Romantic love was not always embraced to the vacuous extent that it is today. There was a time where it was treated more like a disease. The irrational and often harmful decisions that it could lead to (see Romeo and Juliet) were viewed as a threat to the survival of families and communities who depended on strategic marriages to accumulate more wealth, resources, and notoriety in society. Being struck by an arrow from Cupid’s Bow was a curse or form of punishment that had to be remedied.
In many ways, romantic love does still threaten the survival of certain groups. Those in lower socio-economic classes, women of colour, and who identify as LGBTQIA+ are especially vulnerable to the dangers of romantic love; it's more risky, dangerous, and even life-threatening for these groups to walk away from an infatuation that is toxic or abusive. They are more likely to lack access to adequate resources or groups that could support them in cutting ties from these relationships. It can be exponentially more damaging to their finances, careers, mental and physical health, and other consequences that we presently have no way of quantifying or sufficiently understanding the full extent of. The ability to walk away from a romance gone awry with your finances still in tact and your heart a bit bruised is a privilege.
As a largely western concept that survives on narratives fed to us via capitalist structures, romantic love can be manipulative and destructive, something we see represented in The Lovers card by the snake underneath Adam’s foot. There are negative consequences to erratic, undisciplined love.
Still, partnerships and love as an emotional and natural biological response to a union is a tenet of humanity that we largely owe our survival to. At its core, what The Lovers represent is a partnership; a union. The concept of survival that ties into these partnerships is depicted in the fire on the stick held by Adam. Like fire, love was a necessary step in our evolution to arrive at where we are today. Love led us to form tight-knit families and communities that proved we were stronger together. It made us smarter when we centred it around our wellbeing and when working for it was in our best interest.
I still consider myself a romantic — I love love. But I'm a sucker for the type of romance that comes from a place of alignment with each other's wants, needs, and values. The most rewarding form of love takes work and an acceptance of responsibility, the product of which is reliable and exists as a pillar of support in our endeavours to achieve our versions of success, happiness, and spiritual fulfillment.