On Love – Alain De Botton

“However happy we may be with our partner, our love for them necessarily hinders us from pursuing alternatives. But why should this constrain us if we love them? Why should we feel this as a loss unless our love for them has already begun to wane? Because in resolving our need to love, we do not always succeed in resolving our need to long.”

This book was recommended to me by a friend and made for quite an interesting read on a rainy afternoon. Being a female, i am quite experienced in the feelings that i feel from the inception of a crush, to the turning of it into an affair, to love and then the anti-climax of a break up and stages involved in getting over it. The accompanied emotions with every change is intrinsic to my being. However, even though i may have questioned how a man thinks during these stages, i have never been able to “figure out”. Well, here it is – written by a man, albeit a more evolved one, the feelings from a male perspective during the trajectory of a love affair – end to end. How can it not be a great and educational read.

Man and woman met on a plane and by the time luggage arrives, man had fallen in love. Since the narrative is from man’s perspective, reader may for the time being assume one-sided anxiety at the beginning of this affair. As we accompany the male into the depth of these affairs, we discover that though the direction of thinking might be different, men and women essentially do think through all their actions and put themselves out at their best at the beginning. There are lies involved and agreement to liking or enjoying things they have no idea about.

Then comes the routine when the novelty of a new intimacy gradually subsides. “what is an experience? something that breaks a polite routine and for a brief period allowed us to witness things with teh heightened sensitivity afforded to us by novelty, danger, or beauty – and its not he basis of shared experiences that intimacy is given an opportunity to grow” When all the questions have been answered, pasts shared and jokes laughed at – what is needed to keep up the interest, the excitement.

This is when the habits which are annoying surface, small tiff’s start surfacing and arguments followed by feeling of discontentment and question about – “is this the one i was looking my whole life?” start arising. What is too much information? what opinions are best kept to self? Is it ok to say i hate the shoes or provide honest opinion when sought? It is especially thought provoking when the author finds himself hiding in a bookstore to avoid an encounter with an ex-girlfriend? “There is something appalling in the idea that a person for whom you would sacrifice anything today might in a few months cause you to cross a road or a bookshop to avoid.”

Wheel of time turns – what went up, has to come down. Now the reader is mentally prepared to see the affair come to an end, as the communication breaks down and the distance starts to creep in. One partner is detached and the other partner is holding on tight to something which is already fleeting. This part of the book is so extremely surreal that it was shocking. Some of the behaviour author described as “love terrorist” are so relatable – they will make the reader examine some of their past affairs and in detail – you will find yourself asking – did i behave like this? and the answer would be resounding ‘yes’ to your horror.

Woman falls in love with the best friend and dumps the man. Now our narrator goes through the denial, hope, anger, melancholy and thoughts of revenge. “It is as if the end of love is already contained in its beginning, the ingredients of love’s collapse eerily foreshadowed by those of its creation” Its heartening to see the man walking towards another woman to fall in love at the end – reassuring, that there is something to move on to.

“Love taught the analytic mind a certain humility, the lesson that however hard it struggled to reach immobile certainties (numbering its conclusions and embedding them in neat series), analysis could never be anything but flawed – and therefore never stray far from the ironic”

Language is absolutely enticing. Drama is a bit exaggerated, especially since from male perspective – but then i am no authority on male sentiments – so who knows!

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