This Is Why We Love the One We Love

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But there are plenty of exceptions to the rule that a preponderance of bad times in the past should make you break things off. You may start off on the wrong foot, for example, but then go on to develop a beautiful romantic relationship.

Contrary to the history view, the current status of your relationship should matter a great deal more than what has happened in the past. Admittedly, things can happen that are absolute deal breakers, such as a severe betrayal of trust, but bad things that happen can also often be forgiven and forgotten.

*** Before concluding, a remark on the difference between romantic love and parental love: A fallout, a lack of shared interests, parental pressure to give up most of your core values, an extended period of separation from your child, and so on may be justificatory reasons for ceasing to love a friend or a romantic partner, but they are not justificatory reasons for ceasing to love your child. So whereas the physical and psychological attributes of a romantic partner can give you justificatory reasons to love a person romantically, your parental connection to your child is the only defensible justificatory reason for loving the child.

The unique justificatory reason you have for loving your child carries with it a duty to love your child. While you have no duty to love any particular person romantically, you have an ethical obligation to love your child. How the child treats you or others ought not to affect your love. Of course, you have the freedom to give up your parental rights or terminate your parental status, at least assuming that certain conditions are satisfied. The love of your child can even mandate giving up parental rights: If you are not in a position to provide acceptable parental care, the love of your child may require a reassignment of the job of parenting to someone else. The new caregiver will now owe it to the child to provide “good enough” care (O’Neill, 2000; Prusak, 2008).

Berit “Brit” Brogaard is the author of On Romantic Love.