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Two questions about romantic love

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1. Is finding romantic love a requirement for happiness? If one can't attain a partner who meets his standards, and isn't willing to lower them, is he doomed to be unhappy?

2. What is the significance of age differences in romantic relationships? Is it inappropriate to pursue a relationship with someone significantly older or younger?

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1. Is finding romantic love a requirement for happiness? If one can't attain a partner who meets his standards, and isn't willing to lower them, is he doomed to be unhappy?

2. What is the significance of age differences in romantic relationships? Is it inappropriate to pursue a relationship with someone significantly older or younger?

1. No and no but I would recommend doing some serious soul searching on your standards. What reasonable expectations are and whether yours are in alignment with that and more that reality is in alignment with that. I suggest that only because the nature of your question makes me think that there is an embedded premise that there are not a significant number of people with whom you could potentially be happy. The fact that those people who fit with us really well are rare does not imply that they are impossibly rare even though it may feel that way sometimes.

2. I've always like the "1/2 your age plus 7" standard fore ascertaining significance. So if your 28 then 14+7=21...so 21 and up would be appropriate. Very far outside of that range and it is unlikely that the two would find themselves in similar places in life. A lot more difficulty in being connected with huge differences.

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1. I would say that romantic love and friendship are related concepts and both requirements for happiness. You don't *need* people to exist decently, but for reaching happiness, it is necessary. People provide a value of intertwined valuing that enhances your quality of life. Romantic love provides a type of emotional bond, as do friendships, and when approached thoughtfully, will help you achieve more "good". Consider emotional support, sharing activities, career pursuits. Some bands, like The Smiths, are as successful as they are because of the friendship like that between Morrissey and Johnny Marr - the end of that friendship ended the band. I also know of some famous couples that were very successful music producers, I think from the 60s. These things are requirements for happiness, and there are certainly more. I'd argue that romantic love is just on a continuum of interrelationships which includes friendship, so my reasoning here applies to romantic love at least broadly.

If you can't meet a partner that meets your standards, it may be important to consider what the standards are. To a great extent, standards beyond virtue require experience. What type of standards are you talking about, though? Some standards may be worth "lowering" if they are providing no success in finding a partner. No person is infallible, so standards can be fallible.

2. Age difference only matters to the extent you can find commonality. Someone 30 years older than me probably doesn't like similar music, and has considerably different life experiences. But that isn't to say the relationship is inappropriate. Can you give some reasons why it might be inappropriate?

Edited by Eiuol
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2. I've always like the "1/2 your age plus 7" standard fore ascertaining significance.

Hah! My experience confirms... But where is the equation for dating older?

1. No, no. But with so many people in the world, why would you stop considering it a possibility and a goal?

2. This is a "try it and find out" thing. I've always gotten along well with older people than myself. Naturally, I'm with someone older. I have had friends, however, who have forever gotten along with a youth bracket, both relative to their age and absolute (like 18-25 or whatever).

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"2. Age difference only matters to the extent you can find commonality. Someone 30 years older than me probably doesn't like similar music, and has considerably different life experiences. But that isn't to say the relationship is inappropriate. Can you give some reasons why it might be inappropriate?"

I agree with Euiol here.....commonality is key, and some of this is not age-related. For example, I like the same music as my spouse, despite our age difference, because our tastes in music (classical, Gaelic, bluegrass) is not so tied to a particular age group. Other commonalities such as our views on art, politics, and other matters are also not age-related -- these are formed by a shared value system.

It is not so much a matter of years as it is maturity. There is, for example, considerable difference in the maturity levels of a 15-year-old and a 25-year-old -- profound differences! There is not much of a difference between a 35-year-old and a 45-year-old, despite them both being a ten-year gap. (Obviously I'm speaking in generalities here -- no doubt one can find exceptions.)

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It is not so much a matter of years as it is maturity. There is, for example, considerable difference in the maturity levels of a 15-year-old and a 25-year-old -- profound differences! There is not much of a difference between a 35-year-old and a 45-year-old, despite them both being a ten-year gap.

This variation is solved by he equation.

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JASKN and aequalsa, can either of you expand on why you answer "no and no" to part 1? I know the gist of what you guys are thinking I'm sure, but I dispute that it's in fact true that romantic love is not a requirement for happiness, so I want to discuss that more.

Edited by Eiuol
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...so I want to discuss that more.

I haven't researched this or anything, and to be sure I did long for a relationship at times when I wasn't in one, but I view a relationship as a value like anything else. It is beneficial, but not required for good living. I do think relationships make life happier, even happiest (coupled with other values), I just don't think that self-fulfillment isn't possible without them.

Like I said, people are so beneficial and plentiful, I don't know why someone would ever give up when the upside is so great. Not to mention, when pursuing other values in today's age, is it even possible to avoid people in this manner?

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For decent living I'm sure a relationship isn't required, although the question is about happiness and self-fulfillment. What would be fulfilling in the fullest sense for a person that lacks romantic relationships? I do not mean less than that is gloom and doom, but when talking about happiness, "good enough" is not enough. You aren't saying having your options open is a bad idea, I understand, though that's different than saying you can be self-fulfilled without a romantic relationship. Happiness is a lifelong project, so it may be a while before self-fulfillment can even occur for a person, and there are many necessary conditions, romantic relationships being one of those.

One quote by Aristotle really gets me thinking: "No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world." Yes, that's about friendship, but the idea is that one is "incomplete" so to speak without friends and those closest relationships. As I recall, the context of that quote are friendships on high levels, of lifelong duration (or mutual desire of that condition). I agree at least that no *healthy* person would choose to be friendless, but why would anyone think that? There is at least some type of emotional bond that's missing, a connection with an aspect of existence. Happiness seems a lot to do with connection in oneself - with thinking, with goal-orientation, with the world as it is, and full range of emotions to experience all of that. Given that people are part of the world as it is - a big one at that - lacking people is lacking a connection to existence. Romantic relationships are especially important for that experience, and goes further to also bringing out more emotional experience and perhaps inspiration to accomplish goals. To make this even more philosophical, bring in the idea of "sex is metaphysical". I recall discussion on that elsewhere indicating sex is important because it's a celebration/accomplishment of one's existence. Notably, another person has to be involved. Maybe it's not so much the sex, but a connection with existence - it just happens that sex is usually highly desirable, yet asexual people aren't really going to care about sex for whatever reason.

What I'm getting at is how can you call a person happy if they are lacking a romantic relationship? I'm lacking concreteness here, but part of my reasoning here is observing that at least long-term, no happy person lacked a romantic relationship.

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For decent living I'm sure a relationship isn't required, although the question is about happiness and self-fulfillment. What would be fulfilling in the fullest sense for a person that lacks romantic relationships? I do not mean less than that is gloom and doom, but when talking about happiness, "good enough" is not enough. You aren't saying having your options open is a bad idea, I understand, though that's different than saying you can be self-fulfilled without a romantic relationship. Happiness is a lifelong project, so it may be a while before self-fulfillment can even occur for a person, and there are many necessary conditions, romantic relationships being one of those.

One quote by Aristotle really gets me thinking: "No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world." Yes, that's about friendship, but the idea is that one is "incomplete" so to speak without friends and those closest relationships. As I recall, the context of that quote are friendships on high levels, of lifelong duration (or mutual desire of that condition). I agree at least that no *healthy* person would choose to be friendless, but why would anyone think that? There is at least some type of emotional bond that's missing, a connection with an aspect of existence. Happiness seems a lot to do with connection in oneself - with thinking, with goal-orientation, with the world as it is, and full range of emotions to experience all of that. Given that people are part of the world as it is - a big one at that - lacking people is lacking a connection to existence. Romantic relationships are especially important for that experience, and goes further to also bringing out more emotional experience and perhaps inspiration to accomplish goals. To make this even more philosophical, bring in the idea of "sex is metaphysical". I recall discussion on that elsewhere indicating sex is important because it's a celebration/accomplishment of one's existence. Notably, another person has to be involved. Maybe it's not so much the sex, but a connection with existence - it just happens that sex is usually highly desirable, yet asexual people aren't really going to care about sex for whatever reason.

What I'm getting at is how can you call a person happy if they are lacking a romantic relationship? I'm lacking concreteness here, but part of my reasoning here is observing that at least long-term, no happy person lacked a romantic relationship.

Intriguing question. I’ve not really thought through this in this method so what you are getting is my think-out-loud voice to “chew” on the subject.

Friendships and love is still built upon mutual values. It is conditional. I would not equate it with a value like food or air that is a precondition of existence but like any other value it’s presence and use does add to your life in what are obvious and demonstrable ways. But you can live without it. Can you be happy?

Perhaps the problem comes because the value in a friendship or a romantic partner is one built upon the many other values one should have. A person with a poor grasp of honesty, integrity, or even justice will have trouble developing real long term and meaningful friendships. Due to the prerequisite of having other values it makes “complex values” like a relationship seem removed and complicated, which from that perspective I guess it would be. But it also explains the issue. Relationships are not core values but are the product of values and the virtue of sustaining core values. They are built upon all the work you did achieving core values like a building is built upon a foundation. So a relationship does build upon values and it would add to your life. But is it essential? Well, no since there is no tangible way I can think of in which reality would punish you for the lack of a relationship in the same way it would punish you for a lack of integrity. It could be sad or even a little bitter perhaps if one sees others having fulfilling relationships but this might be more emotional that reasonable, not that does much to change the core reaction when one is lonely.

So I would say a lack of meaningful relationships could produce some pain in the individual depending contextually on that person but in no way is it mandatory for existence. Like any complex value however it does add to your life and is a great source of happiness, which makes it very desirable to achieve. Thus it is a virtue for strictly positive reasons and in this way is a celebration of existence. It allows you to build upon your achieved values and add to your life. You have earned the values which build to the harder and very conditional value of the relationship.

I’ll have to think about that more. There could be a lot interesting subjects to mine when approaching ethics from the idea of how core values interact and relate to build into more complex values. There could be a paper in it somewhere.

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What I'm getting at is how can you call a person happy if they are lacking a romantic relationship? I'm lacking concreteness here, but part of my reasoning here is observing that at least long-term, no happy person lacked a romantic relationship.

I found nothing to object to in what you wrote -- it rings true. All I am stuck on is the unpredictability of finding and sustaining a long-term relationship. They don't always work out, even after ten years, sometimes for perfectly legitimate reasons having to do with how each person changed and how their goals mesh. In the downtime when one has not found someone to spend most of one's time with, with all other things being good with the person, I do not see that person as unhappy. But he'll probably have good friends and he may even enjoy dating and short-range sexual relationships.

To talk about a world without sexual relationships of any kind is to talk of some dystopia or where you're stranded on an island or something. That's not realistic and you wouldn't find a fully happy person in that context. Otherwise, a person who pursues other "life values" will definitely include people on that list, and the pursuit of those combined values will lead to happiness in normal circumstances.

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What I'm getting at is how can you call a person happy if they are lacking a romantic relationship? I'm lacking concreteness here, but part of my reasoning here is observing that at least long-term, no happy person lacked a romantic relationship.

I think that I'm on the same page as spiral architect and see relationships as secondary values. In other words I think a great relationship is an effect of living the good life and not the cause. The cause and self-fulfillment is a derivative of living according to proper virtues. Like money being a possible(though not necessary) effect of productivity, I see a romantic love as a reward for a virtuous life. You could probably make a chicken and egg argument about the happiness derived from a relationship as the fuel needed for living well, but if that does exist, I would guess that to be a short term effect linked more to infatuation than the whole relationship.

I realize of course, that many unvirtuous sorts have relationships and many great people do not, but productivity is no guarantees of money and a relationship can as easily be a disvalue.

I'm not really itching to get into another argument about psychological effects and all that so I'll just say that this causal directionality has been my experience. It's not something I see as a convincing argument.

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I agree that relationships aren't core values in the sense relationships in and of themselves lead to happiness. Reason is a core value because that is how any value can be achieved, so without it you will never achieve values and thus happiness. A non-core value would be one where without it, you still can achieve values and happiness eventually. One isn't held back from further progress and achievement in their life when lacking a romantic relationship. The same applies for not having a career at this moment. Not valuing reason does inherently hold one back, because of not being at least on *track* for self-fulfillment. I am not saying that without a romantic relationship, you are no longer on track for self-fulfillment and achievements. Reason sure sets a foundation, as does productivity and self-esteem, but a foundation for what? The foundation is for happiness, sure, but when you build it up in full, how do you know what it should look like? It's one thing to talk about causes happiness, while it's another thing to say someone is happy. You may be on track to self-fulfillment, but it's important to look for indicators of if you are there yet.

Art is one value similar to what I'm thinking about. It's not a core value, and you might be able to live alright without it. But is there any happy person who does not value art? The reason no happy person disvalues and lacks (to value art implies going after art) art is because all the foundational stuff will *lead* to valuation of art. The role of art is for concretizing abstraction and provides a concrete notion of reality, which grows out of some combination of virtues of honesty and justice. Romantic relationships I see as something similar. No happy person lacks a romantic relationship because foundational stuff will lead to that sort of connection. Romantic relationships at least abstractly serve to provide emotional connection, and I was mentioning before, is important to valuing existence at all. Having a romantic relationships grows out of probably even more virtues than art.

I agree with aequalsa that romantic love is a reward for a virtuous life. Yet happiness is the reward for a virtuous life, which is my point. There are real, authentic values to point out having when a person achieves that reward. Lacking any of those values and claiming happiness would make little sense, and is close to being satisfied "good enough" even though there is a whole lot more to go after. Then again, my viewpoint is starting to sound a little like if you have still more to go, you have attained everything ever possible that makes you happy.

I may be going too abstract, so I'll try to concretize. What are the varying values to point at which indicates a person *is* happy? Without going through an exhaustive list, I'm starting with "having a romantic relationship" as one of many necessary indicators, like art. My reasoning for romantic love being one of the indicators is still like that in post # 13, (the majority of this post was clarifying what I mean by "requirement"). The unpredictability of finding and sustaining a long-term relationship not exactly an important point. All that means is people can be mistaken. Or, it might mean for a while the romantic relationship really was right, but a change in your values also changed romantic compatibility. The discussion may go better with more precise definitions of romantic love. I think my other posts conveyed how I've defined it.

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