Opinion: Why romantic love is overrated


Am I the only person who thinks Valentine’s Day is a jug? Not that I take care of hearts and flowers. (Actually, I stress them.) But society’s obsession with romantic love – the idea that one day you will find The Perfect One and live happily ever after – is responsible for more harm and misery than any other myth of modern life.

All adults should know this. But they don’t. Our culture tells them to follow their heart first, not their head. The problem is, following their hearts makes people behave like idiots.

I should know that. This is how I reached the age of 36, still single. At that point, I realized that I would rather not spend the rest of my life alone – and that if I waited for lightning to strike, I could wait forever.

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Most people have a “cute dating” history. My husband and I don’t. We met in the most prosaic way, and it wasn’t romantic. We met at a party. I hate parties. I forced myself to go because I hadn’t been on a date for months. It finally occurred to me that I was going to have to go out and sell myself. I spotted a man about my age in a crowded room and asked someone if he was single. He was (more or less). I didn’t think he was my type, but I forced myself to talk to him anyway.

We had a pleasant conversation, but no spark flew. It never occurred to us that we had met The One. I pretended to be lively and vivacious. He pretended to be charmed. I didn’t know it at the time, but he was recently single and wanted to date as many women as possible. He asked me for my phone number. Then he didn’t call me for weeks.

The problem with being a single woman over the age of 30 is that the law of supply and demand has irreversibly turned on you, and it will only get worse. It’s grotesquely unfair, but it doesn’t make sense to yell about it. You’re just going to have to work harder. Because I held onto my belief in the romantic Thunderbolt, it took me a while to come to terms with this.

The truth is, if you’re looking for a husband in his thirties, romance shouldn’t be your first consideration. It can come later. Also, brutal realism is essential. Don’t overestimate your charm. Don’t expect men to flock to you like they did when you were 21. Try to see yourself as them. It can be confusing.

“When I met you that night, I thought you were lively and outgoing,” my husband says. “Then I found out that you really are a nerdy introvert around cats. “

In fact, our relationship barely survived the first date. We went to the cinema. I chose a nature film that featured footage of wild animals tearing each other apart and having sex. He couldn’t decide if I was weirdly interesting, or just weird.

We have never been crazy about each other. But we got along well. The good thing about dating guys who aren’t your gender is that you might be pleasantly surprised. You might even find that the kind of men you always thought were your type is a complete disaster. I can’t tell you how many of my girlfriends have wasted the best years of their lives with men they imagined to be their type, foolishly believing that these men would end up (a) leaving their wives, (b) getting sober, or (c) conquer their block of writers and sell their novel / screenplay. All of these women were very smart. But they were emotionally stupid. They let themselves fall into the grip of an obsessive romantic fantasy that doomed them to misfortune. If only their type had included men who were (a) available, (b) non-dependent, and (c) functional members of society.

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Not that I have done much better. Before meeting my husband, I had a series of relationships with complicated and brooding guys. Some of them lived on different continents. Some were jealous of my career. Some of them asked me why I was getting fat. If you ever get involved with someone who asks you why you are putting on weight, I tell you to run, not to walk, away.

My future husband didn’t seem to care if I accidentally put on a few pounds. He loved me the way I was. He was proud of my career. Eventually we moved in together to save some money and to see if we got along. When the cat peed in his shoes, he didn’t get angry. He didn’t have a complicated side. For years, I thought that meant it must lack depth. But little by little, I realized that this was one of his best qualities. One day in a quaint medieval town in France, he took me for a fantastic meal, then got down on his knees and offered. I said I should think about it. What an idiot!

We finally got married – 11 years after we met. Of course, now I know he’s just my type after all. True love is not a flash. It’s not something that happens to you. It’s something that you build together over time. True love is not at all what I thought it was. It is infinitely better.