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Romantic Love

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Romantic love is revered by those who seek it, and often reviled by those who cannot find it.
     The concept, also known as amor, was born in the romance of medieval literature and held to be an important aspect of chivalry. Unfortunately, what we have inherited of this idea is little more than an empty shell of the original concept. It lacks the contributing components of chivalry which make it real. Because of this, we hold an incomplete understanding of one of the most beautiful experiences that a man or woman can ever know. When the implied expectations fail, instead of asking why, people become disenchanted and turn their backs on it. They do not see what they are doing wrong.
     In medieval times, amor was elevated to the status of an ideal through its association with the biblical declaration that God is love. This suggested a moral autonomy that clerics frowned upon during the Middle Ages, but had trouble condemning. For those who experienced such love, the life-changing experience could almost be described as sacramental.
     Amor did not happen without cause. There were definite prerequisites. It occurred between chivalrous knights and ladies who believed in high ideals. The principles they embraced shaped their entire perspective. Not only did it provide the concept, and therefore the possibility, of this kind of love, it gave the discipline to express those ideals in everyday living.
     Chivalry provided the building blocks for romantic love. Knights were taught to be honest, loyal, dedicated, just, and to honor all women. These vital elements made romantic love not only possible, but real. They also recognized and honored the complimentary virtues of male/female relationships .
     Loyalty, honor and truth were not just words to these people. They were not ploys meant for seduction alone. They defined the honorable mentality of those who embraced them.
     Today we equate romantic love with the initial attraction between the sexes, when the hormones run wild and lead to obsession. Romance is relegated to the courtship phase, when each partner tries to impress the other. Our movies, literature and anti-heroes reflect this shallow understanding. The stories conveniently end when the couple finally comes together or gets married.
     Our template does not include the continuation. It does not tell us how to fuel romantic love beyond the point of "boy gets girl."
     The man of chivalry knows that romantic love, if it is true, is not a fire that burns quickly and then disappears. It comes from seeing that special person without illusion, and responding with full commitment. He sees the freshness of her existence every time he looks at her, year after year. He sees her unique qualities and revels in the experience. The commitment is for life, because it is life.
     The steadfast ideals of chivalry support such bonding through attention, dedication and continued partnership. There can be no other woman for this man. She fulfills him, and he fulfills her. They are gentle to each other, defend each other, protect each other. Each contributes a good deal more than 50%. They give each other space when necessary, but always spring back to that initial warmth and comfort.
     It is said that a good marriage takes work. While on the surface that may be true, for the couple deeply in love, it is not work. It is the happy compulsion of their inner being.
     From another perspective, romantic love can be viewed as the final test of chivalry. Nothing is more personally demanding, or fulfilling, than being true to your own ideals in a daily relationship with someone of another gender. Manhood will be truly tested for what it is. The woman you love is not one of the boys. She is your special other, filled with mystery, the planet around which you spin. You serve as her partner and protector. Her welfare comes before your own.
     The romances tell us that the woman you love will provide you with the inspiration to live right and do your very best at all times. This is an incredible contribution to chivalry that must not be taken lightly.
     Remember, she is not your slave or servant. In the manly sense of willingly placing your strength and dedication at her disposal, you are hers. If you choose your lover right, she will never take advantage of this, but appreciate it fully and reciprocate with her unique qualities in return. There is certitude here. You can put your faith in this kind of love — one of the many blessings of true amor.
     If truth and commitment are your guiding principles, there are no distorted illusions in this. True love is the obliteration of illusion. As a commitment, it requires a certain maturity and careful attention when choosing a compatible mate.
     It all starts with who you are and what you believe in. I cannot stress this enough.
     Be prepared. Women tend to be more prepared than men for long-term relationships. When entering into one, men need to surrender some of their much vaulted independence.
     For what? For the warmth and tenderness and magic that defines true bliss. This does not mean there will not be problems. What it means is that you will have a loving partner at your side to deal with them.

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