Bromance – a deep relationship between two hetrosexual men – and Time magazine has this phenomenon in their sights in this article.
Magazine writers are always casting around for new subjects and what’s better than a new trend and one with some worrying implications? The dating pool is shrinking!
The central idea is that hetrosexual men are becoming more involved in deep relationships with other men and they find these relationships are more satisfying than their romantic relationships with women. You have to be careful to believe too much of analyses such as these. There’s a lot of noise out there. But I think this piece brings up some important points worth considering. Almost nothing is more central to our evolution and lives than human relationships. In the potent brew of human relationships that we all stew in, nothing beats romantic ones for evolution, joy and heartache. They’re complicated. Everyone knows this. If you don’t, you’re missing the best part!
So men are more comfortable in close relationships with other men? Hmmm. So this is good news and bad news, if it’s true. But what is truth? Do we have to hear a report on CNN that 52% of men from ages 20 to 38 prefer their deep relationships with other men to those with women? I just made that up. Statistics can reveal truth, but the truth lies within each one of us – the individual. Regardless of the stats, this article points to a bigger truth that is worth exploring.
Relationships are monstrously important to our lives and to our evolution – all relationships, but probably none are more important or even as important as our romantic ones, because those push all our buttons and often loop back into our earliest relationships with our parents. Whew.
Really? Do we have to dig that deep to figure out our romantic relationships? ‘Fraid so I think. It’s been true for me.
“Men are all just inconsiderate, selfish jerks!” ” Woman are all the same – they just want to control you.” Yada. Yada. Yada. Romance starts off being the magic carpet ride of love and then not so much in many cases. Why?
I used to love her (him), but its all over now.
Let it be known that I am not cynical…not one little bit…except about politics. About love? Romantic love – not an atom of cynicism.
I find it impossible to see problems in a relationship without acknowledging at least some of my role in those problems. I’m equally certain I underestimate my part in the messiness. I don’t sit on the mountain knowing it all, but I can often see how I might be contributing to the problems and how couldn’t I be? I’m half of the couple.
As in most things psychological, Carl Jung has much to say about all this and I’ve found that a great analysis from this Jungian perspective comes from Robert A. Johnson, a writer and Jungian analyst. He’s written and number of books and they all have value, but three in particular are important here –
- He: Understanding Masculine Psychology (1974)
- She: Understanding Feminine Psychology (1976)
- We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love (1983)
Johnson points out the role of romantic love in Western culture. Love and marriage are seen differently in other cultures and the role of romance in Western culture changed and came into it’s present form with the troubadours and led to the idea of romance that we see in stories like Romeo and Julliette – the idea of a soulful union of man and woman that transcends our everyday existence.
But our modern Western society is the only culture in history that has experienced romantic love as a mass phenomenon. We are the only society that makes romance the basis of our marriages and love relationships and the cultural ideal of “true love.”
The ideal of romantic love burst into Western society during the Middle Ages. It first appeared in our literature in the myth of Tristan and Iseult, then in the love poems and songs of the troubadours. It was called “courtly love”; its model was the brave knight who worshiped a fair lady as his inspiration, the symbol of all beauty and perfection, the ideal that moved him to be noble, spiritual, refined, and high-minded. In our time we have mixed courtly love into our sexual relationships and marriages, but we still hold the medieval belief that true love has to be the ecstatic adoration of a man or woman who carries, for us, the image of perfection.
Johnson, Robert A.. We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love (Kindle Locations 105-111). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
Johnson goes on to explain what a heavy burden we place on our romance and on our romantic partners. In this book, “We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love”, he uses the original myth of Tristan and Iseult that was really the template of this view of romantic love that we have woven into our lives. Popular culture lives and breathes this stuff in songs, movies, books and our unexamined expectations.
For many, myths are just ancient stories or fables that don’t mean much in our modern lives. The opposite is true. These myths exist across cultures and time, and are just as active today as they were hundreds of years ago. We just don’t realize it. It’s too easy to believe these are modern times and we’ve moved beyond silly old stories. But these myths speak to our deep longings and needs, our concerns, fears, and hopes. Each one of us is shaped by these myths. These myths are very much alive within our culture and within each of us. Again, the task is to become aware of these facts in a personal way so that we can become more aware of our thinking and emotions.
Carl Jung has shown us that when a great psychological phenomenon suddenly appears in the life of an individual, it represents a tremendous unconscious potential that is rising to the level of consciousness. The same is true for a culture. At a certain point in the history of a people, a new possibility bursts out of the collective unconscious; it is a new idea, a new belief, a new value, or a new way of looking at the universe. It represents a potential good if it can be integrated into consciousness, but at first it is overwhelming, even destructive.
Romantic love is one of these truly overwhelming psychological phenomena that have appeared in Western history. It has overwhelmed our collective psyche and permanently altered our view of the world. As a society, we have not yet learned to handle the tremendous power of romantic love. We turn it into tragedy and alienation more often than into enduring human relationships.
Johnson, Robert A.. We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love (Kindle Locations 111-118). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
So it doesn’t surprise me that some men are retreating from romance with women. Romantic relationships are changing and it can be harder to find people willing to commit to a longer term relationship. Too many people have been too disappointed and in this book, “We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love” Johnson tells us why disappointment and pain in romance is almost inevitable, unless and until we become more aware of our expectations in romance and work to integrate them with a realistic view of our all too human selves and partners. We have nothing to lose and the potential for a fulfilling and lasting romantic relationship to gain.
It’s great if men are finding more satisfaction with their friendships with other men, but I think a heterosexual man has much more to learn and evolve when he’s in a deep relationship with a woman. He’ll learn more about women of course, but he’ll also learn much more about himself and that will all serve his evolution. And it’ll be more fun, with the pain and heartache along for the ride at times – all part of the trip.
I’ll be writing a lot more about myth and gender since they’re so central to our psychology and to our evolution, but this is a good start. You cannot go wrong plunging into these three books. Romance and love call, but it helps to know the message more deeply. These books are a great start – practical and poetic – like romantic love.