If You Would Fall In Love, Would You Fall For Anything?

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Monday, July 15, 2002

If You Would Fall In Love, Would You Fall For Anything?
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow
Heide Seward, Research Fellow
Anne Stover, FemFacts Editor
Email: FemFacts@cwfa.org

Men throughout the ages have used all manner of surprising tactics to seduce women, from promises to poetry. But Dr. Robert Epstein, editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, is not content to write a personal ad to bed his next babe, he’s planning to write a whole book!

Epstein believes that there is a way to control “falling in love.” He recently proposed a “bold, very personal experiment” in the June 26th issue of his magazine: he wants to change the ground rules of romance by finding a partner willing to join him in learning to love each other. (No fat chicks, please.) Of course, he’ll write a tome about the process.

After all, he claims, sixty percent of the world’s marriages are arranged and their divorce rate is low. Despite his scientific rigor, he doesn’t, however, cite the failure rates of shacking up.

Both Epstein and the “lab partner” he selects must sign and agree to honor a heart-sprinkled love contract. The couple agrees to communicate, honestly express their feelings, trust each other, have fun, and love each other with a growing love. What a two-fer: Epstein advances science and gets a new girlfriend!

Here’s the rub: the contract can be terminated after the assigned deadline. Getting married is the desired outcome of the “fall” . . . but not mandatory.

Epstein says he hopes something will be learned from his experiment. But that’s doubtful given his flawed research design. His causal mechanisms are confused: arranged marriages were about, well, marriage. Not this trial dating thing he’s concocted that sounds remarkably like today’s cohabitation arrangements memorialized, and sentimentalized, in quasi-contract. What an irony-after arguing for years that marriage was “just a piece of paper,” today’s libertines need a paper contract just for dating.

Epstein admits that he once experienced “pure love” which he described as lacking “possessive feelings.” When they broke up “all I wanted was for her to be happy.” Sure.

Cads like Epstein need accountability. Not so long ago, this kind of “I’ll ‘luv’ you in the morning, baby,” gimmick would have produced not a scholarly writing, but a shotgun wedding. A marriage is a commitment, not a “love contract” including a pre-marital sexual permit and a three to six month termination clause. Epstein claims his experiment is meant to protect people from the pain of falling in love, but what he gets is protection from the real risk of intimacy. And, not coincidentally, the work of commitment.

There’s nothing new about this experiment. C’mon Epstein, falling in love is not the same as falling for make believe.

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