By The School of Life

I picked up Relationships because it was free, because I knew someone who had read it and so was bound to have a discussion partner, and because I’m occasionally (often) bad at interacting with humans in a way that other humans see as normal, which I’m constantly trying to improve. The book offers a view of love that it calls Classicism, which it describes in contrast to the narrative of Romanticism. Where Romantics are idealistic, strongly emotional, and intuition driven, Classicists are supposed to be detail-oriented, to at least attempt rationality, and to question themselves and their partners at every turn. Romanticism, the book argues, sets us up for failure; a more modern approach is needed for relationship success.

Unfortunately, the modern approach lauded in this book isn’t modern at all, but is actually barely-disguised Freudian psychoanalysis with “scientific” revelations from the 20’s and 30’s (like Rorschach tests) sprinkled in. Each chapter claims to be updating the dangerous and completely unfounded beliefs of Romanticism, but they merely encourage the reader to adopt equally unfounded, and often dangerous pseudo-scientific beliefs: monogamy and polyamory are described as polar opposites with only the former acceptable for child rearing, the importance of the influence of the unconscious is stressed again and again, and lies are encouraged to protect the partner from offense.

While the book undoubtedly provides some helpful and probably true insights (domestic problems are deserving of significant attention; humans sometimes unknowingly desire partners who harm them; we claim to live in a sexually liberated society but in fact are still greatly affected by shame in relation to intimacy), these are crowded out by the pantheon of unfounded claims and references to debunked pseudo-sciences. My search for a relationships manual continues.