The connection between romance and summer was suggested by the Canadian literary critic Northrop Frye. He associated the seasons with literary genres or plot forms which included comedy with spring, romance with summer, tragedy with autumn, and satire with winter. He also recognized the archetypal pattern and symbols that occur within each genre.
Romance and summer are paired because summer is the culmination of life in the seasonal calendar, and the romance genre culminates with some sort of triumph, usually a marriage. Symbols of summer (at least for the northern hemisphere) include idyllic and lush gardens filled with bountiful fruits, pastoral animals and gently running rivers.
However, it is romance’s idealistic nature that is key to understanding its psychological relevance.
Fyre noted that in romance “the ordinary laws of nature are slightly suspended.” This idealism results in the presence of beautiful heroes with super-human qualities and continual days of perfect weather. An attitude of hope, dreams coming true and wish-fulfillment abound. There is relief from the usual discomforts and anxieties. Could this be paradise?
When we fall in love or experience what is commonly called ‘romantic love,’ we enter the ‘summer’ of the relationship. In the early stages, everything seems perfect. What we barely know about the other person is filled in with our own hopes and wishes. “He will make my life better.” “She thinks I’m so special.”
This projection (or placing an ideal image onto the partner) is the stuff that romance (and heartache) is made from. This is especially so with on-line dating or with blind dates, as there are often huge voids in knowledge about the person. The boundary between what is real and what is wished for is blurred. The fantasy has been created.
Whether one puts lofty romantic expectations onto an event (e.g., a social outing, holiday) or onto a potential lover, this psychological phenomenon cannot last. Eventually, summer ends, greenery turns to autumn colours, the harvesting begins and winter’s barrenness approaches.
What are some of your expectations around summer (e.g., weather, activities, people and food)? Are these expectations realistic? How do you feel about those ‘perfect’ (or near perfect) days of summer? What is so appealing about these days? How do you feel about the approaching autumn?
Concerning a romantic partner, recall the early days in the relationship. What were you hoping so dearly for? How have those beginning expectations and illusions softened? What growth has come because of these shifts?
Death comes – it is inevitable. Idyllic fantasies fade and one must face all what life brings. Outside of summer’s illusions, situations and lovers must be picked apart, must be seen as they truly are. What helps is to approach summery experiences with a sacred attitude, maturely knowing that the illusion of endless carefree days will end and that no situation, season or person can be solely responsible for making us truly happy.