Culture, Love

Popular Culture and Love

A young couple I know were arguing the other night about love. Specifically, one of them held the position that love ends at divorce, while the other was equally insistent that love didn’t need to end at divorce.

The point hardly seems worth arguing for the truth is obvious: It’s certain some couples who divorce are not in love, while other couples who divorce are in love yet somehow incompatible (the whole notion that you can be in love yet still not be compatible doesn’t seem to occur to most young people — I think you need a few more years and to have seen it a few times to realize it’s quite common). So, why were they arguing it?

I might speculate it’s because our society — actually, our popular culture — has such a narrow view of love and relationships. From Hollywood we learn that a couple who love each other never divorce unless they are going to remarry by the film’s end. We also learn true love overcomes all difficulties, life is meant to be lived for love, and no one is better off single than in a relationship. Popular music and romance novels pretty much tell us the same things. If that’s all you’ve been taught to expect of love and relationships, it is small wonder you might argue over whether love ends at divorce.

Real life is much richer than the cartoons of love and relationships presented to us by popular culture. So, I thought I would list a few scenarios that are not typically portrayed in popular culture:

  • You can love someone you’re incompatible with, and many people do.
  • Most often, there’s no reason or explanation for why you love someone: You just do.
  • So very often lovers part because they cannot overcome some difficulty having little or nothing to do with love or even with psychological compatibility, such as a difference between them of race, age, lifestyle, or religion.
  • People can and do love more than one person.
  • There is no guarantee the greatest love of your life will marry you.
  • People in love with each other can prefer to live apart.
  • Divorced people can still love each other, and yet not wish to remarry.
  • Not all love is constant — many times love comes, goes, and returns like a breeze.
  • The most significant thing about love is surely not how long it lasts, and merely how long a relationship lasts proves nothing in itself about the quality of love in that relationship: After all, mere co-dependencies tend to last forever.
  • Most people, at one time or another, will confuse love with emotional dependency.
  • Some people can be much happier single than married.
  • Not everyone who loves, loves well, nor ever learns how to love well.
  • The intensity of one’s feelings does not necessarily indicate the quality of one’s love. Just because you love intensely does not mean you love well.

So, what other scenarios that aren’t typically found in popular culture have I forgotten here?

11 thoughts on “Popular Culture and Love”

  1. Here are two more:

    1. Societies around the world prefer a love that can be given a label – spouse, aunt, parent, uncle, cousin, whatever. It is considered difficult to love someone just for his or her sake.

    2. The love between a man and a woman has to be sexual or at least have sexual undertones. It is entirely possible to have love which is not sexual and yet does not go by the brother-sister reciprocation.


  2. The centerpiece of love tends to be propinquity. Social strata and rules tend to keep different “sorts” of people apart, but where people are in close physical proximity, love tends to blossom. One of popular culture’s enduring myths is the “meet-cute.” Studies show that overwhelmingly people tend to fall in love with those they are regularly around and “meet-cute” is the exception.


  3. Good points, Shefaly! I can especially relate to your second point. Of my two closest friends, one is a woman whom I am deeply in love with but have few if any sexual feelings for.

    That’s a good point, Brendan. The meet-cute myth seems in line with the Prince Charming myth.


  4. that many long-term marriages survive the transition from sexual love to friendship love.

    i loved your list. i was amazed at how you seemed to have covered every single type of love.


  5. There’s this idea in the popular image of love that if you love somebody just long enough, just intensely enough, they will reciprocate your feelings eventually. Much love, and I would say some of the most intense feelings you can have for somebody, never leave the safety of your own heart or mind, never for anybody to be aware of, least of all the person you’re in love with. Love is a only business.


  6. That’s a very good list, and so true, all but the one where you said love often comes, goes, and returns again like a breeze.

    I don’t believe that’s so. If that’s what is happening, I don’t believe it’s love. Somethng more mercurial, desire perhaps. Maybe love can go quiet in the heart and seem dormant for a time, but it doesn’t disappear, and if ever you imagine that person in pain or in danger you *know* it’s still there… if its love.


  7. I’m thinking about it, Amuirin. I’m not sure I agree with you, but I’ve been thinking about what you’ve said.

    Hi Theraaa! Welcome to the blog! “Love is an only business”. That puts me in mind of Goethe’s remark to some woman, “If I love you, is it any of your business?”

    Hi Rebecca! Yes, that’s true. Fewer relationships survive that transition than Hollywood would have us believe.


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