Love means having no room for 'romance'


It's still too soon to be properly certain, but this weekend is looking likely to be a good one. There's a new film out, parts of Britain have actually seen the sun, and there is absolutely no obligation to do anything romantic. Romance is over, or rather "romance". Not just for the week, but for good. (It's nearly spring, so optimism is in the air.)

The new film, This Is 40, at least gives us some hope that this may be true. A sort-of sequel to 2007's Knocked Up, it is a romcom without the "romance", focusing on the older couple, who have children, are turning 40 … and are all right. The fluffy idealism of loved-up youth? Don't look here. This is marriage as they don't sell it on, and it's really none the worse for not being pink and made of chocolate-flavoured candy.

Curiously, this is also the inference of another new film, Before Midnight, which was shown at the Berlin Film Festival last week. This is the third film in a beautiful set which started in 1995 with Before Sunrise, and continued in 2004 with Before Sunset. It stars the same couple, Jesse and Celine, played by Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, but long after the atmosphere of night-time Vienna.

I loved the first movie, which I saw when I was 19. I thought the second one was even better. Now that I'm older, and over endless talking about feelings beside misty canal banks, I really hope that this third, about a mature, loving relationship, will be the least romantic movie ever made.

Perhaps cynical journalists are more jaded than most about "romance". You would be too, if you had received several dozen Valentine's press releases last week trying to make cutesy lovehearts relevant to their hotel chains, carpet shops and books about snails. You'd be especially sick of it if you'd recently seen advertised a "budget" wedding for no more than 20 grand. (Hey, brides, guess what? Your marriage will still be legally binding even if your wedding meal contains literally no gold leaf.)

Anyone who had to use public transport on Thursday will probably understand. A bus or Tube carriage can feel pretty crowded when it has more than a couple of women in it, one of whom has received a slightly smaller bouquet than the others. Awkward.

Perhaps it's because they're miserable old cynics that so many people welcomed the news from the Marriage Foundation last week, which revealed that the divorce rate for couples after they have been married for 10 years has not changed since the 1960s. Proof, surely, of my theory: it's the young romantics who get angsty about floral arrangements, who marry in haste, and who spend more time matching their wedding stationery to their hair accessories than they do to what it says in their marriage vows. It's the hard-headed realists who mistrust the bells and roses, and who are in it for the long haul.

After 10 years, it seems, meaningful relationships are as stable and reliable as ever, as long as you can dodge the "romance".

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