Love, as a fact of mentalities, depends at a great extent on a social, geographical and historical concept. Includig the absence of it. For centuries, marriages were not supposed to answer the overwhelming cry for love and perfect compatibility, but very peculiar yet socially important reasons, such as social and economic status or simple reproduction. Romeo and Juliet failed to turn their passion into love and who knows what would have happen of their feelings once settled in the household routines?
The last two centuries - at least in Europe - changed the shift: love is what it matters and not finding the right partner to answer our idealized - often unrealistic - conception(s) or projection(s) of love delays considerably the 'yes' moment. Some are becoming so fearful and unable to assume resposibility that they rather prefer to be alone, eventually caring of a pet, than in a stable relationship.
But what is love, actually, beyond the poetic smokescreen? The Incurable Romantic by Frank Tallis is mostly a very clear, surgical-like account of various faces of interpretations of love. You will read about jealousy and depenndency and obsession, all tragical masks of what we call and sometime experience as 'love'. On the therapist's couch, there are people that cannot give up former relationships, manifestatios in fact of deeper trauma and psychological urges, people fantasizing about relationships that do not exist or unable to have any relationships at all. The diversity of cases and backgrounds - although at a great extent limited to England, the country of practice of Frank Tallis - is overwhelming and gives a complex - although frightning overview - of what we call love, which often fell closer to a psychotic manifestation than on the romantic dreams we are nurturing way too much. But as Alfred Adler, quoted in the book said: 'The only normal people are those you don't know very well', and this may apply to ourselves as well. Getting to know yourself through therapy and introspection might reveal unpleasant truths and realities.
Average life, of many those not ending up on the therapist's couch is simple and less tormented, including when it comes about relationships. 'In reality, few people get to marry their ideal parter. Love involves making a series of compromises. This is non bad thing, because an idealised partner is only nominally human'.
Besides the diversity of cases and angles, what is recomforting in Frank Tallis' book is the diversity of methods used for the analysis, from the classical Freudian sources to systemic. The pure account of the author's challenges and personal experiences makes the book valuable not only for those curious about a different perception and interpretation of love, but also for future and current therapy practicians.
Although each and every one of the cases presented are complex and with a long term impact on the reader, I've found some of the stories ending up too abruptly and without a much deserved conclusion or in-depth and outreach.
But am I to judge when it comes about love? Some things are better left the way they are without further ado. 'Life is a precarious business and love is its essential ingredient'. As essential as death some optimists will say.
Rating: 4 stars