Twenty. That's how many weddings I shot in 2018 as a wedding filmmaker, and that's how many couples I've witnessed embark in the romantic tradition of love through ceremonial spectacle. As Aristotle puts it, love that is "composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies.”
But what stems from this poetic union of two perfect swipes matches? A spiritual bliss? Unconditional passion? A fulfilled soul? Maybe. But there is a definite partner in crime to romantic love we all need to control: ego.
Not the Freudian ego, but that Kanye ego. You see it in films, you hear it in music and you feel your eyes rolling back when your lab partner urges you to believe that they "meet the perfect criteria" for their Friday-night-fling. Or better yet, the heavenly Friday-night-fling "fits all my checkboxes."
This is only the bark of the evergreen ego, which we can define using author Ryan Holiday's definition as an "unhealthy belief in our own importance” found in his book Ego Is the Enemy. This is synonymous with arrogance, vanity and of course, Kanye.
The ego in love inflates our own level of significance, while at the same time projecting ambitious standards for another to meet. With this principle narcissism, we begin to see the clinging relationship of ego with "romantic love" — which we can describe through the wisdom of Alain de Botton as a lifelong passion of unconditional affection, monogamous sex of the deepest expressions, independent of any logical reasoning and relying only on instinctual emotions and feelings.
Take that in — romantic love lives solely on emotion without logic. To the casual reader, these childish thoughts may seem obvious, but reflecting deeper, we begin to see signs within ourselves and our closest circle. We must control this. Let's take a look throughout your life.
Going back to where this all began, childhood is where we first experienced love. Most can associate child affection with a loving authority. Whether we called them our parent, sibling, relative, or neighbour, we needed them. The attachment theory research of John Bowlby throughout the 1900's, followed by Prof. Sue Johnson's couples therapy research today, brings sound evidence for our dependence on others. When we screamed for food, we got it. When we cried to be held, we got it. When we laughed for playtime, we got it. This is a good thing. Relying on others is the fundamental reason our species has survived millennia. The downside is in its longevity and growth through life.
Yes, we need others in life, and yes, our deepest instinct is to seek attachment, as outlined by Prof. Johnson, but the feedback loop of the Ariana Grande-esque "I want it, I got it" is the root that sprouts the dark ego of romance. Getting things as children paves the way for this underlying principle of romantic love: When we want something, we'll find a way to get it.
Which brings us to the next step of the growing ego in love. Found in puberty, high school, college or university, new experiences with decreased micromanagement and guidance. This is when the ego begins to experiment. Our claustrophobic wants begin to explore outside the supervised home and seeks easier ways to be watered. Whether through becoming captain of the volleyball team, taking the alto sax solo in band and most notably, finding a significant other to seek love and affection from.
This is also the point where ego meets romance. Our idea of love at this time is heavily influenced by the media, family and friends, and I'm willing to bet they all follow the blueprint of romantic love defined above. The fairytale love. The princess and prince charming love.
The budding ego spreads its roots and leaves into new terrain, searching for nourishment through this angelic and socially-acceptable soil called romance. This fair ground is for taking, stemming from it the seedling motto of “doing it because you want it” which only leads to the growth of our selfish plant called ego.
This is when our ego blooms the biggest, taking our primal egotistic need for affection and mixing it with the socially-acceptable irrationality of love. It almost becomes Machiavellian in the way it finds love.
Robert Greene, author of The Laws Of Human Nature, highlights a few archetypes of the folly relationship: the victim types that need saving, the saviour types to save victims, the devilish romantics of seduction, the image of perfection that never comes to fruition and the straight-up "they'll worship my ego indefinitely and unconditionally because of who I am" type.
Nowhere near complete, these types in relationships are ever-present. They may not come to mind right away when we think of romance, but when we look deeply at traditional love stories, the Romeos and Juliettes, the Snow Whites and Prince Charmings, there they are. And when we look beside us, there they are.
Is this a bad thing? Aristotle once said that to fix the warped curvature of wood, one must apply pressure in the opposite direction. And I do believe that regulating our growth should be at the forefront of any visionary. But is this subjective idea of "true love" really a disservice to our growing forest of human interaction?
Yes, I do believe this traditional view of love has well overstayed its visit. Especially with our cultural shift towards individuality and independence. And the first step to grow with the grain is understanding and loosening our ego.
For better or for worse, it's our ego trying to keep up with the Kardashians Joneses in love. But they're not you, and only you know what climate is best to grow love. Not Disney, not the latest country ballad and not the many wedding films found online. There are 7.4B definitions of love, and we need to rid our ego of any unexamined soil.
This means stop assuming that relationships are the norm. Stop associating sex with love. Logical thinking can be just as divine as cupid's arrow. You don't need to love everything about someone to love them. Arguments are arguments, and not signs from a higher power. We can't put full responsibility on another to complete ourselves. And above all, it doesn't make you any less of a person to love someone.
Let go the ego to let love grow.