Posts Tagged ‘Relationship Rescue’

Women (and Men) in Love

June 19, 2016
Simone De Beauvoir

Simone De Beauvoir

What about romantic love?  Is it merely, as the scientists say,  a trick played upon us by the chemicals in our brains, an evolutionary mechanism that provides a bond that will last long enough to increase a human offspring’s chances for survival?  Yes, probably.  But so what?  Romantic love’s utilitarian origins don’t preclude it from being good and beautiful.

There are several indications that the experience of heterosexual romantic love is in many ways different for men and women?   (I should point out, however, that men and women have many more characteristics in common than we have differences. We are not two separate species. Furthermore, there are myriad variations within members of each gender. And both nature and nurture account for differences between men and women: men’s and women’s brains function somewhat differently and, across cultures, we tend to be socialized in very different ways.)

Several years ago, Johnny Carson asked cartoonist Kathy Guisewhite: “What’s the difference between men and women?”*

Guisewhite replied: “I really don’t think men sit around discussing women the way that women are constantly obsessing about men. You know, we’re constantly asking each other, ‘Why are they like that?’ or ‘Why do they do that?’”

Guisewhite has a point. Women certainly do spend more time talking about men than men spend talking about women. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. And for most of Western history women were legally and socially subservient to men, passed along as chattel from father to husband.  This is still their situation in many parts of the world.

When your very existence is dependent upon pleasing someone who is bigger and stronger than you are, someone who has the legal right to assault you at any time, knowing your oppressor becomes an essential survival skill.

In her book The Second Sex, French feminist icon Simone De Beauvoir describes “The Woman in Love”

Since she is anyway doomed to dependence, she will prefer to serve a god rather than obey tyrants—parents, husband, or protector.  She chooses to desire her enslavement so ardently that it will seem to her the expression of her liberty; she will try to rise above her situation as inessential object by fully accepting it; through her flesh, her feelings, her behavior, she will enthrone him as supreme value and reality: she will humble herself to nothingness before him. Love becomes for her a religion (The Second Sex 643).

De Beauvoir chooses an epigraph for “The Women in Love” by Lord Byron which declares that romantic love is “to a man’s life, a thing apart”, while it constitutes “woman’s whole existence.”  This is not entirely true, of course.  Most men do fall in love, and a few of us have even died from a broken heart.

But how many men do you suppose would go out and buy a book like Relationship Rescue by Dr. Phil?

 

*Carson and Guisewhite quotations are reconstructed from my fallible memory

by Richard W. Bray