Like it or not, we are bombarded on a daily basis by proclamations that romance is the one thing that will make our lives complete. We croon to sappy songs about love gained and lost, sometimes as if that is all that matters in life. We tune in every week to The Bachelor as he searches for The One among a dozen women with supermodel good looks. We mesmerize our kids with stories of princesses pining for their one true love. Even as we sit transfixed by the computer-generated scenes of apocalyptic destructions in Hollywood blockbusters, we inevitably swoon when the hero and heroine ultimately lock their lips in a climatic embrace. Yes, love conquers all, even if the world was this close to coming to an end.
Or so it would seem.
To celebrate love, we buy into commercial rituals. This Valentine’s Day, the National Retail Federation estimates that an average person in this country will spend $133.93 on dinner, flowers, and other gifts. This rings in a whopping $17.3 billion for restaurants, florists, candy makers, and Hallmark. Similarly, an entire industry exists to persuade those of us courageous enough to take the plunge to part with our money for the perfect, once-in-a-lifetime wedding, complete with couture dresses for the bride and bridesmaids and an exotic location. Not to mention thousands of dollars we pay for a rock which, as a certain company single-handedly convinced the world many years ago with clever marketing, symbolizes eternal love.
As a result of all these societal forces, we have come to believe fervently in an idealized notion of love. We constantly measure our partners’ traits against our image of a Mr. or Miss Right. We judge the quality of our relationship using the standards society (or Hollywood) has given us. We want our own “happily ever after” and assume that soul mates should never have to work this hard to stay in love.
Don’t get me wrong, I think love is one of the quintessential things that define humanity. I am just not sure that the one propagated by mass media and businesses is the one we should all aspire to, and spend all our lives (and money) in relentless pursuit. In fact, I sometimes wonder if fewer marriages would be in trouble had we not been told by the media that the only kind of love worth living for is the passionate kind with the person destiny has chosen for you.
Perhaps it’s time we give some airtime to the “good enough” relationship. The kind in which couples, despite the flaws in their partners, look forward to simple pleasures of each other’s company. No need for fireworks or razzle-dazzle.
So keep it simple this Valentine’s Day. Rent an old movie and order in pizza. I suggest one of the many movies found in a recent study to strengthen couples relationships. It might just do your relationship more good than chocolates and flowers.