But why is it, really, that frustration is indelible to satisfaction in romance? Although unrequited love and the anguish of longing have a perennial place in our experience of romantic pain, Illouz is concerned with the pain that lives within actualized romantic relationships. She writes:. When relationships do get formed, agonies do not fade away, as one may feel bored, anxious, or angry in them; have painful arguments and conflicts; or, finally, go through the confusion, self-doubts, and depression of break-ups or divorces….
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Donate to support new essays, interviews, reviews, literary curation, our groundbreaking publishing workshop, free events series, newly anointed publishing wing, and the dedicated team that makes it possible. The original Aramaic, on the other hand, mostly explains financial obligations the husband owes the wife in case of divorce, and the property the wife brings to the marriage.
In other words, the Aramaic is legal and the English is therapeutic. When the rabbis drafted the ketubah in the first centuries of the Common Era they neglected to include quotations from Maya Angelou. Yet the more comforting translation, with its echo of pop music promises, is what the couple — and the daters they were before — thought they were getting, not transactions but transcendence, less the assurance of financial stability than the wild endorphin circus of new love.
When prenups or family quarrels intruded on the bubble, it felt less like reality than an unwonted violation. For most couples, the little fraud is emblematic of a bigger one.
Romantic love is a foreshortened story: the princess is carried from the tower or awakened with a kiss. The prince shines, full of dash, bravery, and brio. The story stops before that same princess spends her days working and childrearing, and they both realize she actually prefers sleeping late to a princely, wakening peck on the cheek as the kids run off to school. In the tower there were no soccer shuttles or bills to pay. Fairy tales end at the beginning because the ending is not so enchanting.
Even in the age of perilous sea voyages and daring rescue on horseback, romance too quickly ebbed. So how long can we expect it to endure in the rapidly accelerated age of texting, sexting, and tweets? The path to love is strewn with paradox. According to most studies marriage benefits men more than women, yet men are less inclined to marry. The same qualities — beauty, power, wealth, wit, charisma — which make a partner attractive may render them unsuitable as a mate.
As for healing from the wound? There are almost as many books about romantic healing as there are diet books, and for the same reason. When no single cure works, you can count on endless suggested treatments. Why Love Hurts looks at the social conditions that affect our romantic lives. Hers is the book of a sociologist. What we might see as personal traits, she enlarges to social trends.
You think your boyfriend is a jerk; Illouz may agree, but sees him as succumbing not to selfishness alone, but also to a widespread pathogen. Pickiness, which seems to plague the entire field of romantic choice, is not a psychological trait, but rather an effect of the ecology and architecture of choice: that is, it is fundamentally motivated by the desire to maximize choice in conditions where the range of choice has become almost unmanageable. Who can commit in an age of broken glances?
Add to that uncertainty the promise of self-realization, the idea that all of us should be changing, progressing, improving — and throughout our lives. This is the Heraclitus theory of personality — you never meet the same person twice. Solidity is staying in place and in Oprahville we must all grow. The ideal self is not a stable self but rather one that can perpetually create itself anew, be reinvented tomorrow.
The ever-expanding self requires boundarylessness. No surprise then that the marketplace has become a mess. Of course if you fashion who you are, you also bear the consequences. Illouz points out that when Jane Welsh first rejected Carlyle in the mid 19th century, he assumed it was his financial woes and not his personality.
To be fair, Carlyle thought quite well of himself. In the marketplace of choice, with outsized emphasis on the individual, we assume an acceptance or rejection says something essential about our very self. Rejection is not new. Marriage keeps slipping down the statistical slope. Without the societal assumption that everything leads to marriage, there is a paradoxical pas de deux : each person acts as though commitment is not part of the opening negotiation, the man because he does not wish it and the woman because she does.
The calculation of how to pressure, when to pressure, to coax, to cajole, or to strategically retreat can lead romance columnists to sound a little like von Clausewitz. These categories entail a relentless disenchantment of love.
We study love as if it were botany, abandoning poetry for pathology. Something has been lost. The infamous internet dating profile requires a still greater intellectualization of love, with lists of categories and attributes. Modern love: science abetted by a checklist. There are few things more essentially unromantic than a multiple-choice exam. Mass entertainment, so much more pervasive and potent than the romantic novels that sent Emma Bovary over the edge, teaches us the lesson of perfect, temporary bliss.
When at the end of Ghost Patrick Swayze ascends to heaven, his soul at peace, leaving Demi Moore to tearfully wave goodbye, I recall leaving the theater thinking that I pity her next boyfriend. He will have to compete with an angelic Patrick Swayze. And then it hit me — so will the boyfriends of every woman in the theater. Not that people are so literal, but the repeated images of beautiful human beings speaking laboriously polished lines with carefully directed expressions and accents cannot help but make the guy beside you, well, a bit of a shlub.
Especially if within you lurks the suspicion that he was on the shlubbish side to begin with. Besides, the qualities that promise dependability are rarely the same as those that dazzle. Illouz explains that she has written this book primarily for women. Therefore in some deep way it is about men. In an epigraph to one of her chapters, she quotes Julian Barnes from Love, etc. We last about 18 minutes. I explain that basically my problem with Stuart is getting him to talk about our problems.
Is the problem of love the problem of men? Illouz struggles with two consistent tensions. If you cannot be powerless in love you cannot know bliss. What to make of this? Workable on the page, but I doubt this epicene ideal is going to persuade in the bedroom. The second tension is her commitment to Marxist analysis, which erases the individual.
It pushes the puzzle of sociology to the brink: if this is all about society, then is the individual a helpless agent of larger forces?
We have learned the lesson from DVRs and Netflix that everything can be revisited, nothing is lost, nothing should be missed and it is easy to live alone and have needs provided for.
The essential human need, to love and be loved, suffers from each technological boost to the energies of autonomy. Into this jaded and self-sufficient world, what chance love? Why Love Hurts is not an easy read but it is an important book. Illouz does not pine for an earlier world. Modernity brought untold blessings to us all. But even its greatest goods come with serious costs. She quotes literature, as if uneasily aware that artists have done much of her sociological work before she got there.
Having lost classical faith, people often seek its substitute in romance. But as Borges taught us, falling in love is creating a religion with a fallible god. Sooner or later the worshipper will be disappointed and be forced to readjust expectations. The movie Quartet is based on a Somerset Maugham story that tells of a man whose wife publishes a book of poetry.
He soon learns that all of London is talking about the work. In striking images, the poems describe a torrid affair. He confronts his wife. She begs him to forget it, but he will not.
Finally she confesses, yes they are based on reality. In a meek voice, she admits that he does and begs him not to go any further. But he cannot stop and demands to know who it is. It was you — as you were — all those years ago — in those happy days when we first met, and you loved me. He did, replies his wife. The deepest magic of love is not first love but continuous love, which we know is not easy.
But in our day even first love is not easy, either. Perhaps the title answers itself. Asking why love hurts is a little like asking why rain falls. Close this module.
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Why Love Hurts – Eva Illouz
Eva Illouz. Polity Press. March Find this book:. Here Illouz adds a much needed intervention, shedding light on how the personal and the social intersect in shaping the romantic self in late modernity. She suggests that the individual navigates their way through complex social structures and institutions which frame the rules around and cultural rituals of love, drawing on the resources which they have personally accumulated.
Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation
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Book Review: Why Love Hurts: A Sociological Explanation by Eva Illouz
For the next step, you'll be taken to a website to complete the donation and enter your billing information. You'll then be redirected back to LARB. To take advantage of all LARB has to offer, please create an account or log in before joining The Los Angeles Review of Books is a c 3 nonprofit. Donate to support new essays, interviews, reviews, literary curation, our groundbreaking publishing workshop, free events series, newly anointed publishing wing, and the dedicated team that makes it possible. The original Aramaic, on the other hand, mostly explains financial obligations the husband owes the wife in case of divorce, and the property the wife brings to the marriage. In other words, the Aramaic is legal and the English is therapeutic.
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This new book by Eva Illouz, Professor of Sociology at Hebrew University, sets out to do for emotional suffering and romantic love what Marx did for commodities, exposing the socio-economic underbelly of what we once took to be the natural features of a happy and fulfilling life. For those in her target audience, namely heterosexual Western women, Illouz hopes to offer a compelling account of how suffering in love has come to be internalized as personal failure. This book is a sociological exploration at heart, though it is less reliant on observations survey data, interviews than an abundance of literary and philosophical references used as if they were source material. All this is interspersed with cursory interruptions from the heavy hitters in sociology, critical theory, gender studies and psychoanalysis: from Durkheim and Marx to Firestone and Freud. One can also expect to find transcripts from personal interviews and interactions on Internet dating sites within the text.