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[ Applause ]
>> Thank you.
Thank you so much.
What a pleasure to be back in Australia
to be back at the Opera House.
Thank you so much for coming out tonight.
As Ann's just said, I've written a novel, but I don't want
to talk particularly specifically about the novel.
Please buy it after if you feel inclined.
But what I really want to do is talk about some
of the ideas behind the novel.
And some of these people say to me you know,
'why did you even bother to write a novel?
I thought you were supposed to be a nonfiction writer.
And the reason I wrote a novel is that I believe that many
of our ideas on love come from reading novels.
Also, songs, films, etcetera.
But essentially we are very shaped
by the love narratives that we read.
And this could seem a little cruel.
We tend to think that we love spontaneously
that we're not influenced by what we read and by what we see,
but I think that we are.
We love within a very historical social context.
It's that lovely biting aphorism from La Rochefoucauld he says
"There are some people who would never have fallen in love
if they hadn't heard there was such a thing."
That's a little extreme, but you get the idea that really
when we love we're taking a lot of our cues
from the outside world.
We honour certain feelings that we experience
because other people are telling us to honour them.
We suppress other feelings because people have told us not
to pay them particular attention.
Now we are nowadays firmly in a very distinctive era
in the history of love.
We are living in the era of Romanticism.
Romanticism is an intellectual movement
that began the swallows, studies,
garrets of European poets, novelists,
writers in the middle end of the 18th century and nowadays even
if you've never heard of a single romantic poet or novelist
from any garret in old Europe
and you're just having your love life here
in Sydney you are influenced.
Because we all are by romanticism.
So whether you don't necessarily know about it, or feel it,
or touch it, it is all around us.
In the ether.
We are living, ladies and gentleman
in the era of Romanticism.
Now what does Romanticism tell us about love.
It has a very distinctive set of arguments
about what love is like, what we should expect from love
and how relationships should go.
And let me run you through a few romantic assumptions.
I think first, and most central assumption is that for all of us
out there, there is most definitely a soul mate.
We may not have met them already, we may be swiping left,
right furiously in order to try and locate them.
And eventually if we keep going hard enough we will find them.
And when we find them our soul will fuse with theirs.
All areas that have previously been confused
and lonely will be redeemed.
We will no longer feel ourselves worthless, agonising,
melancholic for the mysteries
of existence we have found a true friend
and loneliness will be banished.
This, ladies and gentleman, is the person waiting
for us somewhere out there.
The soul mate.
How are we going to find this person?
Well, big question.
The dominant answer of romanticism is by instinct.
You know for most of history the way that people were matched
up was by the elders of the community, by parents,
by other people than the couple themselves.
It was what was known as a marriage of reason.
And there were reasonable criteria.
So-called reasonable criteria, which is maybe
that you had a goat and they had a sheep.
Or you had a plot of land and they had an adjoining part
of land or whatever it was.
And it was on that basis
that the so-called domestic marriages were made.
And that was the way in which people married, have married
for thousands of years, really since the beginning of time.
But along comes Romanticism and says no, we're going to marry
in a different way, we're going to marry by instinct.
And the instinct is
that somewhere along the line you will feel a special feeling.
A very, very special feeling inside.
Kind of excitement.
And you don't know when it will strike you.
Maybe you're at the bar, maybe you're at the swimming pool.
Maybe you're just waiting in line for something,
you'll spot somebody and without necessarily knowing too much
about them de the romantics will quack in on it happening
without knowing anything about them other
than simply seeing their face.
You will know that's your soulmate.
And so, that special feeling has become venerated.
And whoever, first of all you don't question
that special feeling so, you know if you said
to your parents, and they go, all right tell me about your,
you just say I've had that special feeling
and everyone just, you know the waters part
and the couple moves forward
because there's been that special feeling.
So once the special feeling has been announced,
you raise the flag, the special feeling has happened
and that's terrific.
Of course if you don't feel
that special feeling it's a bit embarrassing.
Is there something wrong with me, etcetera, so you may start
to fake the special feeling, kind of like someone can fake
that you've had this romantic special feeling.
And so Romanticism is very into the notion of the crush,
and the immediate sensation of certainty
that you have met someone very special.
Romanticism goes hand and hand with the developments
of the railways in Europe in the 19th century.
And an awful lot of these meetings happened
on trains in fiction.
In Russian fiction alone,
fiction alone you could build a library of stories
in which the hero and heroine meet on a train
and without much knowledge, let's say just the sight maybe
of an ankle, an elbow, curvature of a cheek,
you will know that's a soulmate and that's how it begins.
So that's how you're going to find your life partner.
The romantics are very keen on the notion
of happily ever after.
That love is not just a passing phase, it is forever.
Until death do us part.
Strikingly many of the romantics die quite young [laughter].
And so often the story begins, couple falls madly in love
and then [coughing], somebody got a little cough
and then tuberculosis and [coughing]
and it's you know it's a beautiful love story
but it does end after a few months.
But nevertheless it's forever in a sense.
And Romanticism is also very keen on suicide,
ending things dramatically.
So death has a curious relationship with love
in the romantic point of view.
The other essential thing about the romantics is
that generally no one really has a job.
None of the romantics really have jobs.
So they can devote a lot of time to love.
And they're spending a lot of time just in each other's arms,
and also going for walks.
Nature is incredibly important for the romantics.
Going out into nature for long, long walks,
very particular places.
Waterfalls, very romantic place.
Also places where the ocean meets the land, dramatic cliffs,
pounding of seas,
very quintessentially romantic places.
Romantic times of day.
Dusk is a quintessentially romantic time.
Especially when you know there are a layer of clouds,
and the underside of the clouds are lit up by the shafts
of the dying sun turning the sky a purple-pink hew,
very romantic sort of moment.
A moment to enforce love through the help of nature.
The romantics have a very distinctive take on sex.
People have obviously been having sex for all
of human history and there's been some love.
But what the romantics do is a remarkable fusion
of love and sex.
They basically consecrate sex as the summit of love
and the ultimate expression of love.
So far from being merely a mechanical action,
it becomes this most sincere expression of your feelings
for another person, almost define expression
of tenderness for another person.
It has a slight drawback, which is that it turns adultery
into a tragedy, a catastrophe, because if you believe,
as the romantics do that sex is the crowning expression of love,
then any interest outside
of the couple will be catastrophic in nature.
And that's why almost every great novel of the 19th century
in Europe is about adultery, in one form or another.
Starting with Flaubert's "Madame Bovary", moving on to Tolstoy's
" Anna Karenina" and on, and on.
People have been having adultery for all of human history.
It's been happening all the time,
but what's new is the weight that's put on it.
And as I say it is a violation of everything
that the romantics believe that love is.
Now, I should say that many
of these romantic ideas are very beautiful.
They're very exciting and we all live through them
and it would be naive to someway dismiss them
as irrelevant to the way we live.
They are everywhere and they are the centre
of how we approach love.
But I also want to insist
that Romanticism has been a catastrophe for our capacity
to have good long-term relationships.
And if we want to have a chance of succeeding at love,
we will have to be disloyal to many of the romantic emotions
that got us into relationships in the first place.
Romanticism has spelt trouble for our capacity to endure
and thrive in long-term relationships.
Why do I say that?
Well let me run you through a few of the areas that I believe
that Romanticism has spelt difficulty
for us in relationships.
So Romanticism replaced an earlier vision of human nature,
which tended to stress how fragile,
broken and very sinful we all were.
An old Christian idea.
And Romanticism comes along and dismisses this attitude
as hopelessly pessimistic and insists instead on the purity
and good nature of every human being.
For the romantics, the romantics place an awful lot
of emphasis on children.
And children, for the romantics are always good,
they're always sweet.
It begins with Jean-Jacques Rousseau
in the mid-18th century.
The child is the purest expression of human kind
and the only thing that makes a child bad is societies.
Only society corrupts children.
But basically it's a sign that we are born good.
And the older view, which was associated
with Christian theologians like St. Augustine,
which stressed the fundamental sinfulness.
You know, St. Augustine argued that all of us bear
within us the original sin of Adam and therefore all of us.
It's good to speak like this at a pulpit
to an audience, but [laughter].
But all of us, all of us are sinners, or potential sinners,
and therefore need to be at the mercy of others
and of the divine, in order, I'm a secular Jew, but the divine,
in order to endure life.
Now Romanticism does away with this and says to us that all
of us are angelic by nature.
The interesting thing is that Romanticism coincides
with the decline in organised religion.
So just as religion is declining Romanticism rises,
and it's in many ways a replacement,
a secular alternative.
So when we get together in love.
You know what's fascinating, is the beginning of the use
of the word angel to refer not to those winged creates
up in the sky, but to refer to other human beings.
And there's a marked increase of this in the age of Romanticism.
And nowadays of course, many
of us will cheerfully call our partner angel.
So we are all of us, in a sense, and through the lens
of Romanticism, good people,
our wings have been temporarily put aside,
but essentially we're pretty perfect people not particularly
tainted by original sin.
Now, I think this is highly troubling for relationships.
because it leads that absolute problematic dynamic
with any relationship which is self-righteousness.
If you think that you're quite perfect,
and that your partner is quite perfect too.
That's trouble anyway.
And if you start a relationship,
you'll soon start hitting upon things which will lead you
to think that actually maybe they're not that perfect.
Now what do you do with that feeling, if you're operating
against an ideology that says that everyone,
and that your partner particularly is by nature good.
Very unhelpful backdrop in which
to negotiate the troubles of relationships.
It's far better, I believe to insist that all of us are
in various ways deeply, and I don't mean this in any
as an insult, deeply crazy [laughter].
I may not know exactly how you're crazy,
I can tell you later how I'm crazy.
I won't, well I might.
But basically all of us, and none of us get
through the gauntlet of early childhood, adolescence,
etcetera, with our sanity entirely intact.
We are all of us warped,
distorted in very distinctive ways.
It may take us 50 years to work
out exactly how we're distorted, but we are distorted.
And this is a fundamental piece of knowledge,
which we should be taking with us into relationships
with a big warning sign over us.
Now why are we so unable to conceive of ourselves as damaged
and crazy and therefore so [inaudible] self-righteousness.
Well, part of the problem is that all
of us have very low levels of self-knowledge.
And self-knowledge is really, really hard to come by.
Partly because there's almost a conspiracy of silence around us.
People don't quite tell us what they think of us.
And therefore we can go through live
where the average person who's met us
for 20 minutes has a deeper insight into many of our flaws
than we might achieve over a lifetime [laughter].
Why don't people tell us this?
Well there's really no motive for them
to tell us this at many stages.
Our parents are not going
to tell us certain things that they know.
They can see things about us, but they're not going
to tell us, because they're very kind, they wish us well.
It's not really their business they're not going to go into it
and maybe they're blinded by their own affection for us.
There's our friends, well of course our friends are not going
to tell us certain things about our characters,
the ways in which we're difficult in particular,
because all they really want from us is a person
to evening out [laughter].
They just, they don't care.
You really have to care about someone to be bothered to go
into all that stuff about their true character.
And our friends, certainly, you know they can't be bothered.
They don't like us enough [laughter].
So it leaves then, that other category, our exes.
Well, our exes you could expect
that they will somewhere along the lines have told us,
but the thing on the whole it's not really worth their
And so they tend to take their leave by saying things
like they need to spend more time on their own,
they need to develop their character,
they'd like to go travelling.
Nonsense. Of course not.
They see certain things about you.
But again, they're not going to go through it,
they can't be bothered.
They just want out, let somebody else sort that out [laughter].
So, so the thing is that we go
through life, not really knowing.
I mean it's very tender and poignant how sometimes some
of us feel, probably some of you in the audience feel
that broadly speaking, you're quite easy to live with.
I mean does anyone here think that they're,
kind of broadly speaking easy to live with,
if only they met the right person.
A few people.
A few people.
You know that's a very poignant combination whereby a very
I spent my early 20s absolutely convinced that the only thing
that was missing was really the right person.
And so long as I met the right person then all would be well.
So this notion that we might be easy to live
with is deeply misleading and should be stamped out.
Of course we're not.
Everybody from close-up is trouble and we need to put this
in mind, bear this in mind.
If I was running the world, one of the key questions
that we would always ask each other on an early dinner date
without anything pejorative meant
by it is how are you crazy?
So I'm crazy like this, how about you?
And then we'd be expected to have a really thoughtful
and kind of well thought through, non-defensive,
non-hysterical answer to that question to be able
to share with another person.
Think of how much time we would save.
We don't need people in relationships to be perfect.
We need them to have a handle on their imperfections
and to be able to warn us and prepare us
for more noxious sides of their personalities outside
of those critical moments
when those personality distortions have deeply
But it's very hard to do.
And most of the time we come upon discoveries
about other people at moments
when those discoveries have pained us deeply,
and therefore we are not likely to be in any way sympathetic.
So the calm explanation of one's insanities
to another person is one of the greatest gifts.
And I think one of the best wedding presents that any
of us could give one another is a large book called,
you know 'My Insanities' that you would give.
Each person would give 'My Insanities' to their partner.
And think how much time I think we would save.
You know the other thing
that Romanticism really gets wrong is this emphasis
on instinct right, so you know the old marriage,
marriage of reason, marriage by the family etcetera.
And then you know the romantics tell us this is marriage
by instinct, that special feeling.
Well, the thing about it is that you know you don't need
to accept or even know much about psychoanalysis
and psychotherapy to just take
on board the one key central idea of psychotherapy
which is the way that we love as adults is a reflection
and deeply connected to the way that we learnt
about love as children.
That is the foundation stone of psychotherapy.
So you look at an adult, you look at how you are
in adult relationships and there are a million connexions
that you can make with how we learnt about love as children.
And the problem with this is that the way that we learnt
about love as children is likely to have been a bit problematic.
It's likely that we received affection certainly.
But that in one way or another without necessarily meaning to,
our parents did us a great disservice.
In some ways they damaged us.
Not necessarily meaning to.
And this has very particular consequences for our capacity
to find love as adults.
Because often of what we're trying to do
in adult love is re-find a kind of love
that we knew as children.
But the kind of love that we knew
as children was not necessarily problem free, indeed,
it was very particularly and interestingly distorted
and laden with all sorts of difficulties.
And these become the new criteria which we search
for in our adult partners.
So when people say that in love what they're looking
for is someone to make them happy, to make them content,
to bring them happiness, we can't necessarily believe them.
Really what we're searching for when we search
for an adult partner is someone who feels familiar.
And very often the kind of people
that we meet don't feel familiar in the level of care, generosity
and goodness that they're bringing to us.
It just feels a little bit odd.
We think I don't necessarily feel at home
with this kind of treatment.
You know how it is when you sometimes set up a friend
and on paper, you know two people are completely perfect.
You know the two CDs match exactly.
And you set them up and then you know you have hopeful
expectations for the date, and then they come back to you
and you say, you know, 'how did it go?
How did the date go?'
And they say, 'I don't know.
You know they're really nice, I just you know we've got so much
in common in a way, all our interests,
we do all the same sports and read the same books,
but I don't know something was missing.
And I don't know if it's chemistry, something.'
And very often the thing is that our unconscious has recognised
that this simple very nice person is perfect,
except for they won't make us suffer in the way that we expect
to be made to suffer in love.
So they've got to be dismissed.
They're just not going to make me unhappy in the way
that I've learnt to expect that love should make me unhappy.
And you know we know the situation
in its most extreme form.
So you know somebody who can only take someone
who will hit them, who will strike them.
But even without the extremes of violence, there are many ways
in which we are attracted to people not so much
for their positive sides but because they feel, as I say,
familiar in the degree to which they will frustrate certain
of our aspirations for ourselves.
There's another problem you know with Romanticism.
And that's really to do with the idea of honesty.
You know Romanticism had extremely high regard
for the concept of honesty and that a relationship,
the whole point of a relationship is
that you can be honest with another human being.
Most of the time we've got to lie all the time
about who we are, what we feel.
'How are you?'
And you're breaking down inside etcetera.
You know we're all in tears inside we're broken.
We've got to put up a front,
that's what society demands of us.
But finally we can meet someone
and with them the drawbridge can come down, the walls can come
down and we can be ourselves.
And there are wonderful moments in the early moments of love,
in the early phase of love when we really do feel
that we have found someone who could accept all of us.
And take on board everything that we are,
we need to have no more secrets.
We can be properly ourselves.
And the truth is that being yourself, fully yourself
around another human being is a truth
that you should probably spare anyone that you claim
to love [laughter] because it's really a little problematic.
Now, often it goes a bit like this, you know,
look let's be honest, I think no kids
in the room often it's a little bit around sex.
So, in the early days of love,
you know you've been a bit lonely
in all areas including sex and you meet somebody and you say,
you know, 'do you like?
You know that thing that you could do like with a rope,
and like handcuffs, like imagine if,
have you ever been interested?'
And they go, 'wow, yeah I've always wanted to try that
and that's always, but I've never dared to tell anyone.'
And there's that wonderful sense of intimacy based
on the no longer needing to be shamed.
We no longer need to be ashamed of ourselves.
We can be ourselves in the bedroom, etcetera.
And this is a very ecstatic discovery.
And it really makes us feel so powerful in the world
because we no longer have to be hunchback figure we can now go
out into the world and feel that some
of our darkest secrets have acceptance, an endorsement
from another human being.
This lovely phase tends to last
about three months [laughter] until,
until normally the moment goes like this.
Not the same for everybody, but a version
of this tends to happen.
So you've been sharing everything,
you've been sharing you know the thing,
and the thing, and the handcuffs.
And it's all fun.
And then you're sitting in a café with you know
with your lover with whom you've opened your soul,
and they've opened their soul.
And you spot a really quite interesting member
of the waiting team, and you go, 'see the waiter over there,
like wouldn't it be fun if like you know the thing
with the you know thing that we do,
what about tonight if they got involved?
If we asked them to get involved?
And like gave a number and they could come
and then you could be watching and then.'
And then you turn to your partner and rather
than being this kind of open, they're actually look
in quite a big state of distress.
They look kind of unhappy and miserable.
And you go, wow, wow I better stop right there.
And you're a fork in the road and one fork in the road leads
to the path of honesty,
and another path leads to the path of love.
And you've got a choice to make [laughter].
You've got a choice to make, are you going to carry
on this anecdote, this fantasy,
or are you just going to shut up?
And most of us are going to shut up at that point.
And that's the beginning of a very fundamental moment
when we realise that of course we cannot entirely ourselves.
Not because we're trying to retain a nasty secret
from our partner, but because in the name
of love we cannot be entirely ourselves.
We have to accept the role of editing.
Because the full disclosure of who we are and what we are
at every moment another human being will probably
And therefore we need in the name of love
to hold back and to edit a lot.
None of this Romanticism prepares us for.
Indeed, it makes it look like a betrayal.
So it sets up a huge, it's a very, very unhelpful backdrop
in which this scenario happens.
Because Romanticism insists on authenticity,
it's by being totally authentic that you are true to love.
Anything else is a betrayal of love.
And well, the facts on the ground are seriously I believe
in conflict with that romantic commandment
and causes a lot of difficulties.
I'm not through with my reservations about Romanticism.
Another thing about Romanticism that never really talks
about is Romanticism never really talks
about the practical side of life.
In the 19th century no one, no romantic poet, writer, artist,
etcetera ever mentions laundry.
There's absolutely no mention of the fact
that every couple who's been together any amount
of time will have to spend a lot of time doing laundry,
housework, cleaning, raising children, etcetera.
This just goes unmentioned.
And this causes us real difficulties because it sets
up an expectation that you know intelligent, sensitive,
soulful people don't really bother about these things.
And therefore there's no particular emphasis
on making an accommodation, a preparation for some
of the difficulties that might come in this area.
So at some point in a relationship a version
of this happens, this kind of scenario happens.
Not exactly this, but a version of this happens,
which is that a couple who you know are very much committed
to love and you know disagree with their parents and some
of their more petty attitudes, the things like you know,
etcetera where the salt and pepper should go and etcetera.
They will suddenly have an argument in the bathroom
that goes a bit like this.
One of the couples will say, 'what's that towel doing there?'
And the other person goes, 'I just had a shower.'
'Yeah but what's it doing on the floor?'
'Well I just threw it on the floor
because I got to go and meet Bill.'
And you go, 'No, no I know you've got to meet Bill,
but what's it doing on the floor?'
And, the other one goes, 'Well,
how do you mean what is it doing on the floor?
It's just on the floor.'
And suddenly there's a kind of new turn of impatience.
Basically because both partners think that they're very clever.
And they're not petty, they're not going to argue
about petty things like towels on the floor.
They associate that with their grandparents or something.
You know if you're a true romantic you don't worry
about these things, you don't make no accommodations,
you are too clever to have this sort of argument.
And when two people convinced that they're too clever
to have this sort of argument,
you know the argument will be bitter [laughter].
And so very often there is no accommodation
with this sort, this aspect of life.
You know think of Paul "Madame Bovary" in Flaubert's novel.
Madame Bovary has been brought up in ideas of love drawn
from romantic fiction.
So she believes that love is all about guys on horseback
and castles and walks through the mist, etcetera.
And then she gets married to this quite nice,
but you know pretty ordinary regular kind of guy,
but on the whole, okay.
And suddenly she realises that a lot of her time has got
to be spent doing the laundry, organising the milk,
and the cheese, and sitting
down with her husband while he's doing the accounts.
And she's supposed to be organising her domestic order
in the evenings and he's reading the newspaper.
And she thinks that her life has gone terribly wrong.
That it's a disaster, what has happened.
She thought that she was marrying for love.
And now she's ended up with this kind of domestic situation
and these doubts unleash a series of processes in her mind,
which will lead eventually to her suicide and death.
That essentially the belief that the practical side
of life has no place in a good love life is central
to Romanticism and a disaster for our chances of love.
So, towels, more on that in a minute.
The other thing that the romantics very much believe is
the romantics believe that you shouldn't necessarily talk too
much to your lover and that talking is often a sign
of not understanding somebody.
So very privileged space is given in Romanticism
to that account that we sometimes get in the beginning
of relationships that two people have understood one another
without needing to talk all the time.
So, people will say things like, you know it was amazing,
you know we were there, we were by the waterfront,
we were chatting, and then you know sometimes we were just
quiet because we just understood.
We just knew, you know.
I would say one thing and it was amazing, he knew.
You know he'd been there before.
It was like we had travelled immediately down the same path,
we don't need to explain ourselves in the way that I had
to in that horrible last relationship.
In this one I just, I can be myself and we're a bit wordless.
And the Romanticism generally believe that too much analysis,
too much putting of words on top of feelings is a bad thing,
a quintessential romantic belief is that you destroy feelings
and emotions by thinking too much about them.
I don't know if anybody in the audience feels,
some people feel this.
That if you think too much you break things.
That thinking too much is,
I should have weeded those people out.
But a few people have come here nevertheless.
This is a disaster for a philosopher it's like what?
Hang on [laughter].
Nevertheless, there are people, erratic's, I'm being nasty
but we've all, we all have that feeling sometime
that words can break things.
And so in a way one of the nicest stories of love
that romantics tell us is intuitive understanding
of one person by another without the medium of words.
Again, over the long-term a catastrophe,
One of the things that it leads to is an outbreak of sulking.
Romanticism was responsible for a worldwide, enormous increase
in the prevalence of sulks [laughter].
Now, what is a sulk?
A sulk is a feeling of hurt with another person,
a wound that the other person has given you
that you are not going to explain to them,
for the simple reason that they're supposed to love you.
And if they love you they're supposed to know.
So of course you could explain what's wrong with you,
but if you had to explain
that would be a prove they didn't love you because love is
by its nature wordless.
True love is wordless.
And that's why let's say you're coming back from the party
where that offensive thing happened, and you're kind
of silent in the car, deliberately, you're not going
to say what happened, because you're a romantic
and they should know.
And they say, they're going to make a few attempts
and they go, 'is anything wrong?'
'Nope.' And then so you go up, you know you go up the stairs,
you go home, you go into your apartment and they say,
you know, 'come into the bedroom.'
And you go, 'nope.'
And you go into the bathroom and you bolt the door.
And they go, 'come on.'
And they're knocking at the door, and 'Just come
on tell me what it is.'
And you're like, 'nuh uh.'
And the reason is that as a romantic you believe
that a true lover should be able to intuit the contents
of your soul through the bathroom panel door [laughter].
Through the surface of your body and into your interior.
And they should know.
So why would you ever bother telling them.
So this is a disaster.
Because unfortunately even the most well-meaning people simply
cannot understand all of us.
They can understand bits of us, how we felt maybe
when we were humiliated by our father at an early age.
Or how it felt to join a new school at a certain point.
Some things they can just get.
But a lot of things, particularly
over the long-term, just no one can get.
You cannot expect the other person to be a mind reader.
And yet Romanticism places the ability to mind read precisely
at the kernel of its vision, the core of its vision
of love, deeply problematic.
Here's another thing that Romanticism talks to us about.
It talks to us about the way in which we really love somebody.
You love everything about them.
Of course you love the amazing things about them, but oddly
and touchingly you quite love the slightly imperfect things
And that's why in the early days of love, there's a lot of kind
of tenderness and excitement around the discovery of the less
than perfect sides of somebody that are used to feed into love
and that intensify love.
Maybe your partner's got a slight gap
between their two front teeth.
Not a problem.
I mean a problem for an orthodontist,
but for you it's charming [laughter].
Maybe there's that old pair of pyjamas
that their mother gave them and they put it on on cold nights
and it's got bear prints on it.
It doesn't look that glamorous,
it wouldn't win any fashion awards, but it's them
and it's theirs and it's incredibly sweet
and you love them all the more for it.
So in a way in the early days of love, the fragilities
and the vulnerabilities of another person are part
of what makes that person so loveable until [laughter].
You're getting the hang of this now [laughter].
Until maybe about three months in a version
of the following scenario happens.
So maybe you've been out for a big night, etcetera
and it's morning, it's dawn and you're having some breakfast.
And you're having some cereal, maybe they've picked out a kind
of granola-ish, so quite nutty kind of cereal.
And next to you they're eating their cereal
and you're eating yours and you just turn to them
and you go 'are you cow or something' [laughter]?
'This just sounds disgusting.
Just shut your mouth or something.'
And you know this person suddenly turns around,
and they say, 'hang on a minute this is like the third thing
that you're criticising me for in 24 hours.
Well, I thought you loved me.'
And you go, 'I do love you
but you're eating like the bovine way.
I mean just stop it.'
And they get terribly offended
and they go no one's ever told me that before.
And you want to go, 'yeah because why would they?
I mean your friend was not going to tell you.
Your parents aren't going to tell you.
And your ex probably knew it but went off to India' [laughter].
'So the point is no one's going to tell you
and you sound like a cow.'
At which point you've got a problem on your hands
because Romanticism doesn't allow
for this sort of situation.
It suggests that love is the acceptance of the whole being.
And therefore, at one point
in the relationship one person is likely to say
to another 'if you love me why do you criticise me?'
So it's that criticism is here.
Love is here.
They should never be together and if they are ever together,
it's a sign that love has failed.
This, again is a disastrous philosophy.
The idea that another person could spend time with us
and not spot a whole lot of things that are problematic,
is really the hype of sentimentality.
Of course there's lots, I mean are you perfect?
If you're not perfect how on earth do you expect someone not
to notice the imperfections and not mind them?
But nevertheless, Romanticism tells us
that no this has no place.
Look, let's look away from that rather unhelpful philosophy
to an earlier version of love.
This one developed by the ancient Greeks.
Which I think is a lot more helpful.
The ancient Greeks very focussed on love, as we are.
But had a very different vision of what love is.
They felt that love is admiration for the perfect sides
of another human being.
For the virtues, the qualities, the accomplishments
in the character and achievements of another person.
There's other stuff of course.
There's flaws and things, and you may be generous toward them,
and you may be forgiving of them.
But you don't love them.
The word love is reserved for admiration for what is virtuous
and accomplished in another person.
And for the ancient Greeks, the whole notion of love is
that love should be a process of mutual education
in which two people under the auspices of love undertake
to educate one another to become better versions of themselves.
And they do this not to be cruel, not as a way
of bringing each other down
but because they have the sincerest best interest
of the other at their heart.
And therefore love is a process whereby teacher
and a pupil are constantly rotating roles.
Everyone is the teacher and everyone is the pupil
at certain points and has lots of things to take on board.
This is not a sign that love has been abandoned, it is the proof
that love is an action.
Now this sounds so weird in a modern age.
I mean if you said to somebody, if you said to your partner,
'well I went to listen to this guy at the Opera House,
and yeah he's got some various ideas and he's written a book
and on this basis I would
like to teach you certain things [laughter].
I would like to deliver a short seminar,
short but to the point seminar on your character,
achievements and nature.'
This would be so weird.
They'd be like, 'what?
What I thought you loved me,' etcetera.
Now, why are we such bad teachers?
You know a lot of relationship arguments can essentially be
seen as failed teaching moments.
There's something you want to say and it goes terribly,
terribly wrong on the journey to your listener.
Why does it go so wrong?
Why does the teaching lesson fail so badly?
Partly because we don't think it's legitimate to teach.
So if someone's telling you, your job is not legitimate,
you'd be a bit panicked, like, 'oh wow, if I'm not supposed
to be this, how do I?'
So you're not relaxed.
The other thing of course, what makes a good teacher is
that they're calm, is that they're relaxed.
And one of the best ways to be a calm teacher is not
to mind too much if your lesson doesn't really get
through to the other person.
So you know a great math teacher, you know they're calm
in the classroom, because there's not that much at stake.
Of course they want their, you know pupils to pick up a bit
about trigonometry or whatever, but if they don't
and if they flunk their exams,
well there'll be a new lot coming next year,
it doesn't really matter.
There's not that much at stake.
The thing is that in love's classroom,
we are much more tense.
We are much more on edge.
And the reason is that so much seems to depend on it
and the background
of our thoughts is the most terrifying spectre
as we're trying to teach.
And the terrifying spectre goes
like this 'I think I've married an idiot.
I think I've got to spend the rest of my life with someone
who doesn't understand very basic, very important things
that matter so much to me and this person is not listening.'
And because they're not listening we're going to ramp
up the pressure and the tension.
And we're going to start to be rude.
And we're going to start to humiliate,
and we're going to start to swear.
And the terrible problem is that no one has ever, ever managed
to teach anyone anything by humiliating them.
By the time you are humiliating your partner in order
to each them something, forget it, bye-bye.
The lesson's over you are never going to get through that way.
As we know from HR departments in offices,
if you want to teach someone something,
it's got to be 99% honey and tiny,
tiny little criticism at the very end.
You know I love this, I love that, I love that.
Did you know that thing that?
That's maybe how you've got a chance of getting through.
But we don't do this.
So in love's classroom we do not accept
that love should be a process of mutual education.
We know so much about our partners
that no one else every does.
We've got a ringside seat on their charming sides
and on their insanities in a way that no one ever will.
But because we think it's a betrayal of love
that knowledge can't be shared, used and grown with.
Because we are so brittle and defensive as students
of this we simply fail to accept that the other person,
if somebody tries to give us a simple lecture,