I practically spent my entire late teen years and early twenties reading romance novels. Back when I was in junior and senior high schools, I read mostly magazines and Indonesian classic literature novels. The eventual change was brought on by my need to read something “light” after spending days in laboratories and writing laboratory reports. So when my friend introduced me to Harlequin novels and historical romance novels, I grabbed them fast. That particular genre had been on my reading list ever since. Until two years ago.
I am not going to talk about my current reading list, but I want to share with you how romance novels shaped my view about relationship. Reading a lot of romance novels had made me think that a working relationship is one that is based on love. Love is the foundation of all relationships, and marriage. That had been in my head ever since. I thought that once you loved someone, it was a start for a permanent relationship and it would last forever. I thought love was that powerful. I thought love could wipe away every tear shed in a relationship.
Apparently, I was wrong, very wrong. Later I found out the truth about relationship, especially marriage. Not all marriage happened because of love. Sometimes people marry just to lift the burden off their shoulder, or to put an end to their parents’ nagging. Others may enter a marriage so that they will be seen as normal like everyone else, married by certain age. Or, yes, perhaps they do get married out of love. But love itself cannot act as a remedy to the problems that emerge after the wedding reception ends.
There are people who were blinded by love, got married, and then found that their spouse wasn’t as lovely as they had thought. Add to that the inability to communicate with each other. Problems come and cannot be resolved. And those who married just to please their parents might not even have any intention to get to know each other. Problems already haunt them from day one, but they cannot end the marriage out of respect to the elders.
These facts hit me hard. Not to mention stories I’ve heard about spouses who cheat. Why did you make a commitment if you cannot hold on to it and working on it? It confused me for a long time. At the same time, the idea of love as the foundation of a marriage clung to my head. In my confusion I asked myself, “What I should believe? Whom I should believe?”
After pondering this for a while, I came into the conclusion that relationship, at least mine, should be based on commitment. Love can fade, affection can be faked, but you must at least stand on the same ground when you’re in a relationship. You have to be committed to each other, to work the relationship out. That’s what is missing from those romance novels or movies. The idea of “soul mate”, having someone who always love us is, well, bollocks. You have to always work on it, and one cannot work the relationship if we don’t stand on the same ground with our partners.
If you watch The Big Bang Theory television series, you might agree with Sheldon Cooper’s move to have “Relationship Agreement.” Basically, it ensures that both parties stand on the same ground. It clarifies that their rights are met, their responsibilities shared. While putting this agreement in legal form is a good idea, it doesn’t have to be that way. But at least before entering a relationship, we have to make sure we stand on the same ground with our soon-to-be partner and that we are committed to each other to work on the relationship. Later, if it does not work out, then it means it just doesn’t.
In the end, romantic stories are just stories. Not that romance doesn’t happen, but it takes more than romance to make a relationship work. It takes more than love to make a relationship real and long-lasting. You should get all the fact, and assess it continuously. Because a working relationship is more commitment-based than love-based.
Meutia Faradilla is a coffee drinker who ponders about life in between her daily activities. She now lives in Banda Aceh.