Romantic Love in the Context of Strict Materialism

I’ve been thinking a lot about romantic love lately and the question of whether love is something that transcends the physical realm. Since so many people believe that the physical realm is all there is to reality, within the confines of strict materialism (the rejection of a non-physical component to reality (opposes spirituality)), love may merely be a biological by-product of humanity’s need to reproduce. Children reared by two parents as opposed to one were more likely to survive so for the early years of a child’s life, a strong feeling of attraction between the child’s parents would be advantageous. However, reproduction doesn’t explain why same-sex couples or couples who don’t want to have kids fall in love and get married. It’s more likely that love and marriage is a guarantee of companionship; no one wants to die alone. So how do we determine who we should hire as our ‘companions unto death.’

We find ourselves in a predominantly monogamous society; however, skyrocketing divorce rates call into question whether humans were truly meant to be monogamous for the entirety of our lives. Attraction fades and people get fed up with the person they’ve selected as their dying partners. How can we guarantee a lifetime of mutual tolerance and hopefully some good times along the way? Ideally, it’s by finding ‘the one.’ But does the one even exist? Is there really an individual out there that we’re most compatible with; the one we were always meant to be with? Putting determinism and any metaphysical aspect to romantic love aside, it would be highly unlikely that we would find the single individual that we’re most compatible with and ending up with that person. It’s hypothetically possible that there exists a perfect romantic partner for every person. However, it’s more likely that you will have to find someone that’s just “good enough” who is also seeking a dying partner once you’re ready to begin recruiting for the position of your dying partner.

Now, if we’re going to find someone we can tolerate for an entire lifetime, it is important to look towards compatibility. I personally view compatibility in the following way: “perpetually equal perceptions of self and the other.” Subconsciously, everyone assigns themselves a certain amount of value. Based on the Pygmalion Effect, that amount of value will eventually shape the value that others assign to you. So, let’s say I subconsciously perceive myself as a ‘.65’ and my romantic partner perceives herself as a ‘.7’. Her initial attraction to me may exist because she perceives me as a ‘.7’ or higher; however, if I only perceive myself as a ‘.65’, that self-perception will come to shape her perception of me. She will subconsciously realize that her perception of herself exceeds her perception of me and her attraction to me will fade. *Side-note: it is important to note that self-perception changes over time.* Ultimately, two individuals will be most compatible if they both perceive themselves as the same number and maybe they can even grow that number together. *Another side note: it is important to distinguish the self-perception scale from that of attractiveness. Self-perception may be in part dictated by attractiveness; however, attractiveness is only one of the countless variables that contribute to self-perception.*

It is extremely unlikely, like impossible, for any two individuals to have identical perceptions of themselves. In fact, self-perception is something that would likely take infinite decimal places to truly quantify. For that reason, it could take a lifetime for an individual to realize that their perception of themselves is greater or less than their perception of a similarly perceiving partner. A ‘.654789’ will likely lose attraction to a ‘.654788’ that they originally perceived as a ‘.7’ only after multiple lifetimes. That’s the sweet spot. There are likely a limited number of individuals out there with the close enough self-perceptions as you so get searching! Additionally, it’s important to consider that someone you might initially perceive as lower than your self-perception may have their own self-perception which exceeds yours. By the times they’ve realized this, you may have already lived your happy life and not had to die alone.

Again, it must be noted that if strict materialism isn’t at the cosmological origin of reality as we know it, ‘soul mates’ may exist and some higher power may grant us a lifetime of bliss with our perfect companions, just like in the movies. That would be quite nice.


It’s also important to note the significance of circumstance and shared experience. At the end of the day, we really only have the opportunity to meet so many people. The people that we encounter in life are the pool that we have to choose from. So, although there might be someone whose self-perception more closely resembles our own somewhere on the other side of the world, you should ideally seek out the individual whose self-perception most closely matches your own within the circumstantial pool of life. This seems obvious but gets somewhat complicated in the digital age where we could potentially find the individual we’re most compatible with in the world. Access to this technology is nice for that reason; however, it also makes the task of finding the most compatible partner somewhat more overwhelming because we could likely spend the rest of our lives trying to figure something like that out. For this reason, it’s also important to consider shared experiences and the way they bring people together. Shared experience are likely another variable in the compatibility equation.

*Side Note: I don’t think I actually know what the hell I’m talking about so I might just give up on this article for the time being.

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