It was in 1956 when Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving was published. After more than half a century, the truth the book conveys remains palpably true. Fromm warned his readers at the beginning of the book: “This book, on the contrary, wants to show that love is not a sentiment which can be easily indulged in by anyone, regardless of maturity reached by him.” (p.vii) It was a very succinct statement that elevated Fromm’s book into its classic status. The entire book continues to ring the truth of a stubborn illusion that Romance and Love are always interchangeable.
Romance is boiled down into a simple formula: we seek for a special person to Love us, to affirm our worth and to empower our lives. By achieving this, we are filling our inner void through the presence of the other. We are led to believe that until the right person comes, our life remains unhappy and unfulfilled. Through various romantic traditions and rituals, our estranged emotional gap and difference with the other are being closed. We are one with the other. We are loved.
This formula of Romance is always true. It is similar with Love. So similar that it is difficult to discern why Romance and Love are distinct. Love is our human nature that seeks communion with the other, that which empowers and affirms our presence and worth. We want to fill our inner void, this separation from others. As Fromm stated, “The deepest need of man, then, is to overcome his separateness, to leave the prison of his aloneness.” (p.9) Love within us desires to be in touch with our fellow human beings, a basic reality that is more than instinctive.
Love is our human nature that seeks communion with the other, that which empowers and affirms our presence and worth.
Romance and Love are so similar, but what is the thin line that distinguishes them from each other? Romance is Love because it demonstrates the effects of Love to us, but Romance is a relative representation of Love. It is relative because Love comes up very exclusively between 2 strangers, a man and a woman who have allowed Love to connect them. Nonetheless, Romance is not Love because it cannot show everything about Love. The best thing Romance does is to be able to connect with the other, as much as one connects with oneself. Romance teaches us to realize that Love is present, not just between our partners but between ourselves and the whole world.
The illusion is to think that by Romance alone, Love is achieved. On the contrary, it works vice versa. By Love alone, Romance is achieved. We cannot romantically Love another without knowing deeply the experience of Love, which always begins within ourselves. We only choose Romance through which we can channel Love. Through Romance, Love becomes more tangible and expressive. Nevertheless, Romance alone is not an ultimate experience of Love. There are many, countless ways.
Love is unlike Romance because Love is always an inclusive experience, not limited to relative connections between romantic couples. Romance brings us to what Love is: compassion, forgiveness, gratitude, acceptance. Romance can be said as a platform of human relationship upon which Love takes place. Romance is the container in which Love, like water, takes shape. Any empty container can exist, but it would remain devoid of fullness. Water remains flowing and existing, even without a container. By the same token, Romance exists in our society as a social norm and concept. Yet it has been devoid of Love. But Love never runs out, and can always exist without any expression.
We are again reminded by Fromm’s conviction on Love. Romance is the sentiment in which we have always believed as an absolute Love, similar to how we synonymously associate these words. However, Love is more than Romance. We are now in the brink of change, shaking off our long-held automatic beliefs about Love. Ultimately, we are about to discern that Love is beyond Romance.
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