Why True Love Is Hard to Find

There is no shortage of advice on romantic love. Therapists and counselors offer guidance. Talk shows on television often consider the subject.

ON THE Internet numerous Web sites claim to offer enlightenment on how to find love. You might be told that you will discover “fascinating and incredible secrets” and will learn from “professional matchmakers,” “relationship experts,” and “love doctors,” not to mention psychotherapists, psychologists, and astrologers.

The topic of love also sells books and magazines, some of which make extravagant promises. For example, one book claims to show you “how to make anyone fall in love with you.” Another offers to reveal how you can find “the perfect partner in just one month.” Is a month too long? Then another divulges how “in 90 minutes or less,” you can make someone love you forever.

Much of the advice comes at a price. And many people pay twice. They pay money to receive counsel. Then, when the guidance turns out to be flawed, as it often does, they pay emotionally when things don’t work out as expected.

There is, however, one source of advice that when applied never fails. Moreover, it discusses the subject truthfully, without making wild claims and unrealistic promises. Though it was written long ago, its counsel is never outdated. Its Author is both peerless in wisdom and matchless in love. Perhaps you already own a copy of this special gift—the Holy Bible. No matter what our circumstances or background, the Bible teaches us what we need to know about love. And its counsel is free.

Will the Bible enable us to have a good relationship with everyone? No. Some people will not warm to us, no matter how hard we try. And genuine love cannot be forced. (Song of Solomon 8:4) However, by applying the Bible’s guidance, we will increase our opportunities of cultivating loving relationships with others, even though this may take time and effort. This aspect of love will be discussed in the next article, but first, consider why true love is becoming harder to find these days.

Love “Will Cool Off”

In his great prophecy on “the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus accurately foretold the conditions and trends of our day. He said that the world would be marked by lawlessness and wars—the very opposite of love! He also said that “many . . . will betray one another and will hate one another” and that “the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matthew 24:3-12) Do you not agree that the world has grown colder and that genuine love is lacking, even within families?

In addition to Jesus’ words, the apostle Paul gave a detailed social profile, as it were, of “the last days.” He wrote that people would be “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1-4) In many lands those traits have become very common.

Think: Are you drawn to proud, unthankful people, to those who are disloyal, who will slander or betray you? Do you warm to individuals who are in love with themselves, with money, or with pleasures? Because self-centered people allow greed and personal desires to define and govern their relationships, any interest they show in others is likely to be selfish. Wisely, the Scriptures counsel: “From these turn away.”—2 Timothy 3:5.

Note, too, the statement that people living in the last days would have “no natural affection” or that, as another translation puts it, they would “lack normal affection for their families.” Sadly, an increasing number of children are growing up in homes like that. Often, what these young ones learn about love they pick up from the media. But do the media paint an accurate picture of love, one that will really produce better relationships?

Fantasy Love or the Real Thing?

To some degree most of us are influenced by the media. One researcher wrote: “From the time we’re very young, we’re barraged with fairy-tale depictions and hard-to-break stereotypes of sex, love, and romance in the popular culture—movies and television, books and magazines, radio and recorded music, advertising, and even the news.” She also explained: “Most mass media portrayals of sex, love, and romance shape or reinforce unrealistic expectations that most of us can’t dismiss completely. They make us dissatisfied with our real partners as well as with ourselves.”

Yes, books, movies, and songs rarely present an accurate picture of love. After all, their purpose is primarily to entertain, not to educate. Thus, writers churn out blends of fantasy and romance that will bring in the money. Sadly, though, it is easy to confuse such fiction with reality. Hence, people are often disappointed when their relationships do not match those of fictional characters. So how can we distinguish between fantasy and reality, between media romance and genuine love? Consider the following comparisons.

Storybook Love Versus Real Love

Whether in books, movies, or plays, love stories may vary, but their essential structure, or formula, changes little. The Writer magazine states: “Much of romance writing continues to be formulaic. There’s a reason for that. The boy-meets-girl/boy-loses-girl/boy-gets-girl-back formula is a tried-and-true blueprint that readers return to time and again, no matter the setting or era.” Let us have a closer look at this popular formula.

Boy meets girl: A handsome prince meets a beautiful woman, and love is born. A successful author advises would-be romance writers that “it should be apparent to your reader from [the couple’s] very first glance that these two souls belong together.”

The love-at-first-sight notion implies that true love is just a feeling—an overpowering emotion that grips you when you meet the right someone—that such love just happens, and that it requires little effort or knowledge of the other person. Real love, however, is much more than a feeling. Granted, feelings are involved, but love is a profound human bond that also includes principles and values and that never ceases to grow, providing it is properly nurtured and maintained.—Colossians 3:14.

Moreover, it takes time to get to know another person. To assume that at first sight you have found the perfect partner smacks of fantasy and usually leads to disappointment. Additionally, in quickly assuming that you have found true love, you may shut your mind to evidence to the contrary. Choosing a suitable mate requires more than a strong impression influenced by a flush of infatuation. So take your time. Indeed, numerous studies have shown that the poor choice of a mate can negatively affect job performance, mental and physical health, and even life span.

Boy loses girl: An evil count kidnaps the beautiful woman and flees the castle. The prince embarks on a dangerous quest to find her. A spokeswoman for Romance Writers of America notes: “The main plot of the romance must concern two people falling in love and struggling to make the relationship work.” In most novels the relationship will work—readers know that. Obstacles, often of an external kind, are overcome.

In real life there are usually problems of an external kind and of an internal kind. They may involve money, work, relatives, and friends. Problems also emerge when one person does not meet the other’s expectations. In fictional characters, flaws are usually minor, but this is not always the case in real life. Further, real love does not carry us effortlessly through trials or differences in views, backgrounds, desires, and personalities. Rather, love involves cooperation, humility, mildness, patience, and long-suffering—qualities that do not always come naturally or easily.—1 Corinthians 13:4-7.

Boy gets girl: The prince rescues the beautiful woman and banishes the count. The couple marry and live happily ever after. An editor of romance novels advises would-be writers: “You need that happily-ever-after ending. . . . The reader should be satisfied that the couple is together and happy.” Romance novels rarely portray their characters after years of marriage. During that time disagreements and a host of other challenges and difficulties may have tested the relationship. As divorce statistics show, in time many marriages fail the test.

Yes, storybook love is relatively easy; real love requires effort. Understanding the differences between the two will safeguard you against naive, unrealistic expectations. It will also prevent you from making hasty commitments that you may later regret. The next article will discuss how you can cultivate true unselfish love and how you can become a more lovable person.

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People who love less are less lovable

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Storybook love is relatively easy; real love requires effort

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Heroes and Heroines of Romance

  In the United States, romance novels annually generate more than a billion dollars in sales. About half the paperback fiction sold in that country is romance. According to statistics published by Romance Writers of America, the three primary traits that readers, some 90 percent of whom are women, look for in heroes are muscles, handsomeness, and intelligence. The three most popular traits in heroines are intelligence, strength of character, and attractiveness.

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The media rarely present an accurate picture of love