We don’t decide to fall in love, any more than we decide to catch the flu

“Falling in love is the paradigmatic example of an involuntary life-affecting desire. We don’t reason our way into love, and we typically can’t reason our way out: when we are in love, our intellectual weapons stop working. … We don’t decide to fall in love, any more than we decide to catch the flu. Lovesickness is a condition brough upon us, against our will, by a force external to us. … Lovesickness, we should note, is different from lust. A lustful person experiences intense sexual desire that can be satisfied indiscriminately, with any number of people. A lovesick person, on the other hand, experiences an intense desire, generally sexual in nature, that has a target — a specific human being.

When we are lovesick, we lose a significant amount of control over our lives. We start acting foolishly — indeed, we become fools for love. Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca described love as ‘friendship gone mad.’ French aphorist Francois duc de La Rochefoucauld declared, ‘All the passions cause us to make mistakes, but love is responsible for the silliest ones.’ Freud called lovesickness ‘ the psychosis of normal people.’ Humorist Fran Lebowitz sums up the foolishness of lovesickness in the following term: ‘People who get married because they’re in love make a rediculous mistake. It makes much more sense to marry your best friend. You like your best friend more than anyone you’re ever going to be in love with. You don’t choose your best friend because they have a cute nose, but that’s all you’re doing when you get married; you’re saying, ‘I will spend the rest of my life with you because of your lower lip.’ ‘ “

On Desire: Why we want what we want P. 12

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