The Incurable Romantic: and Other Unsettling Revelations
In the nonfiction book, The Incurable Romantic: and Other Unsettling Revelations author Frank Tallis, a clinical psychologist, writes about the neuroscience of love as a skilled storyteller pulling from his patient files to explain how “falling in love is a combustible state that reproduces the symptoms of psychiatric illness.”
I think this should be mandatory reading as a Relationship 101 guide to understanding the biochemistry behind emotions, in particular love and all of its related feelings—lust, passion, attachment, and jealousy.
Love has been romanticized and monetized in our culture to the point that we are all “Incurable Romantics” buying into the fairytale of forever-sustaining lust, passion and adulation.
Tallis argues that being “lovesick” is a real ailment with emotional and physical symptoms and highlights several patient cases that illustrate his point. He talks of treating love-sick patients whose psychological pain and behavioral disturbances were equal in severity to other symptoms of other psychotic illnesses. “Falling in love is a little like becoming ill or going mad. People quite literally become lovesick, weak and neglectful of responsibilities. They behave foolishly and fritter away fortunes on excessive gifts. They become jealous and insecure.”
Love is literally addictive, according to Tallis, producing highs with the same potency as street drugs.
I highlighted more than a dozen passages in this book, each providing insight into biochemistry of the brain and how our hardwired human nature expresses itself when we fall in love. He makes numerous key points that resonated including the fact that the first major reduction of passion occurs after three or four years of marriage and many relationships fail after this time. This is when divorce statistics peak. There is an evolutionary reason too. That 3-4 years is the optimal time to reproduce and ensure the survival of offspring. Another provocative concept, according to Tallis, “closeness is a finely balanced trade-off between disgust and desire—a delicate compromise negotiated between two powerful evolutionary imperatives.”
Educational, entertaining and enthralling, The Incurable Romantic is the best book I’ve read thus far on explaining love not as a solely an emotion but also rooted in biochemical reactions. I highly recommend this book as a starting point for examining and understanding our own emotions and behaviors when it comes to love.
My takeaway from The Incurable Romantic: Biochemistry is complex. Novelty is a powerful aphrodisiac. Tallis says that our genes want us to love madly but inevitably when passion wanes or a relationship ends, what remains is our ability to understand the evolutionary imperative and prevent biochemistry from overshadowing our sense of reason.
Check out other books by this talented writer: