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Doc@DrIrene.com


 

Romantic Love Fades Fast; The Real Thing's Not So Flashy

by David Lyman

The Journal News, Thursday, February 25, 1999

Ask anyone to name the world's greatest love stories and what you'll hear is a chronicle of unmitigated misery, of failed relationships, of death, of separation.

Naturally, people rarely focus on the tragic aspects of the stories. They only look at the love, the hopeless, glorious, impassioned love that is at the heart of the tale. They conveniently forget the endings.

Take "Romeo and Juliet." Their relationship is electrifying. But it doesn't last more than a few days and then they're dead.

Or "Somewhere in Time," that multi-hankie romance with Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve. Their relationship was a little longer than Romeo and Juliet's, but does it do them any good? Hardly. They wind up stranded in different centuries.

And how about "Cyrano de Bergerac"? Its filled with some of the century's great love poetry, but in the end, that poetry makes Roxanne fall in love with the other guy.

So that's it? Those are the ideas we aspire to, the stuff we just can't get enough of? Are we masochists?

Maybe we're fools. Or maybe its just that everyday happiness - some would call it bliss - is neither newsworthy nor flashy enough to be fodder for novels or movies.

"We think that's love we're watching, but its not," says Joe Kort, a Michigan psychotherapist who hosts weekend-long relationship sessions for both single and married people.

"It's romantic love, which is something totally different. It's not real."

But it is, he admits, incredibly appealing. Almost addictive.

That word - addictive - may be exactly the right word to describe the effect of romantic love, Kort says. The emotional high it gives us is caused by something called phenylethylamine - PEA, for short.

"It's like a drug," says Kort. "People who are unhappy no longer feel that way. Or people who are depressed. That's why we love it. And that's why we don't want to let it go."

Novelty induces the body to create PEA, says Kort. And at best, a real-life love can only be very novel for six to 18 months. After that, we've got to learn to appreciate the maturing of a relationship.

If it's a PEA rush we're after, we have few options.

We can have flirtations or affairs. Or we can bring on a burst of PEA by reading one of those larger-than-life love stories or watching one in a movie. The latter is a far safer course of action.

Of course, there's a downside to all of this.

By having a steady diet of romantic love, we start to think of it as a normal state of affairs. Unless we have the outsized, chest-pounding love of a Romeo and Juliet, we think we must be doing something wrong., Our expectations are out of kilter.

Every so often, we'll watch real relationships. Think of "On Golden Pond" or VT's "Mad About You."

But we're suckers for seduction and grand passions. We love to watch our sitcom stars flirt. But when these characters finally hook up, more often than not, we lose interest.

Professional matchmaker Robert Davis thinks its not so much that we really adore those grand love stories. Rather, it's that we're thankful that all the bad stuff is not happening to us.

"It's like people who look at the talk shows," says Davis, who charges $10,000 a pop for his services and has found matches for everyone from Fortune 500 CEOs to a noted romance novelist.

"They see some of the miscreants they have on Springer or Sally Jessy Raphael or Jenny Jones and they think, "I'm the mental-health poster person compared to them."

But there is something much more majestic, much more idealistic about the love between, say, Abelard and Heloise - who were separated by an unbending church in the 12th century - than there is in scruffy hooker sisters battling over a pimp on Jerry Springer's show.

The difference, of course, is fantasy. The best playwrights have known that for centuries. Hollywood has built a far-reaching economic empire on it.

If Romeo and Juliet had lived, you can bet that their ardor would have cooled. Romeo would have started spending too much time with his pals and not enough on the balcony. Juliet's pushy mother would have started nagging for her to have a baby.

Who wants to watch that? You can be sure Shakespeare would never have written that tale.

He understood that we can live our own lives anything. Books and plays and movies and television may all have the power to educate.

But most of all, we want them to transport us; to somewhere else, into other lives and yes, even into impossible loves.

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