, whom I knew as a young child well before I met him, go through the phases of “can’t be without him,” sexual intimacy, we-need-to-get-married (not in the “because of pregnancy” sense but as an inner compulsion), the necessary shifting of priorities and perceptions as they settled into married life, not without crises, and now a stable relationship that incorporates all the stuff before but balances it in a lasting non-urgent relationship with the potential to last 50 or 75 years, I can see third-hand how such things evolve.

“Fulfilling, motivating and kind of exciting”…? For both parties, even if just once in awhile…that would certainly be wonderful. I agree that it may be very rare. Could take work that many are unwilling, or unable to do. Tolerance, forbearance, desire.
Anyhow, to answer both the questions:

Not really.

Not necessarily.


Yes, I remember “limerance.” And I remember Nathaniel Branden and his not-very-useful take on the subject. Maybe I should do workshops too, as I suppose I can’t absolutely count on the MacArthur Prize (or inventing a 99-cent space drive).

Is it your observation that, in general, relationships arising through (or from) romantic love have a greater tendency toward health and longevity? If you could have jumped into the “warm embers” phase more or less at the beginning–which may be the reality for many–do you think it would have weakened the bond you clearly have?

ERISLOVER, I’d, er, love to have you amplify on your remarks.

Anybody feel that their lack of a romantic spark has prevented them from forming truly satisfying relationships?

And I’d like to hear from any gay guys and lesbians out there. This thread isn’t the same as my recent “does love mean the same to different types” thing.

As far as the “no” part goes, I just speak from experience. My grandparents had zero romance as I understand the term, and showed no signs of romantic feelings, as I understand their manifestation.

As for the “yes for a good’un” goes, well, I think that is one of the things that separate friendship from a more serious relationship is the romantic feelings. But since I am not going to tell people they don’t have a relationship just because I don’t see any romance, I instead qualify it as a bad relationship, one I surely wouldn’t want to be in. And then we return to point one: the badness of a relationship may or may not affect whether it lasts. Eris knows we’ve been in some relationships we should have left much earlier. Eris knows we know someone who is likely to stay in one they probably shouldn’t (by our estimations, of course).

Oh definitely. Tragically I dated a girl four separate times for a period of, oh, 6 months or so each time? We’d hook up, everything would be grand, but whatever romance was there faded (on my part) quickly. Whence came it in the first place I always wondered, but it never stayed and though we are friends still I still feel bad for what might ostensively seem like leading her on. We never had sex or anything so at least it never seemed like I used her… :frowning:

I also find that another girl I love left me because she didn’t feel the romance either. Shame, because it burns in me still.

That makes me wonder how I would look at a romance with a guy (being bi and all, but I have yet to date a guy). I wonder.

Romance is a tough thing to pin down, but whatever it is, I think the whole Valentine’s day deal is the antithesis of it:

“Darling, I saw these beautiful flowers and I thought of you”
“It’s Valentine’s day, I’d better get the missus some flowers”

Romance and affection is important IMHO, but only if it is genuine, not provoked by some commercial frenzy.

I think most relationships begin with the romance and infatuation and when that dies down, the real relationship begins and you start to really discover each other. To answer your question i think the romance is still important- its a desire that id say most of us need to fulfill, and who better to fulfill them with than your partner…

I can neither find a cite nor remember where I read this, so take it with giant granules of rock salt:

Just yesterday, I was reading that a study done on married couples showed that the more the couple tended to idealize each other, the longer the relationship lasted.

That kind of means, to me, that the couples that keep that rose-colored-glasses mooning about sort of love have something up on the rest of us.

I mean, I love my husband deeply, but I can’t imagine being able to idealize him, or idolize him. I’m sure I see him through a filter of my love for him, though.
When I started this reply, it seemed relevant. Now, upon reading it, I’m pretty sure it isn’t. Sorry.


It amuses me to no end when people rail on Valentines day as a completely commercial fabrication, and that one should be romantic on every day of the year, and not just one day.

Hello? If you have -ever- been in a relationship with a man who wouldn’t be able to distinguish between a romantic gesture and a plaid slip-covered ottoman, you will get down on your knees and -thank- whomever it was that came up with Valentines day, because at least you know that one day out of the year, you might get something close to what a lot of people take for granted with more ‘gift talented’ men.

I’ve dated ‘idea men’ (you know, those guys who never forget a birthday/holiday/anniversary and always give you the perfect gift, and even things that you didn’t know you wanted, but once they handed it over, you couldn’t believe you’d lived that long without one in your grubby little hands) and I’ve dated ‘Oh, I’m sorry, hon–wasn’t your birthday last week?-guy’. I’ve loved both in their own way, and while the former never needed a date on the calendar to tell him when I needed a little appreciating, it certainly helped the latter.
And to Julie, above:

I don’t think there is a set ‘formula’ for the perfect relationship. I believe that you can be with someone, and it will work very well, for years maybe. And then you can be with someone else, who is completely different, and the relationship dynamic is different, and it too will work very well–just for different reasons.

Oh, I didn’t mean to imply that there is a formula. Even if there were, I don’t think there is any way to see someone through those glasses if you don’t have them on.


[hijack]Hey, jsgoddess! Is that you, the writer of excellent and funny book reviews at epinions? Nice to see you here at the SDMB

writer of very few epinions, but way too many SDMB posts[/hijack]

I think that a relationship that never has “romantic” love (which I am thinking of as “spark”, “chemistry”, or “eros”) is particularly vulnerable, because the partners may be pulled powerfully if they experience the “romantic” love for someone else. This is possible (probably almost inevitable) even in a “romantic” patnership, but at least that relationship can call you back with the memory and possibility of the same sort of love.

However “romantic” love is not sufficient. To sustain a long term relationship respect, kindness, and reasonableness are essential

Get? What is it that so important that you ‘get’?

If a man was as bad as you imply, why stick around? is feigned formulaic romance once a year really worth anything at all?

Well, I do write book reviews. As to whether they’re excellent and funny, I can’t attest. But I’m flattered you think so!

Excellent point. If one or both partners feel they are “missing out” on something, that could be a recipe for disaster.


I have definitely been blinded by romance. In retrospect, I have underestimated the value of some superb people because the feeling of romantic attraction was not quickly apparent. Attraction to an ideal has two edges, and both sides hurt.

On the other hand, it really helps to be able to have romance with your partner.

Sometimes I think “long-term romantic relationship” is an oxymoron. It exists, but only for the few, and the lucky. Far more important is
a) similarity, especially as you get older, and
b) positive interactions.

If you have romance but also have criticism, contempt, or non-communication then you have a living hell. If you have positive interactions – support, appreciation, communication – then you have a chance to be happy. For me, romance and eros naturally follow from the aforementioned good stuff, especially when accompanied by a massage and a glass of wine once in a while.

Strangely enough, that is effectively how Barb and I operated – good friends without romantic attachment who realized that we were supposed to marry, that we were what each other needed, and moved straight into the glowing-embers relationship. I personally feel that it strengthened our bond to be there “from the start,” as it were.

I’m not even sure what romantic love is…I mean, I’ve been craving banana cream pie all night and my husband just made one for me. Is this romantic? Would it make a difference if I said hated chocolates and flowers?
Seriously though, what is “romantic love”?

I’m new here, but I’ll give my 2cents for what it is worth.

I think that “romance” is just that. An idealized notion of what love is. It is wonderful to have but does not sustain a long term relationship. I have been married for 25 years, and yes we have had romance, and we have had the lack thereof, but our love has never been dependent on the romance being there or not. Romance can exist without love and love is so much more than simply romance.

In other words, after 25 years I still often get goose bumps when I see him across a crowded room, even though he is one of the least romantic men around.


I think that part of the problem with querying whether or not “romance” is important for a lasting relationship is I haven’t really encountered all that many people who agree on what the feeling of romantic love actually entails.

For example, the OP as originally phrased is something that I can’t answer, because I don’t experience romantic love as being sexual. (So the, “Yes, it’s ‘sexual’” line makes it pretty clear that I’d be talking at cross-purposes.) For that matter, I don’t experience infatuation as being especially sexual, either. . . .

Well, like Polycarp, hubby and I were not really what one might term “in love” when we married, but we both had a strong knowledge that marrying was the right thing for us. I have been more in love with him with the passing of years.

Romance is important, I think, but you may have to broaden your definition of romance (I did). In our 18 year realationship, he has brought me roses for no reason, oh, maybe 8 times. Has never brought flowers, or any gift, upon the birth of any of our children. But, let’s say he goes to the market for something, and sees a sale on something he knows I like, he’ll pick it up for me. For a short time, he worked as an over-the-road truck driver, gone for three weeks at a time; he would buy a Sunday paper wherever he was, look through the coupons, and clip the ones he thought I would use (he knows I love me my coupons). These gestures show that he is consciously thinking of me, and what will please me. It ain’t roses and gold jewelry (though I’ve gotten some of that over the years, too), but I think it qualifies as romantic in his own quirky, lovely way.

It doesn’t hurt matters that he’s very affectionate.