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Modern Love

Love itself, remade by market forces. Eva Illouz  is with us.

Robert Indiana's LOVE sculpture, JFK Plaza, Philadelphia.(Las/Flickr)

Robert Indiana’s LOVE sculpture, JFK Plaza, Philadelphia.(Las/Flickr)

Everything changes, including the way we seek and experience love, says my guest this hour.  If you think love hurts, you’re not alone.  And there are new reasons it hurts, says Eva Illouz.  Very contemporary reasons.  All the time and options we have, she says, get tricky.

Internet dating makes it a digital market.  Market forces can be rough on the heart.  Our self-worth gets chained to a very slippery dream.  Men and women are less equally empowered now, she says, in matters of the heart.

This hour, On Point:  modern times, and why love hurts.

-Tom Ashbrook


Eva Illouz, the Rose Isaac Chair of Sociology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She’s the author of the new book Why Love Hurts.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Guardian “Love hurts. And if you are nursing a broken heart this Valentine’s Day, it won’t help at all to learn that modern love hurts more now than ever. Women may have fled to nunneries and men marched to war over it, poets pined away, playwrights gone to jail for it, and Meatloaf promised to do anything for it, but experts believe love has never caused such acute suffering as it does now.”

The Times of London “Think carefully before you venture along that road. The organised marital relationships of Jane Austen’s day, and the model of love as pure emotionality that followed, are both long gone, she says. Instead, the search for love today, while it looks like free choice, “entails engagement with a complex affective and cognitive market apparatus to evaluate partners”. Yet despite this complexity, we (women) need to understand it more than ever because it is the way we constitute our self-worth.”



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  • Paul

    Hi OP – Speaking as a 50-something man who has been married and divorced twice, I can state with certainty that Love has been  a moving target in my life. I was by no means perfect with my partners, but I do feel I tried hard to do my best by them. The 2nd marriage ended after 16 years and, how conveniently, just as my 3rd stepchild was graduating from college. So yes, I felt used by my ex, who had lots of reasons to not be married to anyone. She didn’t choose to stop being married to me, however, until one of a parent’s greatest challenges was done with my equal support. I haven’t rushed out to make any commitments to anyone else – and wonder if Love hasn’t just become a commodity that people use to advance their lives. I hope not, but I’m not sure.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Paul, by the way you wrote this, I have questions about YOUR side of the relationship, that you need to ask yourself.
         See if you can figure the questions out, BEFORE you ask me.  I check On Point Comments, at least once a week, so you can ask in two-three weeks or more.  IF you are interested.

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

         Of course, he’s wrong, and you have the right answer–oh, please. . .

  • Pudyson

    In a few days my husband and I will celebrate 50 years of marriage. Interesting reactions of congratulating friends many of whom add comments about “how rare these days” followed by the latest divorce horror stories from their own families.  Not just simple parting of the ways between two people who once LOVED each other and now decide they no longer do, but really nasty contentious divorces that include attorney fees. judgments of hundreds of thousands of dollars to settle claims of abuse, restraining orders, fights over custody, visitation rights, child support, abandonment etc.  How does LOVE turn into HATE, resentment, victimization, and all the rest?  

    • Gregg

      Congratulations on 50 years. That’s beautiful.

      • Terry Tree Tree


        • Pudyson

          Thanks Terry Tree Tree for your good wishes on our 50th anniversary.  I enjoy reading your posts…ON POINT is such a terrific program…thought provoking and interesting, and educative.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_QME6C6XTBAYFEJP2GYDH3VQEMU Beat

        Happy 50th Anniversary!!!!

        • Pudyson

          Thanks, Beat…as this program pointed out, there were fewer options in the past for making individual decisions about everything…whether or not to have children (we have three…not all planned), whether or not to follow a particular profession when it means that one partner temporarily foregoes her/his personal career ambitions, etc.  You just learn to deal with one’s limited choices and show how one can adjust/survive to whatever life throws your way.

      • Pudyson

        Thanks, Gregg….we are truly blessed largely because we have similar values though dissimilar personalities, and with all the ups and downs common to all marriages, we both kept in mind the family (three children), our respective parents and siblings as of ULTIMATE importance.  

  • Yar

    Love can never be marketed, what is sold is only an illusion of love.
    Love is only love when freely given with the best interest of the one who is loved at heart.  This week the Presbyterian church is in the city of brotherly love.
    I pray they learn what love is.  
    What is love?  Love is part hormonal, part emotional, part logical, part illogical.  Love is caring for the community more than self.  Love doesn’t judge the one is loved.  When love is judged, love is lost, or it was never love in the first place. We have to quit judging others to love or to accept love. Gay or straight, single or married, that is not what matters, only love endures.

    My understanding of love comes from a broken heart.  I gave my love to a woman whose heart was broken and could not love.  I still want the best for her.  What I thought was love was only an illusion, for she never loved me, and doesn’t love herself.  To truly love others, we must first love ourselves, to accept ourselves for who we are.  Only then can we love or accept love.  When we try to market love we destroy our ability to love and to accept love.

    My love is focused on my community and church.  I am seen as suspicious because I have not ‘found’ another woman.  Our society judges others relationships, even though we can’t know their motivation. If an adult is not in a known relationship they are suspect. Are they gay? Are they a selling sex?  We judge others by our own standard.
    When we don’t understand love, then how can we judge the love of others?
    Love is an action, not a feeling, giving in love creates feelings, and this is where love get misunderstood.  
    Our local congregation developed a creed  at a retreat years ago. 

    We believe Gods love sets us free
    as a church with a common heritage, 
    bound together as one family 
    nourished by the gift of his son.
    We believe Gods love sets us free, 
    from fear, judgment and death. 
    We believe Gods love sets us free 
    with strength and energy for commitment.
    We believe Gods love sets us free,
    renewing our faith, hope and trust.
    We believe Gods love sets us free
    to worship, to love, to accept love and to live.

    I pray the General Assembly finds love.

    • PithHelmut

      This may be debatable but to me it is totally clear – love does not require reciprocity to be love. In fact real love is not tied to whether the person loves you back. When reciprocity of passion and love happens, then you know you’ve hit the jackpot! When you say “god” it probably means humanity for we cannot extrapolate from merely an illusion of a being. We can however know who we are as individuals and as an organism that has advanced to the point where we have dominion over ourselves (if government and corporations didn’t get in the way of it of course)

      • Yar

        Love that requires reciprocity is not love, it’s commerce. A lot of commerce is marketed as love.
        I have no regrets for loving even though it broke my heart. It is better to love than be loved. Yes when two come together from equal positions of power and respect, and both love, it is a union.

  • Brothersower88

    Love is more akin to a choice while infatuation is closer to an emotional response.

    In the moment, they can be hard to distinguish, but necessary to get strait before entering long term commitments.

  • SamEw

    Get me to the church on time oh oh. 

  • lou

    “What you call love was invented by guys like me to sell nylons”


    • vandermeer

       Is your first name DON?

  • r.

    Come on.  People have always gotten their hearts broken.  People have always competed for mates.  People have always desired stability while also keeping an eye open for a better partner.  People have always married – or some equivalent to marriage – for reasons other than love: for wealth, for a good parent for their children, for security, for a helper, for companionship, for any and all reasons.  There is no way to claim that “modern love” is any different.  As usual, some people have nostalgia for a golden age that never existed.  But sure, we do have too many choices in life, and that certainly contributes to our unhappiness. 

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    We have a lot more choice these days.  Marriage isn’t something that’s arranged by others, and the social requirement of committment has been lessened.  That’s why relationships aren’t as stable.

    • lovestruck

      Thank “God” some of us live in counties/cultures in which we DON’T HAVE TO be locked into arranged marriages – or any marriages at all!

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

         I don’t disagree, but the choice of the modern world is the cause of the instability.

        • Terry Tree Tree

          The infidelities you pointed out in another commment, indicate that instability has been prevalent all along, in some form!

  • jim

    my best advice for nice men seeking love…

    Go and get a village girl from the deep suburb.. or third world nation. 

    don’t get educated and “HOT” women.. you will most likely get burnt by them ‘cos many of them do not know how to handle the responsibility of family life and advance society together.

    • lovestruck

      sounds like you’re seeking a subservient slave woman, not an equal.

    • Mike from Rutland, MA

      Your hurdle for marriage (the woman must be unintelligent and unattractive) sounds just as superficial as suggesting someone not get married to someone intelligent and attractive.  Is there some Russian-catalog, mail-order bride index people can use to sort by your two “ideal” traits?  Jim: “Sorry, I can’t talk to you because you’re too intelligent and I’ll get left behind in the conversation.  You’re also too attractive to look at, so let me stare at my feet.”  Rubbish.

  • J__o__h__n

    The audio is awful.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    It’s the same problem when we go to the shampoo aisle in the grocery store.  A hundred square feet of choices that all basically do the same thing.

  • lovestruck

    Okay, she’s talking about MATING – the process of selecting a mate – which IMHO has NOTHING TO DO with Falling In Love. So many people don’t seem to know the difference….

  • John C

    Does anyone else feel that the technical quality of the phone line of the guest is HORRIBLE? Not the interview, which is great, but good lord, is Eva calling from a Third World Country?

  • http://twitter.com/frenchman_alan Scot Couturier, Jr.

    I found the love of my life on Match.com when I moved to a new city, and surprisingly fast.  I believe it is more convenient than ever to find your true love as I did, but you have to know yourself above all else to make it successful.  It’s also easy to become more virtuous with an online profile…which makes for an interesting date.

  • J__o__h__n

    Forget love.  How about a modern phone line?

    • John C

      I’d like to take this rare opportunity to show bi-partisan support for your point of view :D

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    In the millennia gone by, marriage was about property.  His family and her family had adjoining farms and figured that it would be good to get the land together.  People often found “love” elsewhere, and as long as it was done discreetly, that was fine.

  • vandermeer

    Falling in love– crazy in love … is very scary… it could have to do with anxiety caused by the belief that some neurotic need is going to be met. This usually fades quickly with reality– maybe 2 months or 2 years. 

  • Nm Charlot

    Great topic, Tom. I’m 23 years old and I recently tested out online dating for the first time. Within 2 hours of signing up I had over 200 messages. Finding people is only part of the problem, however. Perhaps the bigger problem is that we are less likely to put up with “imperfections”. Rather than commit to someone, the first time something goes awry, we just decide we can find a new one. Like a pair of shoes with a broken heel. Would anyone of my generation even consider FIXING the shoe? No. We buy a new one for half off at Payless. 

    • GUEST

      Though…a broken shoe…is different than an abusive lover. Remember that…whoever is reading this. 

  • Gwen

    Most people enter into relationships hoping to get something better than what they already have. Most people today haven’t a clue what selfless, just love is.  When we choose to accept the responsibility of selfless, just love, we won’t hurt others and we won’t be hurt as often nor a deeply.

    • GUEST

      Actually, I met my husband with a strong sense of skepticism. I’d decided “I’m done…I’d rather be alone.” Came to terms with that after meeting way to many losers. Started focusing on myself…went back to school, etc. and was happy doing what I was doing. I ran into my husband on the street…35 degrees out. He stopped me to talk to me having recognized me from a prior job (I did not recognize him) and we ended up talking for a half hour on the street in the dead of winter. He walked me to the pet store (where I was headed) and asked me for my number. He didn’t call for two weeks because he had a cold. I threw his number out after a week, but recognized his voice when he finally called. We talked for hours before we actually went on a date. We’ve been together for 14 years. 

  • Jess in Boston

    I see a lot of people using the science of love — that the symptoms of love can be explained via ill-understood chemical reactions in the brain and environment — to justify anti-social behavior and reclusiveness. I think it is interesting that in the modern day we still use social cruxes to excuse our behavior, what once would have been written off as “men will be men,” is now “hormones will be hormones,” as though we are incapable of rising above the lowest common denominator.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Modern relationships would be much better if psychology didn’t exist.

  • Ann

     Similar to your caller, my boyfriend would not have passed my online dating checklist.  When I was using okcupid.com I wouldn’t go out with anyone listed as 5′ 10″ or under and who didn’t express that they “like cats”.  Now I’m in the best relationship of my life with a man I sat next to on a flight from Detroit to Boston.  He’s one inch shorter than me and allergic to my cat but our chemistry is amazing and our values align wonderfully.

    • lovestruck

      Just don’t get rid of your cat… ;-)

      • Ann

         No worries, the cat is sticking around!

      • Terry Tree Tree

        Nothing like the watery eyes, and other allergy symptoms, to keep the attraction going?
           “Isn’t that SWEET, he’s crying because he’s SOOO in LOVE with her?

  • Filipe Zamborlini – Boston

    Incubus got the perspective of love better than anything in my opinion. It may hurt but it’s only because it is something we cannot survive without. In the reality of humans as beings of need and wants, love is the ultimate one that trancends all bad things in life, giving a feeling of hope and possibilities in a world of lack for both.
    “It’s almost a little bit of a cliché. It is talking about the idea of love and finding love and having it be pure and not tainted by our misperceptions, misconceptions, expectations and transcending the sort of more worldly aspects of the love experience.” – Brandon Boyd

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Books that claim that men are afraid of committment are playing into a stereotype.  The truth is that the modern world is afraid of committment.  Now we have to ask whether that’s a problem or just a by-product of freedom.

  • AndyF

    Though I find the show and topic interesting, I think your guest is off the mark to some degree…  Take my case…  I was very happily married for 16 years, but when I married this girl of my dreams, her Mother came along in the package and never kept her nose out of our business.  First, years ago, I did not make “enough” money, then along the way we built two houses – our dreams houses – but to her Mother, the houses were not “big enough”.  Then when we had kids, although her Mother went through FOUR husbands, somehow she was the ‘expert’ and we were not raising the kids “right”.  Finally, we were about to move into that new big house, and yet her Mother didnt like it and I think the pressure of the years had finally dumbed down my ex, and we divorced.  She eventually remarried a very wealthy guy who to this day, she is not in love with, and often says things to me that are clear indicators she is still in love with me – as I think I am with her.  Me?  I have remained completely single and only realize that the entire “trouble” in our entire marriage and relationship was that my ex’s Mother wants to control the world let alone her daughter.  I figure being in love these days boils down to 1 of 2 things – you either marry a shallow airhead and never expect true love, or you marry a family trusting you will never be accepted, respected, nevermind left alone.

    Your guest sites all these social elements – and yet not once comes close to the reality that for many of us, we had / have great marriages – if only Mothers-in-law would keep their largely imperfect noses out of things.

    • GUEST

      Your wife needed to tell her mother to mind her own business (and if the mother was still married to someone…her spouse needed to butt his nose in too). Unfortunately, I’ve seen this with men too…mama’s boys who don’t stick up to their parents. It really is up to the adult child to reprimand and put limitations on the parental relationship when this happens. It creates too much tension in the marriage otherwise. 

    • Terry Tree Tree

      Families and ‘Friends’ are part of the deal!  How you and your loved one handle them, is the key. 
         I, too, had interfering In-Laws.  Divorced over 20 years, they have CONTINUED to be a problem between my children, and my children and I.  The pain they have caused can NEVER be erased, and they CONTINUE!

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Nietzsche must be rolling in his grave, hearing this song. . .

  • J__o__h__n

    That music is almost killed me. 

  • guest

    Can you never play that song by Pink again? Thanks

  • litt_alien

    I was always going after the macho playboy men, always ended up hurt. My current boyfriend saw me at a party and asked for my phone number through friends. I went on a date even though I did not remember him at all. He had two of his front teeth knocked out when he came on the first date (he got hurt at work). I just felt that he was being himself, not showing off and worrying too much about his image. This time I told myself that I was going to go for a nice guy no matter how he looked or how much money he had. I am very happy with him, he supports me in everything and lets me be myself. Something I have not experienced before.

  • Ellen Dibble

    Has anyone questioned the end of the quote from the Times of London above?  “[Love] is the way we constitute our self-worth”?  I checked it out last night.  Love is surely a state of neediness.  I know you could call it desire or ambition, motivation, different things I’ve heard discussed.  But if you split out the caritas, the global ability to empathize, something like that, you have a phase of life, a growing into adulthood. (I think I mean the shifting of primary orientation of one’s life away from one’s family of origin, though other cultures it may be different.)

    • GUEST

      Hi Ellen, I don’t understand the intent of your comment. Can you clarify? I don’t consider love a state of neediness. When it is real (versus abusive or not with things/people you truly love), it is much more than neediness. It is exhilarating, tough, but you form a true partnership, event after 15 years of marriage. When it is based on false expectations…that one can change someone else, one will not change over time, that everything is going to be euphoria, that you NEED someone else, etc….that is when it fails like the 2-5 year marriages running rampant now. 

      If you consider love that then evolves once you have children, it grows even deeper (again, it needs a real foundation)…you have shared in the creation of an extraordinary being…like, but unlike you. While I will not say that “love” is perfect and that it is not hard, if it is only neediness, it will fail. Real love is a celebration of differences…and the utilization of those differences to make a relationship work. 

      I do believe that it is based in the biological foundation of empathy, also exhibited in other primates. As are all sociological/societal relationships. 

      • Ellen Dibble

        By neediness, I meant the sense of incompleteness, that something in a relationship is yet to be “realized,” or in the case of younger people, to be consummated, or lead to marriage.  So I suppose the neediness is a realization that there is potential to be considered, pursued.  Certainly our genes and our culture give plenty of suggestions on how to shape that.

        As I said, this is splitting out the caritas.  I think that’s a pretty good way of dividing it, for the moment.  The love that is in a marriage, or long-term relationship, has very different colors from the feeling of love that seems to be mostly under discussion today.

      • Roy Mac

        Ellen’s posts are never understandable.  She is a ‘stream-of-conciousness’ writer who would benefit immensely from an editor.  You can do your best to figure out what she’s writing about–most just let her blather away as she wishes.  She doesn’t take up that much space.

  • Niki Vettel

    What does the author think about the current ease of having long-distance relationships? -which is a situation aided by technology, but brings its own set of issues and heartache…My husband and I had a long-distance, and long-term relationship (I was commitmentphobic!) before we got married after a 6-year courtship. The long-distance aspect of this was really trying – and it was only between the Bronx and Boston (ps. He is NOT a Yankees fan, thank goodness!

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    This is the modern anxiety.  We believe in individual rights and insist on choice, but then we complain about the fact that people are making choices that don’t conform to what we want them to choose.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Anyone who is getting dating advice from “Sex in the City,” Woody Allen, or Oprah is going to be deeply screwed.

    • Terry Tree Tree

      More likely it’ll be ‘shallowly’?

  • Tim

    I married due to a strong sexual attraction to my beautiful wife and because she laughed at my jokes. It took us 4 years to marry, but 39 years later, we have the most successful marriage I know of. I feel like I’ve been married three times only to the same person. Attraction, humor, adaptability, and patience are the key. Our 20-something kids see our lives and our continual re-invention and ability to laugh at the absurdities of our married state and think it can be like this for them. Like many of this entitled generation they expect too much at the start of their relationships. Lena Dunham’s “Girls” for all of us represents the current state of dating among a certain group.

  • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

    Is meaningless anything a good thing?

    • nj_v2

      Meaning is a fabrication, a construct, an application. “Meaning” isn’t intrinsic.

      • http://gregorycamp.wordpress.com/ Greg Camp

         If that’s so, then your words are meaningless.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Spence-Blakely/1251757037 Spence Blakely

          Greg, not so. You were given a definition of meaning. I agree with it. The meaning of life or love is the meaning you give to it or the meaning you accept from someone else. There is no intrinsic meaning somewhere out there for us to discover.

        • nj_v2

          They are to people who aren’t familiar with the particular symbology we attempt to agree they represent.

          But even for English speakers, when i say or write love or home or any other word which can embody a number of layers of abstraction, i have no idea what images, ideas, thoughts, etc. those words might generate in the brain of someone else who reads them.

          More broadly, the “meaning” of a object or   an action or process, isn’t inherent in those things. 

          What does a bear mean? What does Mars mean? What does a developing cold front mean?

  • GMG

    Thank you for a wonderfully insightful discussion.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    When I tried Internet Dating, I was looking for a lady, or ladies to date, NOT necessarily seeking the ‘Love of my Life’, based on their internet info. 
       There were some interesting ladies, unfortunately, the Dating Site screwed up my account, so I never got to meet them!
       I have been Happily Divorced for over 20 years.  Raising my children, after their mother left, was my priority, NOT the women that tried to wedge themselves between my children and  I!
       I try to get ladies that I date to be more realistic, than the Romantic Comedy, or Romantic Movie concept, that the first guy you date, or maybe the second, is the ‘ONE TRUE LOVE’.
       I treat my dates with respect and attention, but I don’t lie, with those three words that women insist on.  They’re NOT cheap to me, and I hope I’ll know when to use them again!

  • J__o__h__n

    Next time you have severe audio problems with a guest cancel the show.  I’m listening on headphones and can still barely hear her. 

  • Sean C.

    I believe that a huge problem in relationships today is the focus on common interests/traits. We have dating sites for Christians, African Americans, and Nerds. We forget that the best part of love is not that you like the same music or movies, but that you love being together and you’ll be able to enjoy listening to the other partner’s music or watching their movies because you’re with them.

    • GUEST

      Yes. While my husband and I (14 years together) like similar things…we are not identical in our interests. And, I would go so far as to say, behaviorally, we are opposites. I’m more wired…energetic…academic in my interests (sciences and social sciences), an avid reader; he is mathematically analytical, calmer, an avid biker, and an architect. We both love art and architecture which is what brought us together. But, we are definitely an example of “opposites attract.” We also met “in person” randomly on the street. And, have been together ever since. 

    • Bruce

      Yes, relationship satisfaction and longevity seem NOT to correlate much with having the same interests, beliefs, values or even faiths…things we tell ourselves or that we tell others we hold onto.  One of the callers or maybe the guest mentioned that we delude ourselves (are less than rational) at times, and may be less than honest when self-disclosing on these dating sites.

      On the other hand, the research on trait theory suggests that certain personality characteristics (that cannot be gleaned from a website or what we say about ourselves on a website) may have more predictive power for lasting or satisfying relationships. 

      The characteristics that seem to matter the most include conscientiousness, openness, disinhibition and agreeableness.  You learn about these qualities and the relative weight you assign to each by experiencing the person over time, not by reading a values or interests inventory provided by a dating service.

      We all know couples for whom “opposites attract” is the rule.  One of the most famous political couples, Mary Matalin and James Carville, exemplify this theory in which disparate interests are trumped by congruent personalities.    

  • Ellen Dibble

    Illouz is saying if love is perfect understanding, it is close to an impossible goal.  Further, if you limit your perfect understanding to your partner, you might lose your opportunity to have what I’ll call deep resonance with a whole panoply of others.  I suppose each person has a different kind of mesh with a whole huge set of different people.  No need to “consume” it with consummation, none whatsoever.

  • Rae Borecky

    i find this a very interesting topic, and as a 20-something woman, something that is often on my mind. i grew up with  parents who were very good role models for “love” and a good relationship. i’ve always imagined that love would just feel comfortable, and easy. no fireworks or white knights necessary. i’ve always just wanted someone who will be my best friend, like what i’ve seen from my parents my whole life. they’ve been married for 27 years, and still laugh, and joke everyday. 

    • Terry Tree Tree

      You are more realistic, than most, and therefore have a better chance of finding that kind of love!

  • PithHelmut

    Love means different things to different people. If some seek love to feel security, there is always someone who can fulfill the other side of the pact. But most men and women today seek equality in love and reciprocal feelings. My thought is that it is something that is done best automatically, though internet dating still works for some. Women are finding that men are too problematic to live with and they prefer to have love affairs but live on their own. My own preference to is to treat marriage differently, actually more like the Moslem’s where they can enjoy multiple partners; where men and women live in communities and ntermix, sexually and otherwise but they also depend on each other. The difference between Muslems is that women are just as free to have multiple “husbands” as men are to have multiple “wives”. If one were to fall in love and live togther, a commitment can be made much like a lease, where at child-bearing age, both commit to 20 or so years to stay together but in later stage adulthood, commit to a relationship of 1, 2, 5 years or whatever term can be agreed. When people live together, there should be some kind of commitment as it is very disruptive to change the home situation especially with children. When both parties love their partner they should be considerate enough to feel able to commit to some kind of term. When both are aware of the other’s limitations, they can work together in knowledge instead of the shadows that seem to follow love so much. Committing to forever seems rather juvenile when one looks at the break-up rate.

    Nevertheless, that magic called love is still the ultimate. Oh those episodes when we are so lucky as to be smitten with it.

  • Meartstar

    It seems the problem as ever is attaining a goal which we have yet to define and are only able to define retrospectively.

  • rowlandw

    With so much online choice (seemingly) available everyone wants to “marry up” out of their realistic relationship “class”.  Worse, you can google up potential partners with no statute of limitations on their past peccadillos.  Add to this mix the media and cosmetics industries that present increasingly unattainable standards of beauty while the available “field” is just growing more obese and out of shape (there are fortunes to be made in promoting insecurity!). 

    I truly wish the best for mate-seekers in this era.   

  • Jay

    A meta-issue, I know, but it’s so revealing that the two items on Tom’s Reading List are from British papers. It’s about all I read anymore. Seems that introspection is something that something we Americans don’t do too well anymore.

  • Roy Mac

    Wow!  What a colassal waste of time!

  • Laura

    I never wanted to get married, never dreamed of a wedding. Met and married a man whose character and family I valued enough to want to spend the rest of my life immersed in them.  But 6 years and 2 children later (both conceived while on birth control) – after learning he was incapable of being a true adult partner, only a child-like friend – it ended (his decision).  In the 13 years since, I have dated but I have yet to encounter a man capable of emotional, physical and “life stuff” intimacy.  Except for an open and accepting heart, I have no shopping list. I’ve dated short men and tall; wealthy and poor; ambitious and care-free; garrulous and quiet; romantic and reserved.  Of all of them, the one common thread is that they always believe that the grass is greener on another lawn. It’s not a phobia about commitment, it’s about a sense of entitlement. It’s about reaping the rewards without doing the work.  It’s watching Keeping Up With the Kardashians not The Jim Lehrer News Hour.  It’s style not substance.  With the exception of my ill-fated marriage, from the age of 27-33, this is the sum total of my experience with love.  I’m now 47.  The time of life in which I could have been physically intimate with my partner both of us wanting to get pregnant is over. The time of life in which my children could have witnessed an intimate collaboration between their parents (or a stepfather) is over. The time of life in which I could have shared my partners’ journey is over.  To me, love doesn’t hurt as much as it is empty.  For example, more than half the men I know (single or married, straight or not) would rather spend their recreational time with porn than the real thing. 

    On a related point, the idea of romance/love is a cultural invention. Didn’t exist until the 1300s.  Contrary to modern wisdom, it is NOT essential to our survival.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowlandw/ George Williams

      A sad commentary, and I hope you do find fulfillment and joy at least in your children.  Problem is, society is marginalizing men as women have less and less need for them, and men are becoming less successful in education and employment relative to women.  (Some) men respond by avoiding commitment or living out crass male stereotypes.  This started first in the black community where black women, generally more educated and successful, now have a hard time finding eligible partners.  Now this phenomenon is climbing up the socioeconomic ladder in white (meaning general) society.

      • Laura

        Joy abounds – I did not mean to imply otherwise.  And neither did I mean to imply that this is a peculiarly female problem.  I imagine that in many ways it is even more difficult to be a man.  Men – not without reason or logic – invest so much of their identities in what they do for a living, how well they can provide for others.  Quite frankly, educated women have it easy: we can do and be anything and feel good about it; we are celebrated for it. Not true of men who suffer more than benefit from too many expectations about what they should be and do.

        Your observation about this phenomena traveling along socioeconomic ladders is an interesting one. Thank you for that.

    • Sarah

      wow, interesting comment.  Sometimes staying with one partner for a long time, who loves you unconditionally, isn’t necessarily that fulfilling either if you grow apart or don’t feel it back over time.  Love is perhaps over-rated.  The movies and TV/books make it so perfect.  It’s fleeting after infatuation, and truly hard to find a good match that lasts over ~10 years.  There are a lot of expectations, and living together also can be a challenge too sometimes.  I think really the way it’s going, the best we can hope to experience is a strong connection with multiple people – meaning some family, select friends, and a few partners over the course of a lifetime.  If we didn’t have the expectation that love is forever, which is truly not necessary anymore, maybe we wouldn’t put so much pressure on ourselves when it doesn’t work out perfectly.

  • Connie

    A slightly related question that my partner and I have been discussing ( and disagreeing) for some time. He understands that there is no difference between romance and sexiness- that the two are one and the same, but I believ there is an important distinction between the two. Is there a right answer to this?

  • LauraCrater

    Really enjoyed this program. After the psychobabble of the previous hour with AM Slaughter, Illouz’s analysis reminds us that our most personal experiences are shaped by much broader socio economic forces.  We really need to pay attention to this fundamental insight.   

  • Pingback: Barbarism.net: The Love Marketplace

  • Slipstream

    What a fascinating guest – I really enjoyed all of her comments, and she approaches the tangled subject of modern romance with wisdom and intelligence.  I think she has very important things to say to women especially, and her views of their approach to romance has been borne out by my personal experience.  Her views of men, well… like so many female thinkers, her discussion of men really focuses on bourgeois, financially successful men.  Certainly not all men today are primarily focused on their well-paid careers to the exclusion of all else.  

    As for me, I have found dealing with the endless, shifting demands of female romantic partners to be quite difficult.  Many of these women are totally self-centered, and have no commitment to the idea of family and certainly not to a man.  Endless struggles and re-evaluations, always with the assumption that it is the man’s responsibility to please the woman.  Fortunately or unfortunately, I have responded by becoming more self-centered myself.  Now I am single and not unhappily so.  

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/rowlandw/ George Williams

      I can’t imagine returning to the dating pool after 37 years of marriage.  It’s not about the length of my marriage but how different the social environment is today.  Seriously, and I’m not being flip, if something happened to my wife I would just find a congenial prostitute, meaning an “escort” above a certain market rate, for occasional meetings.  At my age I don’t want to form another family; I’m too set in my ways to adjust to another person, and I don’t have enough time to start over if I got it wrong with another woman (assuming in this environment one would have me in the first place!).  

      I don’t know about your situation but renting in this case is much cheaper than owning. I wish you the best of luck.

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