Year of Questions: Can you live a full life without love?

Back in January Tim Gunn surprised people by announcing that he hadn’t had sex in 30 years. I have friends that have spent years at a time interested only in casual sex, or that don’t seem interested in a relationship but it often looks like a response (sometimes delayed) to one that went wrong.

Is it possible to be truly satisfied  in your life without the love associated with a relationship? And are we biologically hardwired for love as opposed to just sex / procreation? …….or is it not possible to separate those things?


5 thoughts on “Year of Questions: Can you live a full life without love?”

  1. You know, this is something I think about pretty frequently. As a child growing up, I witnessed my parents exhibit a lot of emotions toward each other, but romantic love was rarely one of them. They were alternately partners, adversaries, friends, enemies, and everything in between, and I know that they loved each other as human beings, but at a certain point in their relationship, I know they stopped loving each other romantically. I often wondered what that must have been like: living without that kind of love. It seemed dismal at times, but in a strange way, it also seemed easier.

    A life entirely without love would be a purposeless one indeed, but love doesn’t always come from a sexual or romantic partner. There’s love between friends and among family members, love that is perhaps even stronger than romantic love.

    If I were to choose a life without romantic love, I would need something I was acutely passionate about; something I could devote my life to. And I think that’s possible; I think there are people out there who are born activists, or artists, or leaders, who see relationships as tangential rather than central. They find passion and fulfillment in other things, and I think that makes just as much sense.

    There are people that say you haven’t lived a full life unless you’ve had children; I think that’s just patently false. Having children is a personal life choice, one that works for some and doesn’t work for others, and it’s probably fair to say that engaging in romantic relationships is in a similar vein.

    I’m a bit cynical, I’ll admit. In the modern age, do human beings still need romantic love to create lives of worth? The answer is: no. We don’t. But personally, I still like the idea of it. It’s nice. Even with the hassle that accompanies it.

    1. Thanks for the comment Emma. Watching my parents’ relationship I wondered the same thing at times. I think the truth is that there are always tradeoffs so I certainly wouldn’t argue that doing the traditional thing is inherently bad, but I do think it complicates the question of how to create a life that matters because suddenly you are involved in someone else’s quest for the same thing. Both my brother and sister are married and have kids, and while I love them very much I think it’s fairly obvious that they are constricted in significant ways by those two decisions.

      My single friends who are older, mid-30s and 40s, tell me they often feel an undercurrent of disdain (or at a minimum, surprise) when they are engaged in conversation with married people. I think that’s a shame because you’re right that it comes down to a personal choice. I’m reminded of a quote by James Alan McPherson (great writer, check out his memoir if you haven’t run into it yet –…

      “A value is not a value as long as it depends on something else for its’ existence”

      I don’t believe that there is an inherent value in the institution of marriage that transcends the quality of the relationship between two people. In other words, the structure is useless if what’s inside doesn’t have an openly defined value for both people. Same goes for any romantic relationship…sidenote, does the word “romantic” drive you crazy at all? It feels like one of those words that’s been hashed and re-hashed so many times it almost doesn’t mean anything.

      1. You’re absolutely right! The word “romantic” has almost become the antithesis of what it’s supposed to mean – I just can’t seem to find a word to use in its place. Wish I could, though. “Romance” in general seems to be all about the spectacle, roses and wine and flowers, all that. That’s not what love is. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

        It often seems to me like some people get married because they think it’s a logical next step – like that’s just what they’re supposed to do, and what they’re supposed to want. And don’t even get me started on the societal pressure to just-hurry-up-and-get-married – I’d venture to say that alone has led to more divorces than money issues and infidelity combined.

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