"It does not matter who the two persons are. Whether the marriage was arranged by other...the act of will should guarantee the continuation of love."
Sexual desire and romantic love have often been mistaken for two separate, opposing entities. While reading articles written by great philosophers such as Sartre, Blackburn, and Fromm, I noticed that they all use the two terms as if their meanings were like day and night. Fromm discusses in his writings the idea that desire is a feeling that fades, while love is a commitment that lasts. This article will explore the interconnecting relationship between desire and love, and consider the fact that Eric Fromm’s writings may not be as accurate as his readers may have presumed.
Eric Fromm suggests in his writings that desire is deceptive because people mistake desire for love, but the desire fades and “...leaves strangers as far apart as they were before.” Even the philosopher Sartre believes that sexual desire can never truly be fulfilled. Both Sartre and Fromm agree that it will still leave the person feeling empty inside because it is a temporary feeling. Fromm’s most important idea in his article is that desire is nothing but a feeling, while love is much more than that; it is a commitment. Sexual desire lacks the intent of staying with the person. With love, the act of will and commitment is what makes the relationship prosper. Since Fromm believes that romantic love is a promise made by a person, he states that even two people, who have had an arranged marriage, can truly be in love.
If love is a commitment, a promise, and a judgement, the person who is making this choice needs a foundation to base their commitment on. Their commitment does not need to be based on a sexual act, but instead on the desire to be physically close with the other person. If this was not the case, then we could justifiably say that any person in the room with us is a prospect to receive that promise we can give. This is not feasible, because if it were, a heterosexual person would be able to have the exclusive Eros love with a person that is of the same sex as them. If there is no initial desire for the other person, anything more is not considered.
As mentioned earlier, Fromm believes that sexual desire is deceptive. He believes that sexual desire is deceptive because “it is often confused for the explosive experience of 'falling' in love." Sexual desire is not deceptive. The hidden agendas, expectations, and the willingness to continue the relationship after the desire has faded, of the two individuals, are what can be deceiving. If one of the individuals was willing to continue the relationship after the desire had faded, but the other was not, how can sexual desire itself be deceptive?
In Fromm’s article, he claims, "It does not matter who the two persons are. Whether the marriage was arranged by others...the act of will should guarantee the continuation of love." If love is an act of will and commitment as Fromm mentions, then it is initially not the act of the two individuals, but instead the act of the parents who had arranged the marriage. The commitment that the two individuals are making is not of love, but it is a commitment to be happy to please their parents or other (culture, religion, etc). With these two individuals making a commitment to be “in love," contradicts the phrase, “falling in love." The phrase is used so often because there is truth in it. Love in this sense is an evolving feeling, not a slow fall into commitment. Commitment is a decision, while love is a process.
Critics may argue that desire does not have an interconnected relationship with love because if it did, then we would all be with our exclusive partner after our first contact with sexual desire. The critics may even use an example of two individuals in a bar setting, that have sexual desire for each other, spend the evening together, and then never speak again. Then they ask me, “Why did their desire not evolve into love?” The simple answer is that it is up to the two individuals involved whether they continue a relationship with each other.
Desire is the seed planted, which would grow into love. This does not necessarily mean that every single occurrence of sexual desire will flourish into love. This is merely saying that the opportunity is there. Just like any seed, how you nurture and care for the seed, determines on how, and what the seed will grow into. If you neglect the seed, nothing will happen. With this being said, if the two individuals who had initially had sexual desire for each other (not meaning they had to act upon their desires), continue their relationship and allow it to grow into something more, then the possibility of the growth of love is very likely.
For the extreme pessimists, this example may still not be enough for them. They may say that a feeling is something that comes and goes, and cannot possibly flourish into anything more than just a feeling. For these critics, I would ask them if they have ever heard of depression. Depression stems from the feeling of sadness. Depression is not a feeling, but a state of mind. If the feeling of sadness is not taken care of, it can lead to something more than what it had started off being. Since depression is the growth of sadness, which is a feeling, it is possible for love to be the growth of the feeling desire.
To conclude, sexual desire and romantic love have an interconnected relationship and are not opposing entities as Fromm and other philosophers have suggested. In fact, they are dependent on each other. Love begins at the desire to be physically close with the other person, and can flourish depending on the two individuals involved. The only thing that is deceptive is a person who is deceiving, not the desire itself. As I had mentioned in the opening paragraph, many of the philosophers portray the two entities as day and night. Perhaps the meaning is not because they are so opposite, but because they are so related. The day always gives in to the night.