If you’ve ever watched a movie, read a book, seen a television show, or done literally anything ever, then I’m sure that you’re aware of how prominent a role romance plays in our society. From “The Princess Bride” to “Shrek,” love is depicted as a force strong enough to overcome all obstacles and unite two people forever. But why do we give love such a high status? What differentiates it from all the other feelings? As OutKast famously sang, if “nothing lasts forever…then what makes love the exception?” The adoration of adoration that is so ubiquitous in our culture often forces individuals to view a romantic relationship as the be-all and end-all of a successful life. This obsession with romance is harmful, however, because not only does it discount the value of platonic relationships, but it also hides the fact that romantic relationships are at times detrimental or inferior to their friendlier relative.
One of the factors which make romantic relationships potentially second-rate is the level of vulnerability that they create. When dating someone, it is expected that both you and your partner will open up to each other completely, creating a level of interdependency not found anywhere else. While this codependence may sound all hunky-dory, it means that both parties become incredibly susceptible to the actions of one another. Not only does this facilitate emotional abuse, but it also leads to decreased independence, as the lives of you and your boo become more and more intertwined. None of these problems are present in platonic relationships, however, because friendships don’t require the same level of emotional vulnerability. While any potential slights from your pals may hurt, they won’t affect you the same way as poor treatment from your S/O will. Since you aren’t putting your entire being into the hands of someone else, a bad friendship is much less painful than a bad relationship.
In addition to having less potential for harm, friendships also have the crucial advantage of being easier to end than relationships. Most serious romantic relationships carry a label, meaning you have to take formal action to get out of them. If you have a toxic friend, you don’t need to announce that you no longer want to be friends, you can simply stop reaching out to them and let your friendship lapse. In a relationship, however, you can’t just stop talking to your S/O and hope they get the hint; instead, you are forced to take the initiative and actively end things with your partner. Since many people shy away from confrontation due to its awkward and difficult nature, they’re more willing to endure a mediocre relationship rather than take the big step of breaking up. This grin-and-bear-it mentality often leads to individuals wasting their time and effort on someone who is just “okay” instead of focusing that energy on whatever makes them happy.
Inherent in the previous paragraph is the final reason why romance can be so substandard—it often ends. The plain truth about every relationship is that it can only end in two ways: marriage or a break up. So whenever you begin a romance you are acknowledging that either you are confining yourself to this one person for the rest of your life, or you are opening yourself up to the possibility of being hurt. Unless you somehow find your soulmate immediately, you’re going to have to slog through relationship after relationship, baring your heart time and time again and leaving it to the whim of your partner.
Faced with these examples of the negatives of romance, I encourage us to reevaluate romance’s importance in our lives. Even if you don’t agree with the argument that romantic relationships are inferior to friendships, at least acknowledge the effect that popular culture has on your beliefs. Many people live their lives with the assumption that they’re working towards marrying and raising children (adopted or biological), but there’s really no reason that your life has to play out that way. Instead of lauding relationships with others, we should instead focus on our relationships with ourselves. They say that love is forever, but the only person who will truly always be there for you is you.
Anyway, have a happy Valentine’s Day y’all.
Daniel Knopf is a member of the Class of 2022 and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.