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The Romeo and Juliet Complex: Do You Have it?

Updated on June 6, 2015
Dr Billy Kidd profile image

Dr. Billy Kidd researched romantic relationships for 15 years. He held focus groups in various cities across the nation.

What Is the Romeo and Juliet Complex?

Most of us have heard something about Shakespeare’s most famous couple Romeo and Juliet. But do we ever stop to think about how dysfunctional their relationship really was—so dysfunctional that it killed them?

And do we ever wonder why their type of dramatic in-love, go-crazy relationship is so compelling that we practice it today—hundreds of years after the play was written? Let’s stop and look at this--the Romeo and Juliet Complex--because so many of us have it that it keeps the pop music companies in business!

As it went, Romeo and Juliet fell in love at first sight. Then, they rebelled against their parents and secretly got married. But the mad rush to connect suddenly caught up with them when Juliet’s wealthy family arranged for her to marry a well-connected suitor.


To brush them all off, Juliet faked her death so she could steal away with Romeo and live anonymously in another town. But her message about what she was doing never caught up to him. So when Romeo heard about her death, he thought he’d lost his one-and-only, forever lover. Despondent, he killed himself. Later, when Juliet heard that Romeo had died, she killed herself, too

Going Crazy About Someone You Don't Really Know

This is, of course, the epitome of a very high-stress relationship—one that really pushes the envelope and takes the drama on over the top. So I really shouldn’t have to warn you about following the example set down by Romeo and Juliet. But all too many individuals fall into romantic affiliations that are based on the same underlying relationship template.

That pattern is to throw caution to the wind and go crazy about someone who you don’t really know. Then, you’re supposed to ride the in-love wave all the way through the marriage ceremony to the honeymoon, and beyond, until it crashes at the door of the lawyer’s office. When you dry off, you blame your ex-partner. Then you pick up a new one, and off you go again.

Why Do So Many People Do This?

Individuals do this because the predominant American model of partner affiliation leading to marriage is patterned after the relationship between Romeo and Juliet. This model glorifies the in-love passionate style of romance where strangers fall madly in love. After they flip out, they’re supposed to rush to the altar and get married before they really get to know each other. You know, the way your parents probably did it.

The fact is that during the mid-twentieth century, this in-love style of partnering was socially sanctioned. That was because it supposedly legitimized sexual relationships. Sex wasn’t supposed to be just about pleasure because that was seen as undermining the family. As a result, just like Romeo and Juliet, so many couples had dysfunctional relationships.

Individuals Fail to Learn The Relationship Basics

What's the problem here? Well, the trouble begins because individuals never really learn to confide in their partners when they try to have serious relationships with strangers. Nor do they treat each other with the respect that one gives to a best friend. They also do not know how to problem-solve an issue that creates stress in their lives. And they probably don’t know how to help their partners handle life’s everyday problems because they don’t know them well enough.

Until they have kids, the only tie that binds them together is going goofy over each other.

It’s no wonder that when the relationship stress builds up, lots of couples start an endless argument. Soon, nobody knows or cares what they are arguing about. All they know is that they’ve got to win. Yet they might end up staying together for the kids’ sake or until they just can’t take it anymore.

Yet amazingly, some couples stumble right on through all this, saying they are having a great time!

So, the tradition of high-stress romantic relationships continues and many of us end up suffering from the Romeo-Juliet complex.

NOTE:This excerpt is from the first chapter of Low Stress Romance by Dr. Billy Kidd. This book is based on scientific research, including focus group discussions.

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      Honney 3 years ago

      This is crastyl clear. Thanks for taking the time!

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      teachers12345, Yes, people who keep score on their arguments to gain points are really frienemies--friends that fight with you.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 3 years ago

      Seems people are more concerned with winning an argument than building a relationship of trust and love. It is a shame.

    • Dr Billy Kidd profile image

      Dr Billy Kidd 3 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks billybuc. It took some work to get the opening right!

      The book, itself, Low Stress Romance, was mentioned in an article in Cosmopolitan Magazine.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

      The statistics regarding divorce in this country give validity to your conclusions. Nice opening chapter.