Where are the Departments of Love?

Posted Friday, May 3rd, 2019 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to General Public

Universities have Departments of Economics to study the allocation of scarce resources. They have Departments of Political Science to study power. Where are the Departments of Love?

Last night I took my teenage daughter to a preview screening of Long Shot. Checking in on Facebook prior to the show, I noted, “I’m a very open aficionado of the Rom-Coms.” This prompted some good natured ribbing about my lack of masculinity from a male colleague and my wife. However, sadly–and inspiring this blog–a female family-law colleague noted her surprise that I was seeing a romantic comedy with the comment, “Really?? That one shocks me.” She elaborated, “I think of you a being such a pragmatic, logical thinker, which is something I admire. Glad to know about this side of you.”

This attorney’s perception of me as pragmatic and logical fits my own self-perception. What I find sad is that it’s considered illogical and unpragmatic to devote intellectual energy to thinking about love. Sure universities have Departments of Psychology, where one can study theories of the mind, or Departments of Philosophy, where one can study theories of knowledge or “the good life.” But one can graduate with degrees in these subjects without ever taking a class on love: the different types of love (fraternal, familial, romantic; erotic); how to find and sustain love; how to love others and how to be lovable.

Meanwhile, the ability to find and sustain love is a better predictor of future happiness than the ability to make money or obtain power. It is extremely logical and pragmatic to devote time and energy to thinking on this subject. That’s been a recurring theme through the ten years I’ve written this blog.

Certainly one can read numerous books–a rare few actually useful–that address love in all its forms. But there’s an important distinction between reading something and actively studying it. In college I was able to study some of the great works of Western literature as part of formal classes. The process of discussing these works with fellow students under the guidance of a professor who possessed a superior understanding of these works greatly enhanced my understanding and appreciation. Reading literature without the formal structure of expert-led discussion isn’t the same.

The closest I’ve ever come to “studying” love with the same formality is in individual counseling. I have found this of tremendous help towards becoming a better son, brother, friend, parent, spouse. However most folks lack the time, inclination, and resources to think about love with such rigor and focus. Moreover the time when such study would be most fruitful–not that one is ever too old to find improvement of these skills meaningless–is when one is a young adult. High school and college classes dealing specifically with love might bring tremendous benefit to our society and overall human happiness.

Marriage and child rearing weren’t always primarily about love–in fact it is only the most recent sliver of human history that love became the dominant reason to marry or procreate. While an understanding of love was likely always important to human happiness, it is now substantially more important to sustaining marriage or parenting children in a manner that does not result in state intervention.

It’s romantic to think that love requires no effort (or, if it requires effort, no thought). However, cogitating on love can be a useful exercise. The basic premise of a good romantic comedy–two interesting but flawed individuals struggle but learn to come together as a couple in a manner that leaves them happier than they could be individually–can help one understand one’s own life and relationships in a way that no superhero movie ever could. If the average American had a better capacity to love and a better understanding of love, the family courts of the United States would have greatly reduced dockets and I might need to shift my practice’s focus elsewhere.

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