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by David Truman

Obviously, the upsides of romance are grand, including wondrous pleasures, and possibly thrills of a lifetime. But of the many forms of love, romance deserves the title "Most Likely to Recede." Why?
Lovers who see no farther than their feed bags are destined for unhappy endings.
Could it be that romantic highs turn people greedy? In romance, fresh eyes see wondrous depths that jaded eyes ignore, and open hearts feel thrills that touch the very soul. But other times -- some people would call these the best of times -- romance becomes a feeding frenzy, fueled by intense wanting and strong expectations of personal benefit. The fire of desire burns high for a while, but before long people get burned.
We need to understand WHY romance can be a dizzy high, or a dizzy low: Trouble starts if wanting exceeds loving. We can keep love on track from the start by:
1. Taking stock of the forces at work in romance.
2. Consciously shaping those forces into beauty.
High hopes
The mooning of enthusiastic new lovers is nauseatingly similar to the enthusiasm of business partners embarking upon a promising new venture, buzzing with groundless compliments and confidence. Tomorrow they may call each other different names, but this is now, and they think they stand to win big, so they admire each other. Couples anticipate rewards even bigger than big business: physical and emotional gratification, a chance for growth, and perhaps even the security of long-term companionship. No wonder lovers go wild!
You can predict the destiny of the affair by noticing how far out of shape the lovers bend themselves. Naturally, new lovers put their best foot forward, but when longtime friends witness behaviors so far out of character that they stare in utter disbelief, watch out.
Fantasy: the motive force of romance
The sizzle of romance is steamed-up fantasy made flesh.
Where does it come from, this peculiar selfishness that creeps into romance and erodes the love within it? When people go crazy all of a sudden, it didn't just happen; they were primed for it mentally. A lot of steam behind the romance dream comes from fantasies.
Of course some psychology experts speak in glowing terms about the wondrous power of fantasies -- "Fantasies are a process of creative visioning. Acting out fantasies can set us free. . ." Fair enough, but if fantasies can set us free, they can just as well set us up for failure. The real impact of a fantasy depends on its nature. Therefore, understanding the import of our romantic fantasies can help us refine our approach to intimacy.
Consider, for example, your favorite romantic fantasy: What is it in that fantasy that thrills you? What features pack the punch? Consider the nature of the social transaction enacted in the fantasy. What have you wanted from your lovers, and what have you offered them? Have you been primarily oriented to loving and giving, or to collecting personal benefits like gratification, consolation, attention, or security?
People who indulge in selfish fantasies are bound to act selfishly in real life.
Most fantasies are selfish, devoid of anything like real love. People who indulge in selfish or base fantasies are bound to think in selfish and base terms when it comes to real-life relations -- and that orientation in turn subtly undermines our intimacies.
Re-shaping the dream
Many personal benefits may arise from love relationships, but if we make "loving" the outgrowth of a selfish dream, love will surely be ruined. We need to be truly loving individuals in our own right, and fantasies can help.
Beautiful dreams spawn beautiful realities, ugly dreams breed ugliness. A healthy intimacy starts in a kind mind. Humane fantasies prepare us to satisfy the real requirements of real love relationships and real human beings. They include genuine feeling and concern for the long-term happiness of the other person.
Cultivate fantasies that are truly beautiful, truly humane -- not just titillating to the ego.
Fortunately, we can consciously control, shape, and modify our fantasies. We can replace selfish dreams of romance with dreams of VIABLE love by envisioning forms of relating that are reasonably true and credibly real. Instead of saying, "I dream of a person who will take care of and gratify me in this and that way," try this: "I dream of a person I can love and who will love me too -- and we will both love genuinely, softly, unselfishly, and wisely."
How to do it right
Just as long as our loving EXCEEDS our wanting, love can succeed.
Love is a consecration of self to other. Romance or no romance, love -- not selfish desire -- forms the right foundation for intimacy. Not that we have to be models of unselfishness in every thought and deed. Not that we could be so perfect. Just as long as our loving EXCEEDS our wanting, love can succeed. Then the wonderful energy of romance can make love sing.
May our PRIMARY vision be caring, and all the rest secondary -- even inconsequential. For indeed it is.

by David Truman

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