BlogInformativeWisdom Tree

Is Romantic Love A Lie?

Authored by Oorja and Shreya Singh, Batch of 2027
Caricature by Anushka Bisht, Batch of 2027

When harmful ideas and conventions are left uncontested and allowed to fester, they begin to take firm roots in the foundations of society. They grow into unshakeable trees, basking in the light of patriarchy, nurtured by stereotypical societal expectations. We often don’t pay heed to the destructive fruits they bear or even wonder if these unchallenged norms have a name.

Philosophy professor Elizabeth Brake coined the term ‘Amatonormativity’. It describes the deeply entrenched belief that being in a long-term coupled relationship is the ultimate goal of human life. As we walk away from childhood and venture into the world beyond, still struggling to find our bearings, a screenplay is thrust into our hands. It directs us to find  ‘The One’, fall in love, and then diligently tick the boxes of getting married, having children, and settling down. How well and long we play this role ordains the reception we receive when the curtains close. Will the show we put on—our life—be met with resounding claps of validation or will it be given short shrift by the hawk-eyed critics?

Knowingly or unknowingly, all of us are complicit in the shared crime of perpetuating this. We don’t think twice before asking someone if they have a partner. We go to lengths to assume and speculate why the middle-aged man down the street never married. As soon as a person enters the fleetingly narrow belt of “marriageable age”, it’s customary for both close and distant relatives alike, to pester them with questions about their marriage prospects and when they plan to ‘settle down’. Being single is deemed undesirable and invites unsolicited but well-meaning overtures to ‘set you up’.

The amatonormative trajectory that society inundates us with does no one any favours. For allo-heteronormative people (those who experience romantic and sexual attraction in ways considered typical by societal norms), this can lead to self-doubt and depression if they fail to live up to this societal standard of dating, marrying, having children and growing old with their special someone. They may feel pressured to enter or stay in toxic or unsafe relationships because the alternative is simply unacceptable.

Even more so, people on the aromantic and asexual spectrum (those who experience little to no romantic attraction and sexual attraction respectively) bear the brunt of this pervasive issue. The amatonormative world devalues their humanity and tells them they aren’t living life ‘right’. It decrees what they must want/desire. There’s an oversaturation of romance portrayals in the media – shoehorning romantic subplots – even when they don’t add to the story. Conversely, non-romantic and asexual storylines are deemed less important and are retired to the sidelines. People who are still figuring out where they stand on the aromantic or asexual spectrum struggle to walk the proverbial tightrope, fearing the fall if they dare misstep.

QPRs and Alternative Shades of Love

There are many elements which make us human, being part of and maintaining relationships is one such element. Out of all the relationships that we experience, only a few are highlighted and adored. The most revered being the one you have with your ‘partner’ with whom you are romantically involved. It is closely followed by your friends, who you are close to but romance doesn’t come into play. Only focusing on a few relationships robs us of being loved in different ways. Relationships are a spectrum, each having their own characteristics and should not be  forced to fit into an “official” definition.

‘Queer platonic relationships’ or QPRs are also a part of this spectrum. Many have defined QPRs in slightly differing ways, the gist of it being that people who are part of QPRs have deeper emotional connections than platonic friendships but are not necessarily romantically or sexually involved. These relationships bend the traditional heteronormative and amatonormative rules that people are expected to abide by as members of the society.

The origin of the term QPR can be found in the aromantic and asexual communities in the early 2010s. The idea behind it is traced back to a thread called Kaz’s Scribblings, published in December of 2010. The author had been looking for an aromantic relationship, set apart from the binary categories present at the moment. In the aroace community QPRs were often called ‘zucchinis’, which only showcases the lack of terminology for other meaningful relationships. Currently, these discussions concerned with embracing a more unorthodox view of life and romantic relations have escaped from these communities and started to reach a more general populace, increasingly tired of .

Though it might appear to be a newer concept, one can find similar terms in history, for instance, Boston Marriages wherein two wealthy women cohabitated, free from the financial control of a man. Some of these relationships might have been romantic, but not all.

Our society, which is mostly heteronormative, often views the world as black or white; as if there are only two choices among which we can only choose one. This view is clear when it comes to relationships. Romantic relationships have always been put on a pedestal, being viewed as superior to all others. But there are other nurturing and loving relationships such as friendships, familial relations, platonic relationships, QPRs, and many others which have not necessarily been named yet. Love and its expression is the most natural thing in the world, which can not and should not follow rules. Everybody feels love differently and individuals should be given the freedom to express that love without societal constraints. Relationships are meant to support you, to be a safe place where you are your true self. There should never be any bounds on such a beautiful part of being human.