I am reading Eva Illouz’s Why Love Hurts ( Polity Press, 2012), a heavily researched, sociological academic polemic on the (macro-social) dysfunctions of modern love.
An extended quote:
“The elementary forms of “enchanted” love as a cultural prototype and a phenomenological experience can be said to resemble the following model:
1. The object of love is sacred. Guillaume de Lorris (fl. 1230), the French scholar and poet and author of the first section of the Roman de la Rose, the medieval poem which intended to teach about the art of love, presents the Lady, the beloved, as on a pedestal, a quasi-divinity to be worshipped. Such rhetoric of devotion to a sacred object emerged in twelfth century courtly love, but could still be found as late as the nineteenth century. Writing to his lover, Evelina Hanska, Balzac expresses his wishes to adore her in a way that would not suit modern sensibilities: “How I should have liked to remain half a day kneeling at your feet with my head in your lap.”
2. Love is impossible to justify or explain. Cupid’s arrow is the oldest symbol of love as an arbitrary and unjustifiable emotion. Guillame de Lorris recounts that once the arrow penetrated his body and flesh, he could no more take it out than he could stop loving the Lady. He cannot not love. Love is a force of its own, compelling obedience. For example, consider Humbert Humbert seeing Lolita for the first time: “I find it most difficult to express with adequate force that flash, that shiver, that impact of passionate recognition.” The love is here immediate, irresistible, because it is construed as an act of physical recognition that bypasses the will.
3. Such an experience overwhelms the experiential reality of the lover. Writing to his wife Josephine in 1796, when he was the commander of the French army in Italy, Napoleon states, “I have not spent a day without loving you; I have not spent a night without embracing you; I have not so much as drunk one cup of tea without cursing the pride and ambition which force me to remain apart from the moving spirit of my life.” Love here is an emotion which invades the entire existential reality of the lover.
4. In enchanted love, there is no distinction between subject and object of love. The object of love cannot be separated from the subject loving as such experience involves and mobilizes the totality of the self. Beethoven writing to his lover in 1812, put it succinctly: “My angel, my all, my own self.”
5. The object of love is unique and incommensurable. Romeo, upon seeing Juliet, declares, “Did my heart love till now?” by which he means that she is the only one he has loved and will ever love. Uniqueness entails the fact that the beloved cannot be substituted for others. It also means his/her virtues or flaws cannot be measured or compared to that of another.
6. The person in love is oblivious to his or her own self-interest as a criterion for loving another person. In fact, pain is an essential ingredient of the experience of absoluteness and aggrandizement. In the words of Felix, Balzac’s hero in “Le Lys dans La Vallee” (“The Lily of the Valley,” 1835): “To love desperately is still happiness.”
Eva Illouz, Why Love Hurts, Chapter 5: Love, Reason, Irony
…and I’m fighting about it with my lover.
Don’t judge. That’s what turns us on.