Romantic Love is the cognitive rationalization of value differentials between two people in a relationship where value is based upon how attractive each person is perceived in any given environment at any given moment.
Ideally both partners would equally be "the prize"; however, this is not common at all. One partner is usually valued above the other, which drives the other to 'make up' for this differential though 'Love' which may manifest in financial, sexual, and domestic exchanges.
With this emotionless description of romantic love, it becomes easier to see when individuals rationalize their behavior (as well as those of their partner) to fit their ideological romantic notion of being in love. Hopeless romantics place blinders on themselves only seeing what they want to see instead of reality. In this way people deceive themselves by "falling in love" with an idea of who someone is or should be (according to them) which is both selfish and delusional.
Love is hormonal, a series of neurochemicals released in our brains similar to the effects of eating chocolate in large quantities. It was designed by our creator to bond human beings to one another in families, friendships, and romantic partnerships. The chemicals released in romantic couplings serve to bond parents together with the creation of any offspring. This serves the biological function to offer offspring the best chances of survival with two parents, one to protect/provide, and the other to nurture/feed. The effects of these hormones while incredibly powerful, may not be permanent. In fact science points to the harsh reality of "the seven year itch" where couples experience a weakening of bonds (familiarity breeds contempt) and the increased temptation to search outside of their relationship to feel the same highs of Love they previously felt for their partner. In this example, Love is a drug that many swear oaths before God, family, and friends to honor for the rest of their lives; however, one has better odds of winning a bet on a roulette wheel in Las Vegas than seeing success in their marriage (also never trust an addict).
Personally, the reason I believe that most relationships fail is because we don't have better role models in our lives to show us how to make faithful and lasting commitments. While I sympathize with viewing the world through a romantic lens, I know the pain of not applying logic and reasoning behind seeking lasting commitment and I have only myself to blame. I wish to share my story with others so that they might come to understand the difference between love and commitment.
A friend of mine who was raised in the church was turned off from religion as he had witnessed his mother abused by his father and yet she faithfully attended church almost as a coping mechanism for her domestic troubles. To my friend, religion was the "opiate of the masses" that anesthetized his mother to the problems in her real life. He liked the idea of a "hippie" Jesus but hated the idea of organized religion. From his perspective he only saw the mask that people wore when they attended services to appear as good people even though they were hypocrites at home. I felt sad for my friend as I could see him gradually losing hope in faith, love, and in life. We eventually lost touch; however, I still poignantly remember our discussions and telling him not to give up hope citing my own parents as examples of faithful people in and out of the church.
I think people are drawn to the idea of Christ without truly understanding Him or His mission. We romanticize Him making Him conform to our understanding when it should really be the other way around. For thousands of years humans have felt the presence of spirituality, and wanted to believe in something greater than themselves. Our Creator wanted a relationship with us speaking through prophets and intermediaries. Our human nature exploited this differential by placing themselves as the exclusive gatekeeper to God and man; however, Jesus came to once and for all dispel any religious monopolies invented by man to offer an inclusive relationship and communion with our Creator. He was the word of God made flesh. The definition of love in a language that even children can understand.
Old habits die hard as I still see many for profit mega-churches and religious organizations with their leaders driving around in luxury cars and wearing the finest clothing selling their services to the people (there's never a lack of sheep). It's like learning how to love from television and movies. It usually sets us up for disappointment and failure down the road; however, if we take the blinders off and see Jesus the man instead of the idea then we can begin to understand our own selves even better. Study Him, see when He lost his temper and whipped the money changers at the temple. See where He charmed the woman at the well and knew her life story. See when His mother pressured Him for a miracle at the wedding feast in Cana, or when He playfully pulled a coin from a fish's mouth. Listen to how He spoke to the masses, how some tried to throw him off a cliff, and His escape through the crowd. He's an even more fascinating guy if you take the time to read for yourself instead of just listening to what others tell you. Then you can begin to understand His personality, His frustrations, His sense of humor, His humanity, and even His divine compassion.
I like to imagine what He would say, think, and do in everyday situations I find myself in. From attending church services, to tending the poor, sick, and down-trodden.
When individuals can offer faithful commitment to God through His own definition of the Word, then perhaps we can offer meaningful commitment to our partners. Take Him off the Roman-tic pedestal of the cross. Walk with Him, have a seat and rest with Him, talk and get to know Him, and may He be more to you than a fixture on a cross.
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”