True love does not require romance

Another Valentine’s Day is upon us.  For some, it’s exciting and romantic.  For others, it’s another stinging reminder there is no one to share it with.

For me, it’s a reminder to write something in the spirit of the holiday.  So I will start with these words of wisdom:

Without romance, love is just an obligation.  

Well, it all depends on what your definition of romance is.  I think it is most commonly understood to be associated with feelings and emotions, as modern novels and movies portray.  We want love to be this way.  

Despite the romantic notion (pardon the pun) of love being a choice, especially when you don’t feel it, no one wants to love because they are obliged to.  And no one wants to feel they are only loved out of duty.  

Yet, Jesus said nothing about romance when teaching about love. The deepest Christian meaning of love is that it’s a decision, an act of the will.  That it has sacrifice for the sake of the other as it’s highest good, regardless of feelings and emotions.  In other words, true love does not require romance. Any Christian who desires to be married must accept and live this definition of love.  Life has no real meaning whatsoever without the existence of this kind of love in the world among individuals and communities.  Putting the welfare of others first is the heart of this love.  It is ‘Agape’.

I have heard many definitions of this Greek word for love as it applies to Christ and His commandment and example.  They are all summed up in the fundamental concept of being fully invested in the love proclaimed and promised – to be fully committed.  God loves in this way.  God has called us to love one another in this way.  Sadly, we all fall short to some degree.  But we should all strive for it at all times, with the help of God’s grace.

Having said this, and accepting this kind of love is the highest priority in Christian love, there isn’t a single person who desires marriage who does not wish it to also include romance.

Romance requires feelings and emotions.  There is no way around that.  Many pious persons would like to dismiss feelings and emotions as a distraction to holy pursuits.  But it’s a mistake to dismiss feelings and emotions.  God created human beings with feelings and emotions.  It stands to reason that they play a major role in our human experience.

Granted, they must be guided by our mind and will.  But we must pay close attention to them.

In the area of dating and falling in love, feelings and emotions are critical to everyone.  How can anyone falling in love without a strong feeling and emotional connection to the other?  Romantic love requires the participation of these very human attributes.

Let’s assume we all agree that to fall in love and get married requires romance.  A romantic relationship has two people mutually attracted to each other. There must physical attraction as well.  

It’s very romantic when the person you are sharing an intimate friendship with develops into a desire for physical intimacy.  This is a must!  Hand holding, hugs, and kissing are the first physical experiences of the romance.  You definitely want there to be a desire for much more physical intimacy that is exclusive to two persons who are married.  In fact, that is one of the most (if not the most) practical reasons to get married.  Physical desire is one of the signs that things are leading to marriage.

Unfortunately, in today’s world, full physical intimacy is expressed far too often prior to marriage, and accepted as common practice within the dating process. A romantic relationship with full physical expression is not so romantic today because it has led to many putting off marriage.  The adage of “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” comes to mind.

So today’s singles have to learn other very important signs of a romantic relationship that can make both persons say “This is the one I want to marry.”  They are not signs noticeable by feeling and emotion.  It takes your wits to notice them.

Two of the most important qualities for creating a strong, lasting romantic relationship are being observant and a good listener. Without these, instead of progressing forward with a solid potential spouse, there is misunderstanding and premature break up.

Being observant and a good listener is actually very romantic!  Experiencing these qualities in the person you’re dating can be quite attractive.

As an observant person, you pick up on the non-verbal cues of the person you’re dating and respond accordingly.  As a good listener, you make the person you’re dating feel important, understood, and loved. Close friends are good listeners for each other for venting, sharing, discerning important decisions, cheering up, providing laughter, and providing healing. Close friendship is a cornerstone of love and marriage.

Many find candy, flowers, expensive and fancy dinner to be romantic. They’re nice. All warm, fuzzy feelings are nice. Being on emotional highs from being in love is an extraordinary thing.  But at the end of the day, most people would trade these in for a good friend who knows when they need a hug, can make them laugh, and  knows what to say (and when to say it).  Someone who will patiently listen to them when upset, or when they want to share the great joys of their day. 

Any man can buy a woman things, take her to nice places,  charm and seduce her, and stir up her feelings and emotions.  How difficult it is, though, to find a man who is willing to, and capable of, investing the time to get to know you, be observant of everything about you, know how to make you laugh, and listen to you with full attention.  

How difficult it is to find a woman who wants to get past the male persona and reach into the heart of a man with all his vulnerabilities and insecurities, support him, has a good sense of humor, and wants to listen to him, rather than wanting to do all the talking herself.

Please don’t take this as a suggestion to abandon all those wonderful romantic things that touch our emotions and make us feel loved.  Just don’t forget that there are other things that are just as romantic, that get overshadowed by the typical trappings of romance.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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5 responses to “True love does not require romance

  1. Hi Anthony, thank you so much for your ministry to singles! You are a light for all of us on our single journey. I’m sorry to ask this question here, but couldn’t find a “send Anthony a Question” link. My question is: Do you have a study guide for “Would You Date You?” or know of anyone that might have put one together. It’s a fantastic book that I enjoyed reading from cover to cover, and would love to share it at our parish with others. Thanks!

    • Dear Susan,
      Thank you very much for your kind words. I do have a study guide for the book, which was put together for last year’s Ave Maria retreat. (see avemariatrips.com). I have now posted that guide on my blog. I’d love to hear how your parish enjoys the book.
      Yours in Christ,
      Anthony

      • Awesome!! Excited!! Maybe in your files, do you have a more in-depth guide, i.e., questions for each chapter? I suppose I could get this brain of mine to work and put questions together for each chapter, but thought I’d ask before reinventing the wheel. :) I looked at the study guide, and the questions can definitely be incorporated. Thank you Anthony! Also, do we have permission to copy your “Mediation on the Crucifix for Singles” on our Facebook page for singles during Lent? We have a FB page under “Austin Catholic Singles” but I’ve heard it’s a little hard to find. We also have a website: austincatholicsingles.com

      • Hi Susan, Yes, you have permission to post the Meditation. Please contact my community manager and she will be happy to help you any way that she can. If you email avemariasingles (at) gmail [dot] com, they will put you in touch with her.

  2. (Saint) Valentine’s Day is our wedding anniversary date; we celebrated 4 years recently. Thanks be to God and to Ave Maria Singles! We had planned to get married on February 13th, as it was a Saturday, but the priest who was to preside at our wedding was not available and asked if we could move it to February 14th, Sunday. In the romance and humor departments, God takes the (wedding) cake ;-)