This article is about romantic love, or rather the image of it that is embedded in modern cultural consciousness. It’s an important topic to consider because the romantic love narrative affects every man, gay or straight, married or single, red pill or blue pill, in this society.
Though it may seem like a strange path to get to my conclusions, I want to start by talking about the difference between Americans and Canadians. Despite being adjacent to each other on the same continent, sharing the same language and nearly identical European roots, we are very different in many cultural and political ways.
At least part of this goes back to historical events that shaped each country respectively. Almost 250 years ago, America rebelled from the control of the British Crown and fought a war for its independence. At the same time, Canada remained loyal to the monarchy. America became symbolic of freedom across the world and spawned generations of revolutionary thinkers, inventors, and scientists. It also became a culture marred by violence, crime and civil war — deeply divided along racial and other lines.
Meanwhile, Canada emerged as a comparatively peaceful nation, with fewer worries about violent crime than many Americans can even imagine. It is also a nation generally more comfortable with government control, conformity and likely less innovative than its neighbor to the south. One nation exalts fierce individualism and personal liberty, the other is more passionate about what is perceived as the greater good, and the collective comfort of all. While these are generalizations with abundant exceptions, I think they will be apparent to most people as accurate.
The purpose of the observations is not to compare the relative quality of either country, but to demonstrate the unconscious influence of history on any society. It is to take note of how a culture is shaped, how attitudes and perspectives are molded by events even over a prolonged period of time. You can see this across the world, in the east and in the west, in western European nations and countries that once lived under the tyranny of communism.
Each culture has its own, definitive story, a narrative that lives in the mind of each person in the form of stories and their associated iconic imagery. Whether reacting to that imagery with rebellion, compliance or a combination of the two, no one gets to escape the influence of the narrative. Historical events shape all of us in one way or another.
As I have mentioned in other articles on An Ear for Men, one such historical event is romantic love, the increasingly popular western trend to follow the often irrational compulsions that come with infatuation in the pursuit of a happily ever after fantasy outcome in marriage. The allure and power of such a model are so tempting that we see many people charmed into the pursuit of it despite overwhelming evidence that it is most often folly.
We know, with a simple and honest examination of the historical record, that marriage, without significant, even overbearing social pressure on people to stay together, simply falls apart. We know this from the incidence of divorce, and from the long-term misery index of many who don’t divorce.
There are some exceptions. People who stay married long enough to overcome the power struggles that romantic love fosters once infatuation fades, sometimes manage to reach a state of mature love and mutual affection late in life. This is probably something that happened much more often when marriages were arranged and when, for other reasons, people felt compelled to avoid divorce.
In fact, an analysis of western and eastern marriages was published in the Journal of Comparative Family Studies and yielded very interesting results. The article, How Love Emerges in Arranged Marriages: Two Cross-cultural Studies by Robert Epstein, Mayuri Pandit and Mansi Thakar (2013) reached past the obvious superiority of arranged marriages in terms of the incidence of divorce and into the area of relationship quality based on love.
As is quoted from the abstract, “The fact that love can grow in some arranged marriages—and that this process can apparently be analyzed and understood scientifically—raises the possibility that practices that are used to strengthen love in arranged marriages could be introduced into autonomous marriages in Western cultures, where love normally weakens over time.”
The study authors attribute the increase in love to commitment and sacrifice for the relationship, but I think this is only part of the explanation. The social pressure to continue arranged marriages is likely what contributes to creating an environment where perseverance and sacrifice are going to be credited to the growth of love.
Now, I am certainly not recommending arranged marriage or any other marriage for that matter. The current legal climate in the west makes any marriage a foolish move. I am simply pointing out that arranged marriages are far less likely to end in divorce and more likely to result in mature love than marriages based on infatuation and romance. That seems to be, at this point, a near scientific certainty. That is information that any man can and should consider when either considering a long-term relationship or his path to avoiding the same.
Western marriage is a crumbling institution because there are no social pressures to keep it together once the romance fades away. That pressure ended when feminism obliterated the social stigma of divorce by getting laws changed — and by lauding a lack of commitment and trustworthiness in women.
That was relatively easy to accomplish with the help of gynocentric men because romantic relationships were unstable to begin with. Romantic love, as we know it today, isn’t even a human instinct or a product of our evolution. Its emergence was a historical event, a manufactured and marketed alternative model to traditional, arranged marriages that became a remarkably resilient social trend.
That started, as far as we can tell from the historical record, in the mid-twelfth century with the emergence of a rebellion against the stability of arranged marriages. Prior to popularizing the idea that infatuation and lust should result in marriage, an idea in hindsight that is quite insane, such practices were deeply frowned on as a mark of foolishness.
Marriages in the west, just as they are in many parts of the east today, were arranged. They were the sensible connection of two families who had qualities or assets that would have been of mutual benefit. Those marriages sometimes, maybe often, resulted in great fondness between husband and wife. Many may have even reached a state of mature love that can only happen with years of coexistence as life-partners but they did not start, with rare exceptions, as two people head over heels in love. They often started as two people who had never even met each other.
They had one other characteristic that makes those marriages decidedly different than modern unions. By and large, they worked. There was uncompromising pressure on the couple to remain together. There was pressure from society, pressure from the church and pressure from the families that the marriage served. Divorces were rare, not because the couples were in love and inseparable, but for just the opposite reason. They worked because the marriage was not in service to the fantasy of sustained romantic love.
Romantic love, as a toxic agent, was allowed to overtake the institution of marriage because of the human weakness for self-indulgence. Because embracing lust, infatuation and the chemically charged highs that come with it is as easy as selling drugs. And we see the result of that today in what happens to most marriages based on transient emotions, once social mores about divorce are removed. They fail like subprime loans.
As a society we have, until recently, managed to keep the social pressures on marriage in a way that kept couples together. At my age, I remember days when people literally whispered about divorces because they were such a sensitive subject. Those days have passed, and divorce is not only no longer taboo, it is the expected outcome of most marriages, spawning entire industries in the legal, social work and domestic violence fields.
The setup for all this misery can be traced through the narrative of our past: through the imagery of romantic love that has infected the human consciousness and now drives western men to confusion and ultimately to ruin. We see the attempts to react and create a new narrative emerging, especially on the internet.
Sometimes, it is precisely the reverse of the revisionist feminist narrative about the sexes, casting men as slaves, chattel in a world run by and for women. It is an understandable reaction, and one readily accepted by many men who have been caught in the meat-grinder of our family courts, or who have experienced some other destructive aspect of misandric culture.
But there is another emerging mythology, a better dominant story around the existence of men. It is one of freedom, self-awareness, and self-responsibility. Most men aren’t comfortable for too long in the skin of a victim, even when they have been victims in the truest sense of the word.
The challenge is a simple one. Can an American man move to Canada or Mexico and adopt the local story as his own? Can an Australian man move to America and do the same thing? Sure they can. It happens all the time. All it takes is the willingness and the courage to embrace a different narrative, a different history of yourself: one that does not hinge on the insane pursuit of false love and dangerously conditional approval.
There is not a man reading this anywhere that cannot make that story unfold. The only question is whether he will or won’t.