Romance Is Wildly Overrated (Happy Valentine’s Day)

As a philosopher, I am always amazed how Plato’s account here, uttered by Aristophanes, uncannily evokes our very modern view of love. It is a profoundly moving, beautiful, and wistful account. Humans insist on looking for satisfaction in things that cannot provide real or lasting fulfillment. These false lures include material goods, also power, and fame, Aristotle explained. A life devoted to any of these goals becomes quite miserable and empty.

Firmin DeBrabander

I “have” a partner (a possession? how hostile…). They are amazing. I enjoy time with them, but when I get back to “my” life, I am giddy.

I used to regard intimacy like oxygen. As in — “duh — obviously the point of life”. This included many spots on the continuum: and 8-year devoted relationship, and some medium and short-term ones.

One day, something snapped. My appetite began to shrivel…

I woke up to an infinite fountain of curiosity – my very own life. Complete recognition that the world and life are worthy of awe, blemishes and all. The idea that peak experience awaits in the future is utterly false. I feel like I was unshackled from some chain I didn’t know existed. In other words — WHY was I tethering my happiness to fantasies outside me? Partner, or otherwise?

Reluctantly, carefully, I have a partner again. And while they are one of the greatest humans I am fortunate to know, we “partner” to ensure we have freedom to celebrate our respective journeys. And- that we do not rely heavily on one another for satisfaction.

A decade ago, I yearned for someone who would “drown” in love. Today, that is one of the most terrifying existences imaginable. Like making a promise with another person to see what misery is like. A game of chicken to see who will be frustrated first, and then more cruelly, “hurt” the other person by giving up.


Romance IS real. But cultural myth inflates it into this fantastically life-saving, meaning-of-life idea that it cannot possibly live up to. Poor romance — poor us. Rather than learning to appreciate a human lifetime (ESPECIALLY our own!) as pure potential to express and explore individuality and wholeness — we see it as something that is lacking — needing union of some kind to fulfill itself.

“Oh, you’re just being cynical…”

It’s possible folks will read this and say, oh, just being cynical. Oh, just giving up. Oh, you just haven’t found it.

I have sympathy for those reactions, but, I know what I know, and I know that I am currently experiencing the best years of my life — starting when I was completely alone. This rocked me. It changed all my assumptions and made me wildly excited to walk this walk all the way to my grave, however long that walk might be. As I write this, I am one happy motherfucker, and ultimately, I am not trying to poo poo anyone. If anything, I am trying to wave a little flag for the single ones out there… and say — hey! — you are in an INCREDIBLE position to appreciate life right now — and you should savor it. And, if you happen to cross the path of someone you really admire while doing so, then share it with them. But until then… enjoy life. Please.

If you are one of the lucky ones, who, grew up with a healthy idea of romance — and this feels sensational, this is not really for you. If on the other hand, you feel intimacy to be oxygen, and you’re devoting absurd amounts of energy to craving it, pursuing it… consider that, you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to actually explore who you are. Don’t squander it. And if you are saying to yourself “pfff… I know who I am” — I would take that as evidence to the contrary.

As the great Levar Burton says, you don’t have to take my word for it.

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