The short answer to this question is: yes and no.

lasting love
One of a few Hollywood movies to follow love over the span of life.

Oh, why make it so difficult? Because life and love are difficult. Both life and love are afflicted by temporality, that is, duration.

Sure, one can look at life and love from the perspective of an instant, but what good is that? The brash young mind is thinking that way. “I am 21 today. The world is mine to discover and what can go wrong?” The older, more mature mind, however, thinks: “How long will it last? What is it all for?” Most anything that takes its time will go through changes. If we can count on one thing, it is not only taxes and death, but change.

And so, a romantic love cannot last because it is a transitional love to begin with. Romantic love is hoped to mature into consummate or real love. In other words, love can last, but the intimate relationship and the two lovers themselves are surely changing over decades.

When love does not last, that is when the two persons do not or cannot get along any longer − and we know of a few good reasons like that of abuse, it is sometimes best to separate. Children may suffer more from being witness to a dysfunctional marriage than a divorce.

Why is that important to understand? Because many couples experience romantic love at the beginning of their relationship. Romantic love is what brought about the relationship to begin with, sometimes it follows a mere social bonding. And when romance eventually fades a bit, couples easily freak out in anxiety, uncertain where things will go and why. Romantic love was so natural, so effortless, so delightful. How can it fade, where does it go, and why did it all go so wrong?

Romantic love fades as the illusion or idealization of the perfect significant other begins to fade and the real self of the significant other begins to emerge. In addition, children are born, financial resources do not keep up with material needs, boredom sets in, secrets are revealed, rivals prey on one, health may fail − that sort of thing. All or most of the initial equations will change. Love and the relationship are under pressure or even assault.

At that point, couples are extremely vulnerable in their bond and may need the support of mature others to see them through to the next phase of love and relationship. Else, the children will suffer a divorce from their parents. While that can be for the better, it can also be preventable.

Now, a lot of people still marry regardless of romantic love. In the not-too-distant past, marriage was an economic contract between two families. In cultures characterizable as caste systems, marriage was to ensure the pure lineage first of all. It still is so in many parts of the world. Love, in either case, and if it came about at all, was then perhaps appreciated. But love was not necessary as other ‘arrangements’ could be made.

While it is said that love makes the world go ’round, it isn’t clear what kind of love is meant. It seems that plenty of people can and have gotten by without much of real love, the kind that is amorous, caring and transcending and embodied in a monogamous bond. Love, like in ‘being in love,’ may not be that universal, while sex seems to be more so.

Nowadays, however, fewer people are willing to marry without love, even in traditionally family-oriented or collectivist China.

That is the brief scope of why love can and cannot last.

If love is to last, how can that be? Is change an unavoidable fate? It seems so. However, the expectation and subsequent toleration of random change do not seem to make love last. Luckily it is so that the direction of change is not necessarily determined by chance or fate. Humans participate in change by evaluating choices and making decisions.

Actual love, as opposed to the theoretical, is fragile and thus in great need of care and caution.

Next, ABCs of Love –
5. Triangular Theory of Love