Love, Pragmatism, and Bravery

And therefore, love is not a fixed happily ever after, but a constant growth that happened in contact with reality.

5 min readJul 20, 2020
Pompeo Batoni — Venus Caressing Cupid (18th century)

What is love? What kind of images emerges out of your psyche when you hear the word love? If you think that love is the feeling of empathy to a specific person, like to whom you wish to share all your desire, that this person is the one you can show all your vulnerability, the one you expect to start a family with. Then, your perception of the word love is, well, normal.

Love like that is what we called romantic love; it began in the early 18th century when romanticism spread like a virus. Like a virus, romanticism also kills — the literature of romanticism often involves death as a crucial element in the narrative. We can see this kind of story in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, and the more familiar story of our age like One Day by David Nicholls, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and so on. Of course, this kind of story is very romantic, heart-touching, and yes, very deadly. The closer the lovers to death, the more we will drown in the sea of emotion; and sometimes we cry because of it.

When I tried to analyze it logically, to understand the basic idea that shapes romanticism, I came to just one word; soulmate. Of course, we’re all familiar with the idea that we are all born destined to meet the right one. The romantic sees this person as their other heavenly half. That with this person, they will finally be happy and eventually be understood. This idea of a soulmate is so magical that when the romantics feel something, they don’t need to talk about it.

In the presence of a soulmate, all they need to do is give a series of codes, and then the soulmate will instantly understand. It can be said that romantics act as if they believe that they will have the sixth sense like telepathy or something, with this specific person. So, it is so typical that we’ll hear a romantic say;

“Why don’t you understand me? I thought you loved me?”

Often, this act of questioning the soulmate happens after the first three months of living in a fantastical, romantic island-esque dreamy relationship.

Like a unicorn, a scarce species of flying horse with a horn, it is not easy to find a soulmate. Many of us are probably still looking for our soulmate. I don’t know how you search, but maybe it includes a lot of swipe right, a lot of awkward dating, and for every wrong soulmate, months of grief. But the big question are these: Does love have to be romantic? Do soulmates exist?

Like I said earlier, the virus of romanticism beginning to spread in the early 18th century. Before romanticism, that kind of relationship is peculiar. In Ancient Greek, for example, love is a connection that a couple builds together over time. And marriage is something they decide based on logic and reason, not with magical instinct like the romantics believe radically. Moreover, there are many words to describe love in Ancient Greek; they are philia, eros, storge, and agape. There’s a possibility that language limitation is one reason for our lack of imagination about love.

I refer to the Ancient Greek to explain love because I assumed that all the romantics know this god of love, his name is Eros, or in Roman mythology known as Cupid. On every Valentine’s Day, we will see his image almost everywhere. But despite all the romantic notions, I’m not sure that we all understand Eros’ story.

Good Luck to your Fishing by George Frederick Watts (1890)

There are many variations when it comes to Greek mythology, including the story of Eros. In one version of the story, Eros was the son of Aphrodite, in Roman mythology known as Venus, but had no father. As a baby, Eros was unable to grow. It makes sense to assume that the god of love cursed was infancy and powerless to step into maturity. This circumstance saddened Aphrodite. Then she decides to consult her sister, Themis; the lady of good counsel — Themis also means ‘that which is put in place.’ Or to put something in a way which it will work.

Themis proposes Aphrodite to make another child, but this time with Ares’s seed, the god of war. Themis told Aphrodite that this child should be called Anteros, and he will be equal to Eros. Aphrodite did what Themis told her to, and it worked. Anteros was born out of Themis’ pragmatism and Ares’ bravery and became a playmate to Eros. They often fought yet loved one another. In this rivalry, Eros grew. But whenever Eros found himself at a distance from Anteros, he returned to his baby form.

You’ve probably got it, that this story is trying to tell us that the requirement for a love to grow is pragmatism and bravery. To stop being a baby and bravely grow to maturity with all the possible difficulty.

Furthermore, it is essential to acknowledge that these two gods were a growing child. As a child, Anteros and Eros commonly will fight to get their mother’s attention. And there’s a psychological and practical meaning attached to that element.

The psychological is to manage the romantic and the brave pragmatic inside us to focus on the growth of our natural well-being. The practical is that for the relationship to last, we need to place a third, which is a virtue, something important that both of the lovers choose to pursue. And therefore, love is not a fixed happily ever after, but a constant growth that happened in contact with reality.

Okay, that’s the theory. But how to initiate it in a real relationship? First of all, put your childlike fantasy of romanticism behind, and choose to grow with reality. We lived in a ‘new normal’ era of the spread of romanticism; we can go outside and act like it is reasonable to love romantically. But the harsh truth is, romanticism is not that great — It kills your accurate perception of reality.

And there is no such thing as a soulmate. You will never find a person that will instantly make you complete. Moreover, stop wishing for the one who can magically know your feelings just because they love you. Love can’t make us telepathic.

After you accept that fact, consequently, when you have something in mind, say it clearly. Take the role of Themis and Ares. Do not wait for Eros to come and hit you both with an arrow. Remember, before Anteros’ pragmatism and bravery existed, Eros was just a baby and unable to do anything. After all, that kind of story is simply a tool to pass a pearl of wisdom, not a medium in which you put your faith.

After both of you speak your mind directly, do not waste your time in a romantic fantasy that is not real. Instead, discuss the third party that you will attach to the relationship; the virtue. It can be whatever you consent to; spirituality, career, a future goal, financial plan, and so on. In short, grow to be a better person together. That is love.