Romantic attraction is not merely a matter of physical and emotional preferences. Human beings are social creatures. More often than not, what other people think of our partner is as important as our own personal opinion. One young woman wrote to IRES stating that she had decided to give up a boyfriend whom she liked very much because he was a very poor dresser and would not be acceptable to her friends. That may sound extreme to some, but most of us take the views of family or friends into consideration in one way or another. Differences in wealth, social status, culture, class and religion may seem dated and irrelevant in today's cosmopolitan, egalitarian world. But in most cases the outer distinctions which society makes correspond to real psychological differences between people that may seem irrelevant during the early stages of infatuation. But when relationships founded on romantic attraction eventually settle down to more mundane daily life, these differences can resurface with vehement force and override all other considerations. The secret formula for successful relationship involves a delicate balance between similarity and difference. The contrasts are the source of the energy and intensity that characterize true romance. The similarities are the source of the underlying harmony which supports stable and lasting relationship.
Frank & Megan (A Summer Story)
On first impression the lure of personal appeal may be so strong that it overrides social considerations, only to reappear later on and play havoc with a relationship. While on a hike in rural England in 1902, Frank Ashton, a handsome, good-natured young lawyer from London, chances to meet a beautiful, innocent country girl, Megan David, and they fall in love. He postpones his return to the city in order to spend a few days at the farm owned by Megan's aunt and her cousin Joe. Joe had long ago laid claim to Megan as his future wife, but never succeeded in getting her consent to tie the knot. Megan is fully charmed by Frank's elegant behavior, poetic inspiration and genuine attraction for her. Frank is infatuated by Megan's natural beauty and sincere behavior, unadorned by fancy dress or fine manners. After confessing their mutual affection, they have a brief love affair, before Megan's aunt senses coming trouble and asks Frank to leave.
Frank tells Megan he will go to the nearest town, Torquay, to draw some money from the bank and then return to take her back with him to London and eventually make her his wife. She questions whether he could ever be content with a country girl like her. Under the aura of her presence, Frank assures her that he would and asks her to meet him the following night at a rendezvous, so they can go away together. On reaching Torquay, Frank goes to the bank and is told it will take at least five hours to get the necessary telegraphic confirmation from his bank in London, which means he will miss the train back to Megan and be late for their rendezvous. Meanwhile he runs into an old college friend and his friend's beautiful, flirtatious sister Stella. They compel him to spend the intervening time in their company, during which Stella develops an attraction for Frank. Frank returns to the bank that afternoon to find that the telegram has not yet arrived, so he is forced to remain the night in Torquay and hope to catch the last train of the week the following morning. He and Stella spend the evening together and begin to develop feelings for one another.
Frank knew that he was honor bound to return for Megan after promising to do so, but the longer he was away from her and the more time he spent with Stella, the more he became conscious of the great social distance separating him from the beautiful country lass and the less eager he was to live up to his promise. His inability to draw the money and return on schedule were reflections of his own subconscious reluctance to do so. The next morning Frank rushed to the bank and was finally able to get his money after a protracted negotiation, but by then he was too late to catch the train back to Megan. By now he had begun to feel that Providence was preventing his return. He was also unaware that Megan arrived in Torquay the same morning and has been walking the streets searching for him. Walking on the beach with Stella, Frank suddenly spies Megan in the distance. He follows her with the intention of catching up, but decides at the last moment not to pursue her. She leaves and they never meet again. Twenty years later, he returns to the farm accompanied by Stella, whom he has married. He learns that when Megan returned to the farm from Torquay, she discovered she was pregnant and died giving birth to Frank's child.
Frank certainly feels love for Megan and wants her, but he lacks the strength to follow his heart in opposition to the prevailing social values of his day. We may rightly fault Frank for his weakness and insincerity, but we should not underestimate the very real challenges that arise in relationships between people from very different social and cultural backgrounds. Megan would have felt as out of place and embarrassed in London society as Frank did sheering sheep on her aunt's farm. She would have been an affectionate partner and mother to his children, but hardly a suitable companion for his public life as an aspiring lawyer. Frank may have been genuinely attracted by her natural beauty and fresh innocence, but he lacked the strength of emotional commitment and idealism to make that a sufficient basis for lasting relationship. Megan was strongly attracted to the gentleness and refinement that education and urban breeding can impart. She felt herself in the presence of a superior human being, mistaking external refinement for real strength of character. Foregoing Joe's intense, but rustic affection, she decided to remain true to Frank and died of a broken-heart.
When Frank returns 20 years later to find out what happened to Megan, we learn that he did marry Stella. The tone of authority with which she gives him instructions says much about the nature of their marriage. Frank has chosen social acceptability over true affection and now he has to live with it. It does not appear that he possessed the strength of character and depth of affection for any other choice.
Anna & Frederick (Lady Anna)
The attraction of high society and culture is wonderfully brought out in this Anthony Trollope novel of a beautiful woman named Josephine who marries a wealthy but depraved earl and gives birth to a baby girl, Anna, before both mother and daughter are disowned and cast out penniless. Wrongfully deprived of wealth and aristocratic title, they are forced to depend on the hospitality and generosity of a tailor and his son, Daniel, for sustenance and protection. In the course of the years they spend together growing up in the same house, Daniel and Anna quite naturally fall in love and secretly pledge to marry when Anna comes of age. She is high born, beautiful, and good-hearted but impoverished. He is low born, intelligent, ambitious and strong. After years of legal wrangling, it appears that the Josephine and Anna may finally regain their titles and vast wealth. The earl's nephew Frederick, who has inherited his title, now stands to lose the entire family property to Anna. In the interest of the family, the lawyers and relatives bring Anna and Frederick together in the hope that they may like each other and agree to marry, reuniting the title and the estate by their alliance.
In spite of initial misgivings, the task proves pleasant enough for Frederick. He finds Anna beautiful, pure, charming and good in every way. With the prospect of fabulous wealth as a bonus, he is readily willing to pledge his heart to the young heiress. For Anna things are more difficult. Fiercely loyal to Daniel out of gratitude for all he and his father have done, she has grave reservations about even meeting Frederick and is firmly set on refusing him. But in consenting to the visit, she failed to take into account the power which culture and refinement add to that of youthful elegance and charming demeanor. Anna finds herself nearly overpowered by the fragrance of his nobility and the softness of his voice and manner. She is unable to deny the striking difference between this beautiful young man and the rough-hewn tailor's son she is pledged to. Only her fierce emotional loyalty and unbending mental determination prevent her from succumbing to the attraction. Asserting against the unrelenting pressure of her mother, she insists on marrying Daniel, but satisfies her relatives by evenly sharing the earl's wealth with Frederick.
Pride & Prejudice
Attracted by physical beauty or youthful exuberance, many underestimate the importance of social and cultural elements in relationship. Elizabeth's father, Mr. Bennet made that error when he married the lovely and lively daughter of a small town, middle class lawyer. As an educated, intelligent landed aristocrat, he might have known that crossing class boundaries can lead to difficulties later on. Once married, he found himself bound in relationship to a brainless, energetic woman who expressed every random thought that came into her head, complained constantly of nervous agitation and took countless initiatives that embarrassed or annoyed her husband, who finally sought permanent sanctuary in the privacy of his own library. He would have been fortunate had his difficulties ended there, but they did not. Together they gave life to five daughters who inherited a confusing mixture of traits from their parents. The first, Jane, acquired her mother's beauty and lack of intelligence combined with her father's high values and sense of refinement. The second, Elizabeth, inherited her mother's liveliness and boldness combined with her father's intelligence, perception, wit and an indomitable cheerfulness all her own. The third daughter was caught between two stools, acquiring neither beauty nor good sense. The two youngest hopelessly resembled their mother, only on the lower rather than the higher side of her personality, running madly after every handsome man they encountered without a modicum of judgment or self-restraint.
Tortured for years by the vast cultural differences between them, Mr. Bennet was shocked to find the same issues playing out in the life of his favorite daughter. Darcy struggled for long before deciding to propose to Elizabeth, because he had seen her mother and sisters display their ill-breeding too often and knew that the inferior status of her family would be frowned on by the high society in which he moves. Elizabeth's friend Charlotte urged her not to spurn Darcy's interest in her just because he is proud, arrogant and somewhat offensive, because in Charlotte's view his fabulous wealth and high social status more than offset any personal blemishes in his behavior and character. After rejecting Darcy's initial proposal, she becomes fully conscious for the first time of just how shameful her mother and sisters really are and is distraught when she perceives that she shares many of the same traits herself, though in a less obvious form. A central theme of the story is the personal struggle Elizabeth undergoes to overcome the weaknesses she inherits from her parents, so she truly qualifies herself to marry a man who lives up to her own highest expectations.
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Behind every successful man there is a woman, is a well known saying that reflects a deeper truth. Relationships founded upon mutual recognition, respect and admiration provide a firm and stable foundation for high and lasting achievement. Affection is of the heart. It is intense, but that intensity cannot be sustained without a strong element of admiration for the other person’s attributes, character and values. Admiration elevates and ennobles affection. When a woman knows that her partner is completely truthful, incapable of deceit, it generates a deep, endearing trust that adds sweetness to their affection and sustains the relationship through turbulent times. When a man knows his partner will never fault him for making mistakes or reject him for failure, the relationship becomes unshakably strong and affection matures into deeper love.
The movie Cinderella Man portrays the true story of boxer Jim Braddock. The movie depicts the years of poverty and suffering that he and his family underwent during the Great Depression when injuries forced him to give up a promising boxing career and work as a longshoreman to feed his family. Behind the scenes he was supported by his wife Mae, who remained unshakably committed to him and her children during years of great physical and emotional hardship. Her intense and unwavering affection for Jim are founded on a deep admiration for his good values—his sense of responsibility to his family, his honesty and his innate goodness. His character backed by her deep admiration gave Jim the strength, protection and courageous determination needed to stage a remarkable comeback, when against ten to one odds he defeated Max Baer to become heavyweight champion of the world in 1935.
Mr. and Mrs. Gardiner are close relatives of the Bennet family in Pride and Prejudice. They are both intelligent, sensible, good natured people. But more than the similarity in their natures, it is their love and admiration for one another that stands out. When Mrs. Gardiner invites her niece, Jane, to stay with her in London, or her other niece, Elizabeth, to join them on a monthly long vacation, she does not even need to consult her husband before, so deep is his trust in her judgment and discretion. And rightly so, for he admires his wife’s good motives and always approves of her decisions. When Mr. Gardiner’s work in London necessitates a change of their travel plans, he does not need to manage a wife’s disappointment or anger. Mrs. Gardiner accepts the change and eagerly looks forward to the altered plan, which takes Elizabeth to Pemberley where she meets and ultimately marries Darcy. When Mr. Gardiner promises to assist his sister’s family in finding their youngest daughter, Lydia, who has eloped, he knows his wife will support him, even if it requires a very substantial expenditure of money in order to ensure his niece’s marriage. The good values found in each of the partners and their mutual respect and admiration make their relationship harmonious and joyful. That relationship served as a strong foundation for Mr. Gardiner’s success in business and the prosperity that has come to the family through his enterprise. It also enabled them to rise socially. When Elizabeth marries Darcy, the Gardiners gain admission to the highest level of English society.
The Chauffeur’s Daughter (Sabrina)
Sabrina is the story of an exceptional young woman who is the daughter of the Larrabee family’s chauffeur. Her father, Thomas Fairchild, is a kind, affectionate widower who chose driving as his occupation so that he would have more time for reading. Sabrina Fairchild is a shy, awkward teenager madly infatuated with the Larrabee’s younger son David, a strikingly handsome and charming playboy who has the pick of New England society women longing for his attentions. His older brother, Linus, is a hard-nosed, serious businessman who has expanded a successful family business into the world's largest communications company, while David cavorts with one woman after another.
After a year studying in Paris, Sabrina returns to the Larrabee’s Long Island estate transformed into a mature, strikingly beautiful woman who captivates David at their first meeting. David suddenly wants to break off his engagement to Elizabeth Tyson, an attractive physician whose father is negotiating a mega-merger with Linus. Alarmed that David’s change of heart could jeopardize his deal with the Tysons, Linus intervenes to woo Sabrina away from David so that David’s marriage and the Tyson deal can be completed. Initially Sabrina is unable to believe that Linus could be interested in her or any woman, but when he explains that she has opened his eyes to all he has been missing in life, her heart begins to melt. The idea of saving Linus from a meaningless life in pursuit of more wealth through the joy, love and affection of intimacy deeply appeals to her heart’s goodness and mind’s idealism. Although he lacks the charming manners of David, she discovers a deeper value in Linus as a human being and begins to feels an ennobling love for him that is both intense and uplifting.
At the last moment, Linus confesses to her his real intentions and arranges for her to be reunited with David. Unable to switch her affections from one man to another on a moment’s notice, she decides to go back to Paris to nurse her broken heart and build a new life. Before her departure, her father reveals that he has earned $2 million on the stock market by listening to what was spoken by the Larrabees in their car and that money is intended for her. When David learns that Linus is capable of sacrificing the deal of a lifetime for the sake of the chauffeur’s daughter, he realizes that Linus must feel a love for Sabrina that he himself is incapable of feeling for any woman. So he commits himself to marry Elizabeth, takes over negotiations on the Tyson deal and dispatches Linus to Paris where he is reunited with Sabrina.
Linus is hardly a romantic figure, but he comes to feel a very deep admiration and affection for Sabrina that he did not believe he was capable of. She is an exceptional woman capable of an idealistic love combined with rich emotional intensity. It is significant that she inherits substantial wealth even before Linus decides to go after her. Her rich emotional goodness is golden. It brings prosperity to her father and to the whole Larabee family.
The Countess and the Earl (Lady Anna)
Admiration arises from awareness and respect for the other person’s good character and high values. Love based on admiration is not diminished by passage of time or physical separation. It can overcome the greatest of challenges as it did in Anthony Trollope’s novel Lady Anna. Josephine Murray is a beautiful young woman without money who marries an aging and disreputable earl for his title and money, only to be told later that the earl was already married to an Italian woman so that Josephine could never claim either property or aristocratic lineage. Refusing to live with the earl on any other terms, Josephine and her young daughter Anna take refuge in the home of a tailor who takes pity on her misfortune and expends his entire life savings in legal proceedings to help her reclaim her rightful position as Countess and heir to the deceased earl’s property. Anna forms a close friendship with the tailor’s son Daniel. Unknown to their parents, they gradually fall in love and Anna pledges to marry Daniel when she comes of age.
Meanwhile legal proceedings rage between Josephine and the earl’s other living descendent, Anna’s handsome cousin Frederick, who seeks the earl’s property as a fitting complement to the title which he has recently inherited. Both sides of the family conclude that the best possible solution is to marry Anna and Frederick so that property and title can remain in the family. The two cousins are both attracted to one another, but Anna remains true to her pledge of marrying the tailor’s son. Although she is captivated by Frederick’s graceful appearance and fine behavior, Anna greatly admires the idealism of Daniel and his father who have sacrificed so much for her.
When her mother discovers that the only remaining obstacle to victory in her two decade long quest for legitimacy is a silly marriage pledge between two children, she exerts intense pressure on Anna to go back on her promise. Anna feels intense loyalty and gratitude to Daniel and refuses to break her pledge. When she refuses to give in to the charms of Frederick or the pressure of family, Josephine shoots and wounds Daniel in a fit of desperation. Ultimately Anna’s claim to the property and the title are upheld and she marries the tailor’s son. Out of sheer generosity, she offers half of her enormous inheritance to Frederick, and thereby heal the breech that had divided the family. Anna chose emotional admiration and loyalty over vital attraction and social acceptance.
Rose & Gregory (The Mirror has two faces)
In a story that goes to extremes to illustrate a profound truth about romantic relationships, Gregory Larkin, a handsome but socially awkward math professor, seeks to escape from the lure of sexual attraction which has been the cause of so many failed relationships for him in the past. So he advertizes for a woman who seeks the purity of an intimate relationship free of sexuality. Homely looking English professor Rose Morgan is introduced to Gregory by her sister without knowing anything about his unusual quest and they strike up a close relationship. Rose is strongly attracted by Greg’s appearance, charmed by his crazy notions, flattered by the interest of a handsome man, and secretly hoping that Greg will fulfill her long frustrated dreams of romantic love. She decides to play by his rules. They marry and maintain a platonic relationship. Over time they develop deep respect, appreciation and affection for one another. Gregory is delighted. Rose is frustrated. Finally she asks him to sleep with her. He agrees then refuses at the last moment, because he feels the old, uncontrollable lust overwhelming his higher feelings of affection. Rose feels rejected and leaves him, then refuses to answer his calls while he is on a summer lecture tour in Europe. Rose goes on a diet, resorts to makeup and changes her style of dressing. When he returns he finds her transformed into a sexually alluring woman. Instead of being pleased, he is terrified and distressed. He wants the old homely Rose back whom he can love for her mind and heart, rather than lust after for her body. Finally they come to terms. She recognizes the depth of his love and acceptance of her. He accepts sexuality as a natural part of truly romantic love. The story is fanciful, but the truth it expresses carries a message for all those who long for true and lasting romance.
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