Selected and reviewed
by James Park, existential
These books are listed in order of quality, beginning with the best.
Red comments are the views and evaluations of this reviewer.
Love and Limerence:
The Experience of Being in Love
(Briarcliff Manor, NY:
Stein & Day,
1979) 324 pages
(Library of Congress call number: BF575.L8T46)
(Lanham, MD: Scarborough House, 1999;
paperback reprint with added preface) 357 pages
(ISBN: 0812862864; paperback)
(Library of Congress call number: [about the same as above] )
of how romantic love feels from the inside
—as experienced by the person who has 'fallen in love'.
This is perhaps the most complete description of romantic love in print.
Here are the major features of the condition of "limerence":
1. a magical, ecstatic, enchanted feeling—an emotional 'high'.
2. vast overestimation
of the good qualities
of the beloved
and minimization of the faults.
3. acute longing for reciprocation from the love object.
4. deep mood-swings—from elation to depression.
about the love object (even if there is no response).
6. deep heart-ache when limerence is over.
Love and Limerence is based on extensive original research,
mostly among college students in the 1970s.
They answered questionnaires about their feelings;
and many had comprehensive interviews with the author.
The book includes several first-person accounts
of romantic love and its aftermath.
The major chapters of Love and Limerence discuss these themes:
§ The individual's experience of limerence.
§ The social effects of 'falling in love'.
§ Variations between the sexes and people of different sexual orientations.
§ The biological basis of limerence.
§ Some ways of
coping with limerence.
The Art of Loving
(New York: Harper & Row, 1956 and later editions) 118 pages
classic source of
thinking about love.
Fromm argues that love is an art, requiring careful attention
and practice, rather than a lucky emotional happening.
The Natural History of Love
(New York: Knopf, 1959 and later editions) 416 pages
on the human experience of love,
from the beginning of recorded history to the present.
Very interesting and very readable.
Denis de Rougemont
Love in the Western World
(New York: Schoeken Books, 1990) (originally published 1940) 393 pages
Argues that romantic
love is a cultural invention
of the Western world.
Romance is always temporary because it is based on
projections, misinformation, illusions, & fantasies.
And it is therefore incompatible with marriage.
Stanton Peele & Archie
Love and Addiction
(New York: Taplinger, 1975; New American Library, 1976) 284 pages
is the first book
'falling in love' with becoming addicted.
When love arises from pre-existing needs,
it creates dependent relationships.
Schwartz & Don
with Fran Behan & Allyne Rosenthal
Love and Commitment
(Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1980) 271 pages
Social scientists attempt
to understand romantic love
as told to them by an American teen-age girl
—perhaps an anthropological first.
The most interesting parts of the book
are based on interviews over several years with the girl.
This book might be very interesting to other teen-agers,
especially when they are experimenting with romantic feelings.
The Hoax of Romance
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1981) 305 pages
book traces the
roots of romantic love to 12th-century France
—making a good case for this historical beginning of the tradition.
It shows how romantic fantasies and illusions lead to problems in love,
especially for people who use such feelings as a basis for marriage.
The author tells her own story of a bad marriage
and traces similar experiences among her clients in family therapy.
Elaine Hatfield Walster
& William Walster
A New Look at Love
(Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1978) 206 pages
Love, this book presents
the results of many psychological studies of romantic love.
Illustrated by cartoons and peppered with lively quotations,
the book is very entertaining, and it might even be enlightening.
The authors are college teachers
and they aimed their book at college students.
Robert A. Johnson
We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love
(San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1983) 204 pages
exploration of the
Tristan and Iseult myth
as a paradigm of romantic love in the Western world.
Johnson (following C. G. Jung) believes this myth
reflects archetypal truths about the human psyche.
We 'fall in love' with the archetype of the other gender
projected from our own psyches: anima or animus.
The Tristan and Iseult myth, retold in many versions,
illustrates the basic rules for the game of romantic love:
much passion, but no sex;
the desire to be together all the time, but no marriage.
Jungians and people interested in Medieval literature
will enjoy this book the most.
But it might not be very useful to the general reader.
Romantic love was a
paradigmatic myth of the 20th century.
Johnson provides some good observations about romantic illusions.
And he argues that marriage works best when not based on romance.
John R. Haule
Archetypes of Romantic Love
(Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1990) 301 pages
Another book of Jungian
exploring the literature and religion of a few hundred years ago.
We 'fall in love' with the other part of our personalities,
our shadows, anima or animus.
We should not actually be so surprised that it works so well,
because the image we 'fall in love' with
is just the projection of the other side of our own personalities.
This book will probably only interest committed Jungians.
It fails to make connections with our lives as we actually live them.
Stan J. Katz & Aimee
False Love and Other Romantic Illusions
(New York: Ticknor & Fields, 1988) 344 pages
False love is romantic
The book does a good job of describing and illustrating romantic love.
But the authors identify their own style of loving
—monogamous marriage—with "true love".
They do not realize that the marriage model they support and defend
is a creation of culture just as much as the romantic love they criticize.
But the book is a step in the right direction.
A Universal Phenomenon?
(New York: Columbia UP, 1995) 310 pages
concept of love
behind this book is deeply flawed.
This collection of articles by anthropologists is really about
(1) sexual attraction, (2) companionship,
& (3) mate-selection (usually against the tradition of arranged marriage).
These three other phenomena are frequently confused with romantic love.
Other cultures have elaborate and interesting marriage and kinship systems,
but do they have any experience close to our Western feeling of romantic love?
Sometimes these cultures have been exposed to Western mass media
such as movies, television, & music
—which definitely carry the romantic myth.
Thus, the book does not successfully support the thesis
that romantic love is a universal phenomenon
—something arising from 'human nature'.
But sexual attraction, companionship, & mate-selection,
of course, are universal.
13. Helen Fisher
Why We Love:
The Nature and Chemistry of Romantic Love
book attempts to explain romantic love
by looking at animal behavior and brain-chemistry.
Such reductionism might explain some dimensions of human sexuality,
but this approach does not explain romantic love.
review is too long to include here.
So it has a separate room in this museum:
James Park "Romantic
Love is a Hoax!
Emotional Programming to 'Fall in Love' "
Chapter 1 of New
Ways of Loving: How Authenticity Transforms Relationships
(Minneapolis, MN: www.existentialbooks.com, 2007—6th edition)
that romantic love is not a natural phenomenon
but an artificial creation of Western culture—about 800 years old—
which has now spread to almost the whole human race.
It explains how popular culture infuses the romantic response
into unsuspecting children, who then sometimes spend a life-time
trying to re-create the feelings they have absorbed from television.
'Falling in love' is compared with religious conversion—'being saved'.
And the author encourages the abandonment of illusions and fantasies
so that loving relationships can be constructed
on the firm foundation of emerging personal Authenticity,
which is the theme of the rest of this book.
see the first two
pages of this chapter, click this title:
"Romantic Love is a Hoax! Emotional Programming to 'Fall in Love' " .
the table of contents
of the whole book
(2007—6th edition), click this title:
New Ways of Loving: How Authenticity Transforms Relationships .
Please suggest additional
books critical of romantic love.
Send all comments to James Park: e-mail:
Return to the LOVE PAGE .
Further resources and opportunities to be found there:
Selections from "The
Romantic Love Test:
How Do We Know If We Are in Love?"
based on New Ways of Loving.
Go to a complete
listing of resources critical of romantic illusions:
The Romantic Love Portal .
If you would like to
see other book reviews
by James Park,
go to the Book Review Index .
Here you will find about 350 books reviewed
in about 60 bibliographies.
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of this home page:
An Existential Philosopher's Museum .