Saturday, May 02, 2015

Romantic friendship. Last night I was at a book launch and conversation turned to Writer A who had a crush on Writer B, even though Writer A (and perhaps Writer B as well) was in a relationship. Writer A's infatuation with Writer B was longstanding and known to them both; Writer A's work had even featured a fictionalised Writer B.

It's interesting that the idea of 'romance' arises from French chivalric verse narratives (orginally meaning 'in the Roman style'), and from the 15th to the 18th century, extended works of fictional prose were often called 'romances'. The French word for 'novel' is 'roman'. Sociologist Anthony Giddens argues that romance is about introducing a narrative into your life: telling a story.

But anyway, what I found interesting about this situation was that it was ongoing, and there was no shame in it. It gestured towards a different kind of relationship: one that allows feelings of romantic love without either a sexual relationship or taboo connotations of infidelity. In such a relationship you could desire and cherish, and feel cherished and desired, without feeling exploited or exploitative.

We're used to thinking of a crush as a desire for sexual contact with the crush object, or a desire to begin a romantic relationship with them. It's seen as an initial and temporary emotional phase, during which we hope and yearn to be with our crush, vividly imagine their reciprocation, dread the possibility of rejection, feel cripplingly shy in the crush's presence, and feel shame at all these compulsive, irrational feelings ("I'm a fool for you", "crazy in love", etc).

Psychologist Dorothy Tennov, who coined the term 'limerence', describes it as a temporary state that subsides in one of three ways: the crush is reciprocated and consummated; the crush is ignored and dwindles away; or the romantic feelings are transferred from one person to another.

Meanwhile, Robert Sternberg's triangular theory of love sketches seven different types of relationships based on varying combinations of intimacy, passion and commitment.

But what if your crush wasn't either consummated or ignored, and remained constant rather than fading away or being transferred? What if you could actually tell someone you had a crush on them and it wouldn't necessarily mean you or they wanted to 'take it to the next level'? What if they knew about your crush but respected it, rather than bathing in the attention without offering any reciprocal hope or tenderness? What if such a romantic friendship didn't have to threaten any pre-existing sexual relationships?

I don't think this counts as polyamory. I think it's closer to friendship. It really annoys me that ideas of romantic friendship get retconned as same-sex relationships. I've written about this before, in relation to the film Pacific Rim, and it's a kind of relationship I would aspire to.

By now I've basically come to terms with the likelihood that I will never have a 'love life' the way most people do. The men I tend to crush on are already taken, or I suspect they would find me unattractive, so I keep the crush secret. I have a pattern of close male friendships that I tend to break off once I sense that I'm more emotionally invested than the man; it humiliates me that he sees me as easy, uncomplicated female company.

I am trying to carve out some possibility for a relationship in which the sexual aspect – the part I've always been so incompetent at – is mercifully excised, yet it might still be possible for me to receive the emotional benefits of love – a feeling of being valued, and cared for, and yearned for, and missed.

The situation you describe sounds rather similar to the classic courtly love set up. Aristocratic lady married to a lord, knight falls in love with her. Sexual desire in this relationship is usually subsumed into a more chaste and holy love, though perhaps not always (think Lancelot and Guinevere).
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Site Meter