Romantic idealization refers a naive conception of the significance of "true love", spiritual kinship, individual choice, aesthetics etc. for relationship satisfaction, motivating men's courtship and pair-bonding behavior. It typically involves putting the woman on a pedestal and concealing the mundane transactional, materialistic, eugenicist and competitive nature of human sexual relationships, which, in modern context, may even act as political signaling. Like most other courtship behavior, romancing has the biological purpose of displaying the quality of the man's genes and acts as a costly signal of his ability and willingness to his invest resources in the woman and future offspring. Women, on the other hand, even though they enjoy being courted and anticipate falling in love more than men, are completely aromantic and passive.
Ninety percent of the time one can correctly predict "love on first sight" plainly based on physical attractiveness, suggesting there is nothing magical about such romantic moments, but mere genetic and/or aesthetic judgement. Furthermore, arranged marriages do not differ from "love marriages" in terms of relationship satisfaction, and they actually last longer. Partners an arranged marriages get used to each other over time, and presumably addicted to each other by endorphins released during sex. In one study, romantic idealization was no predictor of relationship satisfaction.
Costly signaling[edit | edit source]
Costly romantic signaling may consist in relinquishing other plans just for the woman, or spending a lot of time crafting a gift or perfecting a skill just for her. The more expensive, i.e. more romantic the courtship is, the more valuable the woman becomes in men's eyes as a result of sunk cost fallacy. Hence, playing coy and downplaying their sexual interest, women can provoke more expensive courtship display and can trick men into more reliable resource investment.
Women have evolved this behavior as they depended on men's resources throughout human evolution. How much women desire such signals of investment is evidenced by their much greater expectation that any given hookup results in heavy romantic investment on part of the man, e.g. 60% of women said they hoped a recent hookup would lead to a romantic relationship compared to only 13% of men. Further, even feminist women prefer men who take care for them. Romance novels are also almost exclusively consumed by women and account for 40% of mass paperback sales in the United States. How little women are interested in relationships beyond the initial transaction of resources is evidenced by their much more quickly fading sexual interest. This solipsistic desire to be cared for appears to be also a main driver of feminism.
Limitations[edit | edit source]
Nice guys[edit | edit source]
As evidenced by the failure of nice guys and women's literary interest in rapey romance novels, romance alone is clearly not the ideal strategy, or it can be outright harmful, especially if the courtship efforts come across as desperate. Rather, woman's mating preferences are only fully met when romance is accompanied by a demonstration of physical dominance, which women report, primarily lies merely in the threat rather than actual harm, and often seems to involve the female taming the man. (On the other hand, women do have actual rape fantasies, so it is not clear to which extent the latter is actual preference or just political correctness.) An explanation for this is the Bodyguard hypothesis which suggests women desire a strong protective partners being themselves weak. Women with a fast life history disposition have a stronger desire for this rather than investment in the offspring.
Personality[edit | edit source]
Research on blind dating and semi-blind dating suggest during initial pair-bonding personality traits do not play any role, so what is called "romance" probably mostly boils down to the female passively accumulating information in terms of looks, money and status about the suitor, and any additional courtship efforts are mere costly signals of investment and virtue signaling/political correctness as mentioned above or means of intimidating other suitors, i.e. gaining status.
Direct courtship vs arranged mating[edit | edit source]
Cross cultural evidence suggests that arranged mating was the most prevalent form of human mating practices rather than direct face-to-face courtship. This may suggest that the heavy modern emphasis on courtship, mutual romantic investment, finding one's soulmate etc., are unnatural and evolutionary mismatches, as mating typically occurred in a social and economic context.
History[edit | edit source]
Written Origin[edit | edit source]
While one may argue if romantic love has an actual origin or not, the origin of recorded analysis of romantic love is often cited as beginning in Medieval Times. However, closer analysis reveals romantic love being discussed in Plato's symposium in 360 BC. Here Plato denigrates romantic love as not 'true' love, due to it being transitory.
Written Conceptualization[edit | edit source]
In 12th century France, (Medieval Times) Troubadour poetry provided a written framework for romantic love. Back then, romantic love only meant extramarital love. IE long-distance pining for someone who you are not married to. Marriage was seen as a practical affair where superiors were in charge, whereas in romantic love, women (rather than men), were in full control and the love was to be driven by passion. These romances were mainly restricted to royalty and were not intended to be materialized.
Modern synthesis[edit | edit source]
Modern notions of romance are extended into real-life through marriage, and retain the chivalric practice of man-proving-himself-to-woman. The idea of sexuality being a journey started in Greece. And the idea of love being essential to marriage (as far as it effects us today) started mainly in Puritanism.
Relation to shit tests[edit | edit source]
Women's expectation for men's romance can be understood as shit test in that the woman tests whether the man can afford all his costly signaling, such as relinquishing other social opportunities in life that the man could have spend his time on rather than expensive courtship, to see whether he can really afford it.
Fear of death sparks romance[edit | edit source]
Early romance is often spurred by a fear of death, and once in a relationship, that fear often diminishes.
"Originally, terror management theory proposed two psychological mechanisms in dealing with the terror of death awareness-cultural worldview validation and self-esteem enhancement. In this article, we would like to promote the idea of close relationships as an additional death-anxiety buffering mechanism and review a growing body of empirical data that support this contention. Based on a comprehensive analysis of the sociocultural and personal functions of close relationships, we formulate two basic hypotheses that have received empirical support in a series of experimental studies. First, death reminders heighten the motivation to form and maintain close relationships. Second, the maintenance of close relationships provides a symbolic shield against the terror of death, whereas the breaking of close relationships results in an upsurge of death awareness. In addition, we present empirical evidence supporting the possibility that close relationships function as a related yet separate mechanism from the self-esteem and cultural worldview defenses."
Relationships without romance[edit | edit source]
"My husband and I have never done romance. I don't have candle light dinners or celebrate valentine's day or whatever else romantic people do. It's just not me. We do have sex though, but I wouldn't call that romantic either."
Corroborating on the point that aromantic relationships are entirely feasible, there is evidence that couples in arranged marriages are not unhappier despite often not loving each other in the beginning, but then get used to each other and bond (presumably via endorphins released during sex). Such couples typically also last longer than "love marriages" (see arranged marriage).
References[edit | edit source]
- Eibl-Eibesfeldt I. 1989. Pair Formation, Courtship, Sexual Love. In: Human Ethology. Rougtledge. [Excerpt]
- http://doi.org/10.1111/pere.12220 (Weitbrecht 2017)
- Beigel, 1951
- Hunt, 1959
- https://open.library.ubc.ca/media/download/pdf/831/1.0053733/1 AN EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGICAL APPROACH TO ROMANTIC LOVE by Karen Lecovin
- Mikulincer, M., Florian, V., & Hirschberger, G. (2003). The existential function of close relationships: Introducing death into the science of love. Personality and social psychology review, 7(1), 20-40.