Transcending Romantic Love

Romantic love is an evolutionary-based ego trick, and leads to suffering.

Posted Jun 19, 2016

Everyone has heard that love is work. I doubt anyone likes to hear it. Recently I’ve had a number of discussions with clients and colleagues, focused on love. I’ve shared a few insightful videos I’ve come across on Facebook about the topic. It seems time a little more is written about it.

Jason Silva, a television personality and philosopher, recently posted several videos on his Facebook page about love. In them, he describes love as a “religious problem” (1). He goes on to explain that since, as a culture, we are no longer as enamored by religion, we have placed our need for God, perhaps even to be saved, in a romantic other. First, we cast that person.

In a slightly older video (2), Silva discusses how we’ve dreamed up these “cosmic saviors”, project our ideas of our “cosmic savior” onto a potential partner, and fall in love. He says we come to the idea of who our ideal is through our history, especially our childhoods. This is similar to psychodynamic thought, and especially reminiscent of Jung and the archetype for our other side (anima / animus). So, in essence, an unconscious projection of a perfect mate, who is meant to save us, is cast into another, who can’t possibly live up to the ideal.

Alexi Berry, used with permission
Source: Alexi Berry, used with permission

In yet another video (3), Silva describes this process as madness. He discusses some of the points I’ve made in previous posts (You’re not in love, you’re addicted, “You’re the Worst”, on love). What is generally thought of as love is addicting and unhealthy. (However, Silva also focuses on the potential positives). He purports that perhaps we are lying to ourselves, but that the lie may be beautiful.

That brings me to a book on relationships a few colleagues and clients have recommended. In “The 5-Love Languages”, Chapman discusses not only how to find your partner’s “love language” and enact it, but that love is a choice. He discusses how the beginning stage of love is easy, and quotes a study that averages the early love stage at two years. He says thereafter, partners have to choose to love one another. This, it seems, is the hard pill to swallow for many. I have heard numerous people complain that love should be easy, and if it is hard, it probably is not healthy or the partner is not the correct person.

However, most people familiar with relationships agree that love requires effort. I’ve discussed the battle that exists between one’s desire to provide agape love, yet make sure one’s ego needs are met at the same time (Love’s tug of war). Chapman states, “love is something you do for someone else, not something you do for yourself” (p.139-140). It requires making the choice to demonstrate love for another, whether or not you believe your needs are being met.

Although it seems counterintuitive, this is also a pathway to happiness. A recent article in Psychology Today, “It’s Not All About You”, by Carlin Flora, discusses how cultivating awe, and simply getting out of your own head, can promote happiness. Similarly, in an interview between Dan Harris (author of “10% Happier” and news correspondent) and Sharon Salzberg (author of “Loving-kindness”) both quote how science indicates that compassion and loving-kindness is actually a strength, rather than the weakness many view it as. In the interview Dan Harris quotes studies that suggest “compassion makes you healthier, happier, more popular and more successful”.

Simply, by getting out of oneself, through compassion, kindness, or love, one can be happier. Too often love focuses on selfish needs (the projection of ideals onto another and the desire for that one to satiate all needs). Although this is normal, there comes a point where it needs to be transcended for true happiness. By taking the next step into love, focusing and doing for the other, this can be accomplished.

What we think we want, to be loved, is an evolutionary-based ego trick. Romantic love, though at times beautiful, makes us suffer when it is not given as we want it, and when our “needs” are not met. The real course to happiness is thinking not of oneself, but the other.

My last article focused on how seeking enlightenment can help you psychologically. A major part of enlightenment is letting go of ego, diminishing the sense of “I” that we possess. A strategy for doing that is focusing on others, and helping them or making them happy. A big part of focusing on others, and making them happy, is love. Acting in love, out of love, with love, is enlightenment.

Copyright William Berry, 2016


Chapman, G; 2010; The 5 Love Languages; Northfield Publishing, Chicago, IL.

Flora, C; 2016; It’s Not All About You; Psychology Today, April 2016; p.48-56.

Mindful Staff; 2016; How Compassion Leads to Success; (featuring an interview with Dan Harris and Susan Salzberg). Retrieved from: on June 12, 2016.

1) Silva, J; 2016; Love is a Religious Problem; Retrieved from: on June 11th, 2016.

2) Silva, J; 2016; Who Do We Fall In Love With; Retrieved from: on June 11, 2016.

3) Silva, J; 2016; Love is Madness; Retrieved from: on June 11, 2016. 

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