Romantic Love Dies from a Lack of Love


“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.” – Anaïs Nin

In short, love dies of a lack of love.

Which begs the question—was it really ever love to begin with?

I certainly don’t think so.

I think the love that Nin is talking about isn’t really love—at least not in any mature sense of the word/concept. What Nin is talking about, I suspect, is romantic love—love that’s based on chemistry, emotion, feelings, physical attraction, infatuation, sexual energy. It’s a type of love that in the beginning tends to be overpowering and captivating and largely automatic, and as such, as something “automatic,” it’s not really love to begin with, it’s pseudo-love, temporary love—a highly alterable and unstable (and thus temporary) pair-bonding. This type of love tends to lack depth, substance, principle, virtues, because, in short, both people (or at least one of the two) tend to be lacking in these—in virtue, principle, conscience, doing their best, honesty, a love of truth, real depth, a substantial inner life. If one or both of the people in an intimate relationship are lacking in virtue and depth and stability, then how can their relationship be something stable and beautiful and deep and lasting? A relationship tends to be an expression of the level of personhood and personal development attained by the people who are comprising it—and no better. How can it be?

And so if a relationship is to improve, then one or both (and hopefully both) of the people involved will have to improve fundamentally as human beings—i.e. become more virtuous, principled, mindful, discerning, noble, conscientious, introspective, kind, good, decent, compassionate, honest, objective, understanding, mature, et cetera.

In short, each will have to become more truly loving.

If they fail to do this, then the relationship will die. And naturally so.

The truth is, romantic love almost always dies—it has to, because most of the time, the people comprising the relationship are just not that well-developed enough to sustain such a passionate relationship and manage and conduct themselves in a healthy and mature way in such a relationship. An intimate relationship is like a marathon—make that a triathlon—an Ironman type triathlon; and most people are only psychologically fit enough and mature enough to make it a mile or two—walking, not even jogging. Romantic intoxication/love will always wear off and die unless—unless—the people in the relationship are more than just mere creatures pulsing with emotions and scattered (discursive) desires. When people are largely still leading unconscious and unexamined lives, when they’re still largely only fickle creatures of emotion and impulse and prejudice and bias, then sustaining romantic love will be unlikely (against the odds) and will be more dependent on favorable circumstances (external locus of control) rather than anything that the two people themselves bring to the table.

“The truth about love is this: If we want to be loved, we are looking for a support system. If we want to love, we are looking for spiritual growth. It’s that simple.” Ayya Khema (Buddhist nun)


About John

I am a married, 46-year old, Midwesterner, with four children. My primary interest is in leading a very examined and decent and Loving life; my interests that are related to this and that feed into this include (and are not limited to) -- psychology, philosophy, poetry, critical thinking, photography, soccer, tennis, chess, bridge.
This entry was posted in Anaïs Nin, Ayya Khema, Conscience, Conscious Love, Immature Love, Intimacy, Intimate Relationships, Mature Love, Mental Health, Real Love, Spiritual Growth, Truth, Waking Up, What is Love? and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Romantic Love Dies from a Lack of Love

  1. stuartart says:

    Beautifully thought out and written article.

  2. Cat Forsley says:

    WELL WRITTEN !!!!!!!!

    • John says:

      Agreed, Cat — the heart tends to be able to better replenish itself once it ceases feeding so much on other’s approval and praise and validation and instead shifts its focus to matters that transcend comfort and the smaller self (the ego). And agreed, so often to give love is to create the much of what was felt to be lacking in a situation–so often it’s our own unloving actions that are saddling a situation and relationship and bringing us down as well. And if we would instead try to give a bit more or to be a bit more grateful or appreciative (see the glass as half-full) and focus more on the quality of our own giving, then that might be what helps to change a situation for the better–for the much better! (as in Gandhi’s oft-quoted words–“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”) Starting with ourselves, looking fiercely and honestly and directly at ourselves without any softeners and blinders–that is almost ALWAYS (not always, but more often than not) a great place to start when some situation or relationship or other person is bothering us, troubling us . . . So often a great question just waiting to be asked in such a situation/relationship is “What can I do better?” And it’s surprising how few people are willing to ask this sort of question. But yet it is just this sort of question that needs to be asked (and answered) if we are to be(come) a more truly loving human being! A great relationship (a much healthier and potentially happier and more satisfying and enjoyable relationship) can start taking shape whenever two people are courageous and decent enough to be willing to ask this question and live then live it . . . What can I do better? How can I improve this situation/relationship? How can I be the right person for this situation/relationship?

      Thank you for the very kind and thoughtful comment, Cat!

      Kindest regards,


  3. slklesko says:

    This makes so much sense to me. Thank you for sharing.

    • John says:

      You’re welcome, S.L. 🙂 And thank you for reading and for taking the time to comment. (And thank you as well for the blog award from a couple of weeks ago . . . I have meant to thank you for that, but I am behind on my writing and on responding to comments. I will try to catch up as I am able.)

      Kindest regards and thanks again for reading and commenting,


  4. Pingback: Love « Rubber Tyres –> Smooth Rides

  5. Liza Vassallo says:

    Your entry is like medicine and not the smooth kind, but the necessary kind. Romantic love will die….ahhhh; let me remove this thorn to heal….it is something we all suspect but find it difficult to accept. Yes, romantic love is wonderful and yes; triggers highs as well as lows and yes; it is superficial…we are loved in the beginning not for ourselves but what we help bring out in someone else…practical love is what most of us end up lliving with; if we end up with some sort of romantic love at all…

    • John says:

      Hello Liza,

      Thank you for reading and for your very thoughtful comment.

      And that’s always a tough thing to accept–when we’re in a relationship and the other person doesn’t value us for who we are as a person but instead for our effect on them, what we’re making the other person feel–happy, alive, giddy, intoxicated, infaturated, attractive, desireable, lusty, et cetera.

      We think we’re being loved for who we are–we think someone has penetrated the surface and actually “gets” us. Remember that great scene at the end of “As Good As It Gets” where Nicholson tells Helen Hunt that he watches how everyone else misses how amazing she is and how much love she puts into what she does, but he sees it, he gets it. It’s a great scene! And that’s how so many of us (and, yes, me personally) want to be seen and regarded–we want someone else to see the little things we do, how much love we put into what we do. When we’re doing this and when we’re going through life doing this and nobody sees this about it, we can certainly feel invisible. –And, yes, it helps to self-validate, but at a certain point self-validation is masturbation; we’re human, we want a relationship of mutuality, where we see and appreciate another’s person goodness and uniqueness and the other person sees and appreciates ours.

      Anyways, I digress . . . What I really had in mind with this particular post were those situations where two people are gifted with the the intial sparks and chemistry of infatuation/romantic love. And so it’s basically up to them to make either heaven or hell–something heavenly or hellish–of what they’ve been gifted with. My theory is that if both people are basically good and decent people–they’re not manipulative, deceitful, cowardly, selfish, afraid to look at themselves and their own behaviors honestly–then the relationship should be one where real Love will eventually develop, because real Love is above all about virtue, it’s a natural result of living in alignment with all of the other virutes. But if one or both of the people involved tend to be deceitful, manipulative, cowardly, selfish, afraid to look at themselves honestly, then the relationship is doomed (unless both people match up so well in their vices that they’re basically a den of thieves or thick as thieves with one another). And for most people who are neither excessively good nor excessively bad–neither excessively focused on leading a good and virtuous life, nor unalterably corrupt and irredeemable–then by focusing on being a better person and leading a more virutous and decent life, that will help real Love to take root and blossom and thrive.

      And I think that’s the tough medicine to deal with. . . . Giving up some of our immediate gratification, self-indulgence, consumerism, and many ways of anesthetizing/numbing/distracting ourselves and going through life asleep/blind. It’s painful to wake up–to wrestle honestly with the things that frighten us; it’s difficult to live a life of greater integrity (integration); it’s easy to live with our buffers, to compartmentalize things, to numb out.

      But . . . BUT . . . it may only be painful at first and hold the possibility of something much greater and more fulfilling and meaningful down the road.

      Thank you again, Liza, for your thoughtful comment and for reading my post (and reblogging it!) 🙂

      Warmest regards,


      • Liza V. says:

        I am so honored that you took the time to write back and offer much more depth to your trains of thought and heart. I am finding it difficult to really get a grip on deceit, I think the people that I have loved have honestly loved me (loved me with all that they could) but deep down just wanted the freedom of choice because their options were a bit more open. I have gone through the other extreme and not realized that I had been dealing with numbed out people; and I continued to love, so much so that it was exhausting to not see love come back….I really don’t know what true love; romantically speaking even really feels like anymore…I thank you humbly John. I really do appreciate your words shared.

  6. Liza Vassallo says:

    Reblogged this on Liza fills, feels and falls for the silence. and commented:
    Your entry is like medicine and not the smooth kind, but the necessary kind. Romantic love will die….ahhhh; let me remove this thorn to heal….it is something we all suspect but find it difficult to accept. Yes, romantic love is wonderful and yes; triggers highs as well as lows and yes; it is superficial…we are loved in the beginning not for ourselves but for what we help bring out in someone else…practical love is what most of us end up living with; that is if we end up with some sort of romantic love at all…

    • John says:

      Thank you so much for the reblog, Liza! I very much appreciate it and the very kind and thoughtful words!

      Warmest regards,


  7. C... says:

    Great post. I can see this is a lot like just love in general for family & friends too. Those who seek some form of pay off lose out on the spiritual growth of just knowing someone and having them in their lives without an outcome. I think the outcome seeking is what brings any relationship to an end.

    • John says:

      Hello C, and thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

      I think some outcome seeking is unavoidable (i.e., if you’re going to marry someone and have a family, then wanting the outcome of having the relationship last and be a loving and nurturing one, is a very good thing!). But outcome seeking in other forms–i.e., entering into a relationship in order to get (sex, security, comfort, etc) more than as an opportunity to give and to share of ourselves–tends to bode poorly for a relationship. At the very least, a relationship has to be about giving as much as one getting, or else one is a parasite in the relationship. And this can be a problem–especially since many people initially tend to show up to a relationship and appear to be more open and giving and generous than they actually are. Now if they actually were this generous and kind and open, then the relationship would actually stay happy and thriving and fulfilling, and there would be no need for this post.

      And what fun would that be?–What impetus for personal growth would there be if we got into relationships with people who actually turned out to be just as advertised? We grow because people oversell and underdeliver. People routinely send out their representative–their false or pretend self–when starting out a relationship. Most people are not who they really are when they’re starting a relationship; they pretend to be nicer, healthier, kinder, more sexual, more generous, more stable, more responsible, et cetera, than they actually are. They overpromise/oversell and then in a few months they backslide, show their true colors, regress to their baseline, act with much less appreciation, kindness, understanding, patience, generosity, and so underdeliver on themselves.

      So many relationships go down like this. And so the question is, how do we do relationships more intelligently? How do we actually become the person we pretend to be in the beginning of a relationship (when we’re being fueled by all of the good feelings and the giddiness), or how do we stop lying and pretending to be someone we’re not in order to get a hit of automatic love and feel the intoxication of new love–how do we just be how we are and be honest about it–that we’re lazy, temperamental, stingy, resentful, hold grudges, act rashly, act selfishly, et cetera?

      Thanks again, C, for reading and for commenting! 🙂

      Warmest regards,


  8. Jackie says:

    I just came across your blog yesterday, and some articles, like this one, speak to me so clearly and full of truth. I recently broke up with someone who I have known for many years – we began as a summer fling and then were friends for 6 year and in the last 6 months we began to date seriously. It was a wonderful 6 months, but I often felt as if something was missing. I could never place this feeling, it just left me feeling unable to commit and show full intimacy and romance. I had never loved him before, and thought that if, after so many years of knowing him and still no love, then it wasn’t meant to be. So, after much thought I broke up with him. This was about 6 weeks ago, and it has been a very painful time for me. I started reading about love, in the hopes of looking for some sort of guidance, and I am so drawn to the idea creating love through selfless giving that you often refer to. It makes me realize how little I invested in this relationship, and how I was just waiting for a spark without giving much of myself. It has offered me some much needed support, and I believe I need to return to this person and show him that I can be much more than what I have shown him. Our relationship is so important to me, and our bond so deep, I would hate to lose someone like this because I was waiting for the wrong thing.
    It’s strange, and sad, that something so powerful and important in our lives as love is so little understood and talked about. I suppose that’s one of the curses of being a child of Disney movies…
    Thank you for your wonderful words of wisdom on this.

    • John says:

      You are very welcome, Jackie. Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment and share; and being so honest.

      If the other person is genuinely a decent person and we’re unhappy in a relationship, then what’s missing in the relationship is usually what we’re not giving. And it’s up to us to try to supply it–to try to be a better person, to be more loving, appreciative, good, and to see if we can’t become more as a person and in that way supply what’s missing.

      This blog post may be helpful and inspiring–

      And I agree with you–“It’s strange, and sad, that something so powerful and important in our lives as love is so little understood and talked about. I suppose that’s one of the curses of being a child of Disney movies.” My blog is a very meager attempt to help correct this. And if I ever write a Disney/Pixar movie, you can be darn sure it will be much more than a meager attempt to correct this, lol 🙂

      I hope this blog helps, and I will try to set up a page on this blog with some of my all-time favorite books that can help their readers become more Loving.

      Warmest regards, Jackie, and thank you for reading and commenting! 🙂


      • Jackie says:

        Hi John,

        Thank you for your response and comments. I don’t mean to turn this into an advice column, but there is something (well, many things) that I have been struggling with. If we are to follow this idea that love is created, and not just a feeling we have, then how do we know if the person we are with is someone we should create a life together with. For example, if I am dating different people, and giving love, what will separate any one person from the pool of candidates? Is there, at the crux of it all, a spark that is undefinable yet necessary? Or can we truly create love with any number of compatible partners (i.e. those with shared values and life goals), and be as happy forever with one as much as the other? I wonder this not because I am dating other people (on the contrary, at the moment I feel like I could never date anyone else), but because I don’t understand how I could have not felt like he was the right person after so many years of spending time. Ultimately, is there something ‘beyond us’ that will tell us when we have found the right person, or is this in our hands?

        • John says:

          Hello Jackie – I hope you are well. And apologies for not responding earlier. I rarely update or even attend to my blog(s) daily: I tend to post very sporadically–when I have time and when I have written something that squares with the themes of one of my blogs.

          To answer your question. I tend to suspect that we are compatible with several people–the more unique we are in terms of our thinking and self-development, then the smaller our pool of compatible people will be (someday, when self-development and personal depth and critical thinking become much more the norm rather than the exception, and love is viewed more as a virtue or something that we are able to produce and give, instead of primarily as a need and a feeling to be received or triggered in us, then the pool of compatible people for self-developed people [what Maslow called “growth-oriented people”–the 2%ers; Maslow estimated that truly growth-oriented people make up less than 2% of the population] will be larger), but for the most part, each of us has several people in the world with whom we are compatible.

          The more differentiated/self-developed we are, the smaller our pool, but the greater our happiness when we meet someone we’re compatible with. The less differentiated we are, the greater our pool of those with whom we will spark with initially, but the more difficult it will be for such a relationship to last.

          Real compatibility comes from having a broad base in common with another in terms of fundamental values and life-principles. You stand for the same or similar things, you value the same or similar/compatible things. You have similar/compatible outlooks on life and love and marriage and cetera.

          You talk well with the other person–deeply, meaningfully, at times; you are both able to stand on your own and speak your mind in an articulate way; you don’t just quickly exhaust the safe subjects and then have nothing left to talk about. Instead, talk about stuff that matters, and you do so in an open and honest way. You seek to understand, not just to be understood. And because you are both growing in a similar direction, you are both searching for truth, personal growth, self-development–and that’s a lot (and something very significant) to have in common with another human being–to be on a similar quest or search. (Most people just want to get comfortable in a relationship, not grow and deepen; most people are just not living very conscious and deliberate lives; their lives are much more random, geared toward comfort and ease and “getting,” not giving, not becoming more, not becoming the best [or near-best] version of themselves possible.)

          And then of course it’s also nice to have some real compatibility in terms of senses of humor, and to be able to play well with each other. It’s also crucial to really like each other, to treat each other well, and to be able to genuinely treat another person well, even with their flaws and imperfections.

          When you find all of this, I think you will know you have found someone who’s right for you *and* who you are right for as well!

          I hope this helps answer your question a bit!

          Kindest regards, Jackie, and best wishes in your search!


  9. Very well written. Many people mistake falling in love and all of the adrenaline that accompanies infatuation with mature love. Then when the adrenaline decreases they wonder what is wrong with the relationship. Mature love is built on so much more than that initial emotional high. Great post.

    • John says:

      Thank you for reading, and for commenting Kristin.

      Mature love is definitely not based on an emotional high. I view mature love as an expression of (or one of the fruits of) our level of self-development, especially in terms of our level of differentiation, character, emotional maturity, and conscience. If a person has developed his or her conscience, character, courage, capacity to think honestly and critically and objectively, and has some real warmth and loving-kindness for oneself and others in general, and a sense of humor(!), then such a person ought to be able to Love others and oneself in a very healthy and stable way.

      Most people who do not love others cannot love others because they are underdeveloped in terms of their level of thinking, courage, emotional maturity, conscience (virtue; moral goodness), and their capacity to be objective and reasonable (to see the wooden beam in their own eye). Mature love is a capacity that has to be nurtured and grown into, and as a society we are doing a pretty lousy job of encouraging this and supporting this–or even understanding the importance of it!

      Thanks again for your comment, Kristin! (and ps. check your spam folder–I’ve tried to comment on a few of your posts in the last few weeks, and I don’t think any of my comments have shown up on your blog, so I’m assuming they were sent to your spam folder.)

      Kindest regards,


  10. janeadamsart says:

    I resonate with what “C” said above – “I think the outcome seeking is what brings any relationship to an end.” In life terms there is necessary outcome – home, kids, etc. But existentially, the absence of outcome seeking is … love. I don’t know which way my partner may turn, but I try not to be tense about it. On romance and real love: I’ve observed people brought together by a passion which is actually the magnetic field of issues they were destined to work out or at least experience and express in full. It happened to me. First it is love, later it is violence, psychological or physical. From the ashes of mutual projection can grow the capacity of loving, once these are seen and understood. In a relationship we push the boat out over steep waves as we collide each others’ stuff. Later, we reach the open sea beyond the landward waves/Karmic activity, things calm down, love begins to breathe, to blend and to grow. When I was 20, I stood on pont neuf in Paris with my sweetheart then (we were living rough) and looked at all the radiant romance, sex and infatuation going on, and knew that “in-love” (where I was at that time) is not love. Love is something ripeness and sobriety brings, it goes much deeper and far further. Love is with the other’s humanity. Being then very young and unripe, but still having the elder insight, it took … oh well … decades to ripen, and let go the romantic habit. Painful, frustrating, but all worth while!

    • John says:

      Hello Jane,

      Thank you for the very insightful and well-written comment!

      I am not at the point of anything like Fritz Perl’s maxim–(“I do my thing and you do your thing. I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, And you are not in this world to live up to mine. You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful. If not, it can’t be helped.”) I think he goes too far the other way and is an over-correcting–it’s too narcissistic and too solipsistic. But I get it. If a person has been accommodating and compromising too much, then Fritz’s words will resonate strongly–the person is ready to break out, break free, break the chains, start living out loud, be true to thine own self, et cetera. Independence like this looks like freedom and the right thing to do. But it’s not. Interdependence is But not many people get to that.

      I’m much more of a Prayer of St. Francis type person–seek first to understand, see things from a larger perspective–especially from a perspective larger than the self (the smaller self, the ego), be a team player (part of team humankind).

      So long answer short, I still think that there is some outcome-seeking that is necessary in a relationship and in love (real love)–and that is that each person grows and matures spiritually and psychologically because of the association. People need to work out their issues, get past projecting, become more conscious and aware of what lies beneath their own surface and what is driving them or what they’re running from. And if this isn’t done ahead of time (before entering into a relationship and experiencing strong attraction to another) through a lot of inner work and or therapy and or study, then when it inevitably comes to the surface in a romantic relationship, what ensues is often a real mess, and usually the kind that two people are too underdeveloped to be able to hang on through and work through.

      Thank you again for your very insightful comment, Jane!

      Kindest regards,


  11. Anonymous says:

    True love never dies. True love is to love god! For a husband may leave his wife, he might escape her side, but no one can ever escape the love of god, he is everywhere, & u cant escape his mercy

  12. If it feels like love, acts like love, hurts and gives joy, like love, then who are you to say it isn’t love? Did yesterday not exist because it is gone? I don’t think so.

    • John says:

      Hello TeTee, thanks for reading and for the comment. And that is the point of this blog — to discuss what love is and is not. Thanks for contributing to the discussion.

Comments (feel free to speak your mind and even to disagree!)

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s