Recently I watched a road trip vlog on where a YouTuber went on a trip with a random girl he met on a dating app. It was lovely and heartfelt, but they didn’t âcome togetherâ at the end, which resulted in a lot of disappointment expressed in the comments. It got me thinking: are healthy friendships less valued than romantic relationships?
The unfortunate answer is: yes. We live in an age obsessed with romantic love, especially whitewashed heteronormative romantic love. Children, we watch the Disney princesses reunite with Prince Charming, live their “Happy forever. “When we are teenagers, our media turn to rom-coms, songs about love – or rather often, the lack of love – and events like prom that are built on the assumption that people are meant to associate. People have been socially designed to put romantic relationships on an idealistic pedestal. Celibacy is seen as a self-inflicted state of immaturity, while marriage is seen as a hallmark for becoming a normal and successful adult.
Romantic relationships are so idolized and sentimentalized in our culture that it has reached a point where there are people who believe that truly platonic relationships cannot exist between men and women. It’s like meeting someone of the opposite sex immediately raises the possibility of romance. When you’re constantly bombarded with the idea that it’s better to be with someone than to be alone, the effects are finally toxic and self-destructive. But, romantic love hasn’t always been so important in our lives.
The story of love
By retracing the history of love in time, it all begins with the Greek philosopher Plato and his theory of forms. Forms are universal ideals, like justice, equality, beauty, and love, which are inaccessible but only exist to be referenced by the physical world. For example, a painting can be beautiful by referring to the ideal form of “beauty”, but it can never be beauty itself. In “SymposiumBy Plato, the character of Socrates describes the range of love that can exist, from the most superficial love like lust, which is the love of the body, to the highest form of love, platonic love, which loves the soul of a person.
Today the term platonic love is generally used to indicate a relationship that does not involve sex and often indicates unrequited love. Its negative connotation shows the high valuation of romance in society, but not friendships. Platonic love is both opposite and inferior to romantic love. Yet, according to Plato, the highest form of love is platonic love, which means that it exists in romantic relationships, but it is never celebrated because platonic love is not as exciting as passionate and romantic love. Rather than admitting the objective and sometimes unsexy reasons why you love someone, it’s more fun to call the raging hormonal emotional highs you experience when loving someone “romance.”
Historically, the concept of romantic love emerged during the aptly named Age of Romanticism in 19th century Europe, both as a rejection of Enlightenment rationality, but also as a celebration of the Enlightenment’s emphasis on the right to seek happiness. If you have ever read anything from the Romantic period, you know that everything is extremely exaggerated and that everyone’s emotions are always high. As early as the Romantic era, the seeds of society’s obsession with passionate and tumultuous love were sown.
Personally, it seems terribly exhausting to me, but it set the stage for centuries to follow, when we realized that this dramatic and emotional roller coaster called romance was alluring and therefore salable.
Modern day cultural engineering
This obsession with romantic relationships is not only fed to us by culture and the media; it is also rooted in our government policies. Before the Enlightenment and the Romantic era, marriage was a political institution that helped families form bonds, increase stability and secure inheritance. Getting married for feelings was not common until the appearance of romantics.
From an economic standpoint, marriage helps populate the next generation to fill the labor market and consumer base. With this in mind, U.S. laws and policies favored those who paired, passing 1000 laws that specifically benefit married people, including tax breaks, joint health coverage and spousal social security benefits. With idealized America “nuclear familyâRepresenting the mark of success in the 20th century, the media landscape and political institutions have socially designed the American population to idealize romantic relationships.
There are drawbacks to this societal pressure for both couples and singles. There’s a reason Disney movies end with ‘happily ever after’ and don’t describe the sometimes grueling, boring, and obviously unromantic work that a healthy romantic relationship requires. Putting all your emotional needs on one person comes from idealistic ideas of “soul mates” or “One”, and ignores the fact that wedding, at its core, is a political institution and a practical lifestyle. Marriage was not originally designed to provide everything from friendship, romantic love, personal fulfillment, to a lifelong load of highly emotional freight. It is the work of a healthy network of Platonic friends, but many people who often enter into relationships neglect their friendships until it’s too late.
Celibacy and friendships
For those who are single, they are often expected to end their celibacy, as if single status is somehow worse than being caught. Still single people are starting to realize the benefits of living alone, not having to compromise, and most importantly, having more time for friends. When you don’t spend all of your time with one person, you have a lot of freedom to expand your network of friends.
Multitudes of scientific studies show that happiness in adulthood is indicated by good social relationships, rather than whether or not they are married. Contrary to popular belief, people not engaged do not wallow in their solitude all the time; on the contrary, they spend much more time cultivating their platonic friendships than those in relationships.
Like Aminatou Sow, co-author of âGreat friendship: how we keep each other closeHe says, being in love with all your friends is just as, if not more important, than finding the person you can love forever. If we were to truly understand platonic love, we would realize that it should. be the foundation of every relationship you have, be it love between partners, friends or family.Every relationship is equally valuable and important to work on.
Society doesn’t give us the tools to be able to admit that we are, or at least we should be, “in love” with all of our friends, because ideal platonic relationships are based on mutual understanding and respect for who a person is. . Treating your friends and family with the same appreciation, patience, and care as a partner is essential to living a long, healthy life where you have many emotional outlets. At a time when almost 50% of marriages end in divorce, maybe it’s time for America to rethink its ideas about love and how damaging they could be.
Romance isn’t necessarily dead, but reshaping the way we think about love and realizing how precious our platonic friendships are can make us happier and healthier whether you’re single or stuck. It’s possible that one day we would celebrate the guy and the girl who end up being real good friends in the same way we would celebrate them if they got together.