The False Nature Of Romantic Love And How We've Fallen Into The Trap Of 'Amatonormativity'

The False Nature Of Romantic Love And How We've Fallen Into The Trap Of 'Amatonormativity'

There is no agency, no "I'm happy being single" that sounds truthful enough to the indoctrinated ear.
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I've spent a long time sitting on the concept of romantic love and all the social hierarchies that exist to defend and uphold the tyrannical grip this concept holds on individual beings. Thus you can imagine my relief when Sherronda J. Brown's article "Romance Is Not Universal, Nor Is It Necessary" mentioned a term that reconciled and validated my musings. The term 'amatonormativity,' which Brown says is coined by author Elizabeth Brake, "refers to the 'widespread assumption that everyone is better off in an exclusive, romantic, long-term coupled relationship, and that everyone is seeking such a relationship.'"

My heart blew a fuse as my brain processed the sentence, realizing that, as a professor once told me, if there's a term, it's a "thing." Apparently, the theory that romantic love is idealized, over-emphasized, and forced on individuals is, in fact, an academic concept. The theory suggests that both misogynistic and heteronormative ideals perpetuate romantic love, allowing its existence and function in society. The function is simple- to shame.

Contrary to what we've been made to believe, not everyone is seeking this long-term relationship that Brown speaks about. Not everyone is made for a relationship, not everyone craves one. Some people prefer short-term flings, casual dating, and even one-night stands. Some people refuse the idea of relationships in their youth and then find them more agreeable later on in life, all the while others romanticize the idea in their youth only to grow discontent and disenchanted with it as years pass. Attraction, affection, and preference are fluid; that's a statement that does not fit into the box that romantic love draws.

Romantic love is the tyrant, the boundary that keeps us in line with social convention. If social convention demands that all individuals are lonely and "not enough" without their romantic pair, we grow up knowing what is expected of us; dating, marriage, children, and love. What social convention forgets to mention is that the concept of love is broad, too broad to mean the things we've learned to connote with the word. It's an empty signifier, to borrow the term from Barthian myth.

We know it to mean a certain ineffable feeling that we will all at some point feel towards someone, yet since the feeling is ineffable, we don't bother to analyze it. What happens if someone never experiences that feeling? What happens if someone experiences that feeling towards someone who is toxic to them? What happens if someone is content without the feeling, and prefers love in relation to family or friends instead?

Brown touches upon the language that prevents us from seeing those relationships in the same emphasis and importance as romantic ones. Most obviously, we call our romantic partners "significant others," implying our priorities. Why are romantic partners the most "significant others," especially when not all other romantic involvements are build to last, especially when not all romantic involvements are good for our well-being? Why is it shameful to prioritize a friendship or a familial relationship over a romance? Why does that imply that you have not yet "met the one," or that you are lonely or less than or somehow undesirable?

The belief that you are always- of course, most obviously, unquestionable -seeking a romantic relationship to replace your other place-holder relationships keeps us believing that romantic relationships are always to be of the first priority and necessity; that no other relationship can amount to the feeling of a romantic love. This is true, in a sense, yet works vice versa as well. No friendship will give you the same love a romance will. Yet, on the other hand, no romance will be able to recreate the feeling a strong friendship can give you. Perhaps, the point is that these relationships are not interchangeable and that there is no clear priority arc, despite what the dictatorship of romantic love demands we believe. Perhaps, even more outrageously, these relationships can all exist within the same, fully-fleshed, complex individual at the same time.

But that's half the problem. The end-game of the line of thought governed by the concept of romantic love says that we are not, in fact, capable of being this individual on our own. The myth of the soulmate, the myth of "one true love," the linguistic intention behind "significant other"- these tools serve to remind us that we are incomplete on our own. We are forever stuck in the mindset that everyone has either found their true love, is looking, or is miserable without it. There is no agency, no "I'm happy being single" that sounds truthful enough to the indoctrinated ear.

In the loop of romantic love, we are always waiting, waiting for the go-ahead, the permission to be happy, to be complete, to be fulfilled. We are waiting on someone to define our priorities and emotions; waiting on someone to validate the space we occupy by existing; waiting for someone to say "yes, you've hit all the milestones, you've felt the right things, you've lived the right way."

Who are we waiting for, and why?

Cover Image Credit: Alejandra Quiroz / Unsplash

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The Truth About Dating A Girl With An Anxiety Disorder

She knows how annoying she can be, but she just prays you love her regardless of her flaws.

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Anxiety: A nervous disorder characterized by a state of excessive uneasiness and apprehension, typically with compulsive behavior or panic attacks.

The definition makes it sound really daunting. Truthfully, there is no one way to describe generalized anxiety disorder if you have it. It is hard to live with, hard to cope with and unfortunately, really hard to date with.

Girls with anxiety are different than the average girl when it comes to relationships. That's just an honest statement, no matter how much it hurts me to say it.

We need the constant reminder that you love us, even though we know in our hearts that you do. We panic when you don't answer your phone, in fear that we did something wrong. We care about your feelings when you say that we don't need to worry and we need to be a little calmer. But it's so damn hard.

It isn't easy to love someone who worries about everything 24/7. Half the time, we know we shouldn't be doing the things we do. We know we shouldn't blow up your phone or ask just one more time if you are mad at us. But we can't help it. It says it right in the definition: compulsive behavior due to excessive uneasiness.

Being with a girl with anxiety is probably downright exhausting. It's exhausting for us to have our minds constantly running and worrying. But I promise it's worth it.

We come to you with everything because you are the one person who always knows how to make us feel better. When we are happy, you are the one person we want to be happy with. We all know the constant reassurance, reminders and the same old arguments get old. It gets old to us too.

There was never a time I wanted to have a panic attack because my boyfriend wasn't answering his phone. In my head, I knew where he was because he was usually in the same three places. I knew he wasn't mad at me because I didn't do anything to make him upset. I knew how busy he was with his classes and he was probably studying and I needed to give him space. But the little voice in my head always argued, "What if you did something wrong? What if he's ignoring you because he's angry? What if he's seen your messages and calls, but no longer wants to be with you?" And then I give in. I call, I text, I cry, I panic. Only to feel even worse 10, 30 or 50 minutes later because you answer angrily, telling me what I already knew after I did what I knew I shouldn't have done.

Having anxiety is almost like having a drug addiction. You know all the things that trigger you. You know all the ways to stay away from the bad places in your mind so you don't end up relapsing. But you do anyway and it hurts worse every single time.

Dating a girl with anxiety is as hard as it gets, but she will love you like no other. She is so incredibly thankful for all the things you put up with to be with her. Because she is worried about being loved, she goes the extra mile to always remind you how much you are loved. She always asks if you are ok because she cares about the answer and knows what it's like not to be ok.

The truth is that dating anybody with anxiety is difficult, but it isn't impossible. You get back everything you put in, even though you may not realize it. Trust me, she is sorry for being the annoying, crying, worried, naggy mess and it embarrasses her because she knows better and she wants to be better for you. But please love her. Hold her, understand her, listen to her, calm her, be there for her. In your heart, you know she would turn around and do all the same things for you in a heartbeat.

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7 Things To Remember When You're Sad About Being Single

I don't need a significant other, I have my significant self.

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Let's stop the stigma around being single. Those who aren't in a relationship are not "weak," "missing out," "lonely," etc. We're doing just fine on our own, honey. There may be many plus sides of being in a relationship such as having a cuddle buddy, someone who, without a doubt, will always buy you food, or sharing your love for in each other in endless, cute ways. Buuuuttt... let's not forget these reasons why being single can be so amazing!

1. You save money 

Less shopping for you on Valentine's Day, birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, etc. SAVE THAT MONEY, HONEY!

2. You can flirt with whoever you want...

...for the most part, at least. Definitely not if they already have a significant other. But now, you don't have to feel guilty for having googly eyes for someone else!

3. You can completely unplug whenever 

You don't have to worry about constantly keeping tabs on someone. No more answering to someone's every call. You can go completely tech-free whenever!

4. You have more time...

...to find yourself, love yourself, and put yourself first. Also, just more time to watch Netflix and hang with family and friends.

5. You are saying goodbye to heartbreak 

No one can breakup with you if you're single, #facts.

6. Everything you do is for yourself 

Decision making can be hard as it is, so making decisions that benefit you AND another person can be draining. Now, you don't have to worry about making someone else happy.

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