the couple in love

Chapter IX from 'The ecstasies of Eros'

The resurrection of Osiris
Reversal of the perverse trend
Reversal of the promiscuous trend
Reversal of the polygamous trend
Romantic love and euphoria.
Romantic love and exclusivity
Romantic love and hypnosis
Der Liebestod.
Primeval monogamy
Apparent polygamy and apparent promiscuity
Dogs, gorillas or turtle doves?
From primeval promiscuity over primeval polygamy to monogamy
Tristan and Isolde.
The world-historic triumph of polygamy as the world-historic triumph of unfaithfulness
Unfaithfulness as faithfulness to love
The necessary failure of love


We have already studied many variants of love: according to the number of partners, the duration of the relation and the content of the relation. Before tackling monogamy as a next variant, it is perhaps not superfluous to give a short recapitulation.

From a social point of view, we can classify love relations on a continuum with on the one end reciprocal polygamy and on the other reciprocal monogamy, and in between one-sided polygamy of the male (polygyny) and one-sided polygamy of the female (polyandry). This continuum extends quantitavely from relations of one with one, over relations of one with many, to relations of many with many.

From a contentual point of view, love appears under ever new forms: now as seduction, then as lovemaking, then as the desire to become father and mother, and finally as cooperation.

From a temporal point of view, love can endure a whole lifespan or last for only a single moment. The duration of every social pattern can be placed on a continuum between absolute faithfulness and absolute promiscuity (or unfaithfulness). That results in a continuum with on the one side absolutely faithful and reciprocal monogamy, on the opposite side absolute reciprocal promiscuity, and in between serial monogamy, serial polygamy, serial polyandry or serial reciprocal polygamy.

We can ask ourselves whether we are dealing here with random continua or with continua with an inbuilt direction. In our contentual analysis of love, we were talking about the severing of the tie between lovemaking and fertilisation, about the reduction of lovemaking to seduction, and about the removal of cooperation from the sexual relation. We understood such threefold uncoupling in terms of Freud's concept of 'perversion', and that implies a converse move in the opposite direction. A similar directionality appeared in our analysis of promiscuity, which, as the absolute negation of faithfulness, betrayed a desire for absolute faith in the cult of the decapitated virgin. A similar directionality is, finally, contained in the irrevocable law that a multiplication of relations comes down to a diminution of their quality and intensity. It is obvious, then, that these three continua do not just represent steps on a scale between two poles, but rather describe movements away from a point of departure.

That starting point is the same in the three movements: multiplication of relations means shortening of their duration, and the combination of both leads to contentual narrowing. Thus, we can represent the whole as a combination of three coordinates converging in one and the same kernel.

Within this set of coordinates, we can arrange all the 'ek-stases' of love, like nebulae in an ever expanding cosmos of Eros, wherein love is centrifugally propelled in a three-dimensional space, more or less like, on a horizontal plane, the body of Osiris, after having been torn apart in its 'membra disiecta', was dispersed over the four quarters of the two-dimensional surface of the earth.

Time has come to recompose these 'membra disiecta' into the restored body of Osiris, by having them implode into a kernel, as in a reversed Big Bang. Let us examine, than, what a threefold reversal of the perverse, promiscuous and polygamous trend will yield.


Already with the first reversal, we are caught by an irrevocable logic. With the solemnity of a sarabande, an inexorable progression unfolds from reciprocal seduction to lovemaking, over fertilisation to pregnancy, from the feeding and educating of the children to the cooperation between man and woman. The four parts of sexual love unite into one single organic whole, into a resurrected body, of which they merely constitute the four members. Rather than the centrifugal dispersion of the perverse move, we now witness the centripetal integration in one complex, many-sided whole.

It is not so evident that living beings engage in such a complex relation. It is true that the extension of fertilisation to parental care creates new chances of survival. But there are two ways of organising the division of labour in that case. A first possibility consists in producing new kinds of specialists for every new specialised task, as in the beehive or the termite hill. This leads to a complex social organism, held together by a series of one-sided love-relations. A second possibility is that, when there is need of new specialised task, the partner that already performed a first task now also provides in the new need. In that case, the species does not fall apart in a series of one-sided specialists: the degree of specialisation remains the same, but the specialists become more ever more many-sided. When the latter solution is chosen, love, which already endorsed a first form of cooperation, becomes the starting point for ever new forms of cooperation. The dependency within one and the same relation becomes ever more many-sided, so that the corollary love has to strengthen in proportion. We have seen how, along such lines, mere fertilisation is extended to cooperative parental care. In a first phase of the development of parental care, the begetter can also become the feeder and protector of the mother. In a second phase, he may develop into a father that cares for his offspring. In a third phase, cooperation between parents in view of the welfare of the children can extend to cooperation that makes it possible for the parents to survive themselves in the first place. This last phase is typical for the evolution of man, who cannot survive outside the frame of sexual cooperation, and with whom parental care only intensify the cooperation between man and woman.

It is obvious that human love is of the second, many-sided type - even when the increasing socialisation produces specialised seducers, lovers, begetters, educators and workers, who cannot fail to conjure up the spectre of the termites and the bees. But, otherwise than her specialised counterparts in the beehive and the termite hill, a specialised photo-model has also private relations, where the other aspects of the loving relation come to the fore. The same goes for male or female whores, who may have their private lovers or children, and also for sperm donors who may have children of their own. A similar many-sidedness is also strived for in the non-socialised relations, when these are perversely reduced: think of the man who has children with one woman and makes love with another.

As opposed to the specialised forms of love in the beehive and the termite hill, we cannot give human love a proper, functionally determined name: the term 'love' remains general. That we nevertheless call it 'sexual' love, is misleading: the adjective 'sexual' has nothing to do with its function - that it should owe its existence to sexuality - but with the mere fact that all additional roles have been divided between man and woman, the primeval specialists, who owe their existence to the first form of division of labour, that was necessary to enable sexual reproduction.

Der abgerissene Strick kann wieder geknotet werden.
Er hält wieder, aber
Er ist zerrissen.
Vielleicht begegnen wir uns wieder, aber da
Wo du mich verlassen hast
Triffst du mich nicht wieder.
B. Brecht

When reversing the promiscuous trend, we get increasing and eventually lifelong faithfulness. Also this reversal unveils an irrevocable logic. It suffices to have a closer look at the evolution of love as such (and not at the evolution of particular kinds of love, as we did in the chapter on 'homo economicus', where we described the evolution of parental and sexual love).

An isolated attraction exercised by some partner is merely a rudimentary preliminary stage of love: it is nearly distinguishable form the need that is to be satisfied. The child that looks for its mother to satisfy his need for milk, loves the mother only in function of the nipple and the milk. Such rudimentary love does not survive hunger. But the feeling of being hungry will soon come back, again and again. With each reappearance of hunger, the child could look out for another mother. In that case, all the children would have to oust their competitors, until every child would have found an own mother. It seems more reasonable that each child goes back to one and the same mother - that it becomes faithful. With animals that are able to learn, faithfulness facilitates the relation, in that it makes familiar with the idiosyncrasies of the partner. And, finally, faithfulness is compulsory when the synchronisation between the needs of the child and the satisfaction provided by the mother becomes more and more complicated as a consequence of prolonged growth. To be able to breastfeed a child, there has to be milk in the breast in the required amount. A child cannot just go to whatever mother. And that applies especially to the far more subtle synchronisation that is needed when learning a child to sit, to stand, to walk, to speak.

That is why faithfulness becomes increasingly obligatory and why it gives birth to love in its turn. Faithfulness favours spatial nearness. When the partner is always in the vicinity, there is no need to look around where he is when a need crops up. To warrant such spatial nearness, a need for staying in the vicinity of the partner has to develop, not only when needs crop up, but also when needs are satisfied and before they reappear again: in the intermediary periods of satisfaction. The new need is a need for permanent perception of the partner, preferably from skin to skin, but when that turns out to be impossible: at least for the nose, for the eye or for the ear. The child that is fed by the breast of the mother wants his mother as such to stay in its vicinity, also when it is not hungry. Only such 'disinterested' need for the presence of an individual as such is real love, and that is why the essence of love is: being there! Faithfulness is not some accidental trait of love, but its very foundation. That is why promiscuity is the first step that leads to the "beyond" of love, to the preliminary form of it: pure desire out of need. And the next step on this road is ascetism: overall independence from others.

In this context, it is not superfluous to discern ordinary needs (for instance for milk: hunger) from the need for perceiving the partner. There is a fundamental difference between both, and that is not understood by most theories of needs. With the satisfaction of an ordinary need, the disappearance of the need entails the disappearance of every stimulation ('hunger') and of every activity that leads to its discharge. This is at total variance with the gratification of love: here, every perception only stirs the longing for additional stimulation. The stimulus wants to be felt instead of discharged, and is thereby transformed into pleasure. Only absence of stimulation and pleasure leads to dissatisfaction. To phrase it with Nietzsche: 'Alle Lust will Ewigkeit'! It is completely erroneous, then, to compare the need for making love with the need for food, like Freud and so any others do. Even more erroneous is it to assert that the orgasm discharges sexual stimulation: as we have seen, it rather sparks the desire to see how one's beloved is setting out for a next - this time economical - orgasm!.

The more multifaceted satisfaction, the stronger the need to remain faithful, the stronger love. Love in the beehive or in the termite hill is as weak as it is one-sided and distributed over separate specialised animals. Love of the general type, on the other hand, becomes all the more intense as it becomes multifaceted and concentrated in one and the same individual. That goes especially for man. The cooperation between father and mother during the care for themselves and the children is an enduring, intensive and multifaceted undertaking. The sexual love that evolved to endorse such long-lasting and complex cooperation had to be accordingly strong. Which it obviously is: not for nothing does the world of the baby collapse when his mother turns out to be absent. And not for nothing does every adolescent lose every desire to live when he loses love.

This reversal of the promiscuous trend is also propelled through the previous one. Since one aspect of love develops out of the other, love requires the necessary time to unfold. A relation must necessarily last longer as it becomes more complex. Only those who want to spare time, isolate love from fertilisation and fertilisation from education. Lovemaking and seduction take minimally one night and maximally seven years. A relation between cooperating parents lasts at least until the children have grown up, and it comes to encompass the post-fertile period, which is so typical of humankind (see previous chapter), in which the now ageing lovers have to care for each other in the first place. Such a relation will have to last for a lifetime - till death doth them part.

What we said above about the function of faithfulness in the relation between parent and child, holds especially for the sexual relation between man and woman. Also here does faithfulness economise on the cost of competition. Add to this that faithfulness economises on the cost of seduction. Faithful partners need not go on the hunt for a partner, they are always within each others reach. Those who set out for the eternal hunting grounds, forget that they couldcreate heavens of delight where a mere hug suffices to invite a body to further intertwining. The eternal hunting grounds is where the ascetics of love roam around, like in another inferno the ascetics of labour, who only hoard money without remembering that it is meant to buy goods. That one must not hunt for what one has, makes time free for the cultivation of other aspects of the relation: cooperation and education. To most authors, such time-saving aspect of faithfulness is only known in its ascetic caricature: that monogamy makes fit for social labour. Only for this version does Unwin's thesis hold: that the permanent hunt for woman makes unfit for culture, which would be evidenced by the correlation between monogamy and cultural level. Finally, faithfulness has the advantage that it saves ontrial and error. Not only cooperation, but foremost lovemaking itself is a very complex affair, where learning and acquaintance play and important part. The whole process runs through many phases, and for every phase, especially for the final orgasmic phase, a subtle synchronisation is required. And that supposes the necessary acquaintance with each others reactions. Add to this that man, especially in matters of sexuality, displays a lot of variability, so that the partners have to discover each others predilections and preferences. Only after much trail and error do lovers become tuned to each other and can love unfold fromclumsy bungling to refined art. That is already apparent on an elementary level from the finding of Kinsey that female orgasms increase with the duration of a relation. The satisfaction one can get from an familiar lover cannot compare with that from a one night stand, that rather resembles a first talk, usually about the weather. Besides, it is not uninteresting to remind of the fact that there is a close relation not only between lovemaking and fertilisation, but also between lovemaking and birth giving: Masters and Johnsen mention that mothers are more orgasmic than young girls.


With the reversal of the polygamous trend, finally, reciprocal polygamy develops into one-sided polygamy ((polygyny with monandry or polyandry with monogyny) and in reciprocal monogamy of both sexes. Also here does the reversal lay bare an unshakable logic. The increasingly multifaceted and increasingly frequent cooperation demands not only increasing faithfulness, but also an increasing limitation of the number of cooperating partners. We can talk of an tendential monorelationality.

As far as parental relations are concerned, such tendency is apparent form the evolution of the quantitative relations between the parents and their offspring. There is a steady reduction of the number of offspring and an increasing dependency on the parents: from the swarms of sperm and eggs that fish spawn into the water, over the already less numerous eggs of the terrestrial animals, over the even less numerous nests of breeding animals, to the separate births of higher mammals. With humans, the complexity of parental care is such that the birth of a new child can no longer be postponed until the previous is grown up. The dependency of the human child is strong and almost complete. The human child has a quasi pathological need of enduring presence of his parents. The parental bond of the mother and/or the father develops accordingly into a eventually exclusive tendential 'monopaedic' interest in one single child (on which we shall come back in the next chapter).

The trend towards monorelationality applies a fortiori when there is cooperation between parents. As long as there is only pure fertilisation and expulsion of eggs, there is practically no contact between the sexes. Such contact only is only necessary when conception takes place inside the body. Also then, the sexual relation is not more than a furtive encounter. A genuine sexual relation between parents develops only when the care for the offspring (or the eggs) requires the help of the other sex (as a rule of the male). The more the father becomes a man, the smaller the number of women that he can turn into mothers. And that goes especially when the father is needed not only for the feeding, but also for the education of the children, as is the case with man (see next chapter). Siring the children that one begets with one single women requires so much effort, that the problems are only multiplicated with polygyny. Thus, intensification of cooperation leads to tendential monogamy. We have already seen how polygamy was hindered through the difference in attractiveness and through the decrease of quality with increasing numbers of partners. The complexity of a relation is a third, fundamental obstacle for the realisation of polygamy. Every additional partner entails a duplication of four roles. The only remedy is to reduce the number of roles. We then have multiplication after division - after reduction to lover or seducer. Next to this possibility of additive polygamy, there is also that of complementary polygamy, where each role is assigned to a different partner. The price for the safeguarding of polyvalence is the one-sidedness of the monogynous or monandrous partner. That fact is overlooked by those who invoke the many-sidedness of sexual intercourse as an argument to hold more than one partner. Those who would enjoy having a second partner, do not fail to run into problems when (s)he also wants to have post-coital talks or when (s)he wants to cooperate the morning after, not to mention nine-months-later pregnancies andtwenty-years-later education.

The evolutionary trend towards monorelationality should remind us of the fact that the emergence of individual preferences in matters of love is not a product of recent developments in the modern history of mankind, let alone of the emergence of subjectivity, as many would have us believe. It is rather an old evolutionary sore.


The reversal of the perverse, promiscuous and polygamous trend results in a relation that lasts for a lifetime from a temporal point of view, is all-encompassing and socially monogamous from the point of view of content: lifelong monogamy in all respects. The question remains whether there is a subjective desire that corresponds to this objective logic. The analysis of romantic love can provide an answer. We shall proceed in three phases: romantic love as euphoria, romantic love and exclusivity, romantic love as hypnosis.

A first characteristic of romantic love is its euphoric nature. Such euphoria roots in the unbridled desire to gratify the partner as much as possible in all respects, and in the expectance to be gratified as much as possible and in all respects by the partner. That implies that, form a subjective point of view, the lovers expect that love will unfold into an all-encompassing relation.

Such desire of the lovers will be met in so far as they let their love unfold. Through the ever renewed economical and sexual gratification, expectations become realities ever again and on ever new domains, and that only increases the readiness to cooperate and the longing for sexual intercourse. It is not so easy to keep the whole process going, but in as far as the lovers succeed, the many-sided relation continues to have the character of romantic love. No only the relation will last for a lifetime, but romantic love as well. Romantic love is only a transient state when the unfolding of love is curbed through its reduction to seduction or isolated sexual intercourse. Only then is it doomed to wither away. And since society makes the unfolding of love impossible principally - through arranging marriages or to bereave it of its economical basis - we only know romantic love as a furtive dream.

The unfolding of love is often not even strived for. When strived for, the effort is doomed to fail ever since the development of society. Not surprising that many come to believe that the euphoria of romantic love is a delusion. They have to look elsewhere for the causes of the withering away of romantic love: in 'habituation', in the disappearance of 'sexual hunger', in the transformation of romantic love in 'real love' and, finally, in the course of chemical processes in the brain. Let us give an overview.

A first series of authors holds that romantic love loses its power as a consequence of habituation. The feeling can only be renewed through new experiences. We already gave an overview in our chapter on 'promiscuity'. In that same chapter, we promised to discuss a variant of the theory of the 'stimulus of the new'. We postponed that discussion because we could formulate our criticism only after having reversed the promiscuous, perverse and polygamous trend. This variant explains the euphoric and transient character from the fact that the egoistic individual, that is out at self-preservation, is deceived by the species, that is out at reproduction. The species has to impose its will on the individual and does so by promising ultimate happiness in the orgasm. When the species has reached its goal, the delusion disappears and the individual feels betrayed. That is the theory with which Schopenhauer debases romantic love to a delusion. The theory is taken over byHartman. In modern versions, the species is replaced by the genes. Authors like J. en C. Gould believe that the midlife crisis is only a trick of evolution to propel husbands to leave their wives, who have become too old for reproduction, and to look out for new reproductive partners. Also Margulis holds that interest of women in men with power and prestige, and of men in beautiful bodies, is due to the fact that they sacrifice themselves in view of transmitting their genes to the next generation. This theory forgets that the goals of reproduction are only realised when the children are grown up, and that even adults need the help of grandparents. It should rather have to explain why romantic love disappears long before that goal is achieved. It also overlooks the fact that lovers not only want to make love with each other, but that they also want to become father and mother. Both desires do not in oppose each other as the desire of the species versus the desire of the individual, rather are they two desires that serve the same purpose: that of reproduction.

A second theory explains the euphoric and transient character of love by comparing them with other needs. Some - like Reik - think of excretion, others prefer hunger. Just as hunger is the best cook, just so would loneliness be the big sorcerer who transforms every partner in a prince or a fairy. And just as, after eating, every interest in food disappears, or even turns into disgust, just so would every interest in the beloved disappear as soon as (s)he is lying in our arms. Montaigne has the story of Thrasonides who was so enamoured that he refused to possess his mistress to keep the fire burning. We find the same idea with Freud. Also Forel holds that sexual ratification dissolves the spell into a fata morgana. Tennov asserts that romantic love increases when it meets obstacles and pleads for postponing surrender: romantic love dwindles when love is reciprocated.

A third series of authors discerns love from romantic love, whereby love is described also the afterglow of the once blazing fire of romantic love. In its full version, this theory ascribes the shift to the transition from sexual to reproductive interest. Thus, for Westermarck, sexuality cannot constitute an enduring bond because sexual attraction is not permanent. The enduring 'matrimonial instinct' is rather based on the parental instinct. Also Havelock Ellis describes how the sexual element whithers away and how love between the parents makes place for love between parent and child. Ortega y Gasset believes that every love begins with romantic love, but that love is a deeper and less stormy feeling. Tennov says that, in the best case, romantic love is transformed in an increasingly stronger love. Liebowitz and H. Fisher describe the transformation of romantic love in kindness. For Alberoni, love is romantic love institutionalised. A variant of this third theory sees the metamorphosis of romantic love in love especially in women. Whereas, as we have seen, Schopenhauer holds that the love of the male disappears after coition, female love is only ignited by fertilisation. Nature is out at reproduction, and the male can beget more than hundred children in a year, while the woman has to restrict herself to one single child. Darwin formulated similar ideas. In 1972, Trivers reformulated this theory in terms of 'differential parental investment'*. Ever since, countless authors regard differential parental investment as the explanation for male polygamy or promiscuity. They overlook that there is a difference between fathers, who want to produce a proliferous offspring, and man who want to seduce females. The males they are talking about, are not out at a proliferous offspring, but rather to get rid of mothers who are not particularly fond of having intercourse with them. Neither does the theory hold in the supposition that men are out at reproduction rather than sexual pleasure. As we shall demonstrate in the next chapter, men that want to become fathers have more to do than merely planting seeds. A father has only sons when he also educates them. A variant of this theory holds that woman is only interested in motherhood, while man's interests are more varied. Thus, Krafft Ebing writes that, after coition, love is referred to the background by other vital and social interests'. Weininger had similar ideas as we have seen. What Michelet writes about women is typical: 'What is her goal? The first: to love. The second: to love a single one. The third: To love always', whereas man is driven by mere sexual desire: 'Man desires, woman loves'. With women, Freud misses the overestimation which is so typical of man, and explains that by the fact that she only overestimates her child. Modern authors like Money and Ehrhardt, and also Tennov on the other hand claim that there are no differences between the sexes in matters of romantic love.

A forth series of authors seeks the explanation in chemical processes in the brains. Thus, Liebowitz ascribes the shift from romantic love to kindness to an irritation of the brains caused by the shift from the production of stimulating amphetamines to calming endorphins, and that is also the opinion of. H. Fisher.

After this overview over the theories that try to explain the transience of romantic love, we have two remarks left. Falling in love means that one is prepared to submerge in an supra-individual organism that ascribes different tasks to each constituent part. What one partner does, releases the other from that task. Or to phrase it with Marx: the specialisation of the one is the de-specialisation of the other. Such unity has been described by many authors. Ortega y Gasset writes that lovers feel united with the object of their love. In a metaphysical sense the lover becomes permeable and he finds his satisfaction only in an 'individuality with two'. Many are those who experience such unity as 'slavish dependency', as a 'loss of autonomy'. Thus, Sally Cline praises the sensational freedom of the celibate to do what she wants and when she wants. Exemplary is the case of Freud, who interprets falling in love as a form of narcissism: as a projection of the 'Ideal Ich' with the concomitant self-humiliation as a form of narcissism. Only when we realise that this process takes place with both partners, do we understand that the relegation of tasks to the partner is compensated with the acceptance of tasks relegated by the partner. Not only my estimation of the partner increases, but also the partner's estimation of me, and above all the estimation of both partners of the couple, the supra-individual organism in which they submerge. There is no talk of 'a transfer of libido', but rather of a concentration of it in complementary halves in view of their submersion in a more encompassing whole.

Let us finally point to the fact how much the conception of romantic love as a blind delusion implies that the choice of the partner should be made on rational grounds, like with Havelock Ellis, Fromm, A. Ellis. These authors overlook that making a rational choice presupposes clairvoyance: the ability to foresee all the vicissitudes of future life. The merit of romantic love is precisely that it remedies the impossibility of making a rational choice by an unconditional confidence in the justification of the choice. As long as both partners behave according to that belief, they create a self-fulfilling prophecy, that would be totally u predictable on rational grounds, or even be considered as chanceless. Also parents and children do not choose each other, but live in the certain belief that they are the first and only for each other. Tennov is right when she holds that falling in love unites people who do not know each other and who otherwise would perhaps have no reason to meet each other .


Falling in love corresponds subjectively to our reconstruction not only as euphoric expectance of all-encompassing reciprocal gratification, but also in that it is monogamous in principle: one falls in love only with one partner, never with two at the same time, let alone with an entire harem or commune. This aspect of the loving relation is not unique, not for man nor for the loving relation. In the animal kingdom there is the phenomenon of irreversible imprinting of parents to children and vice versa. A similar imprinting occurs also in humans. There is no previous choice: parents can decide to have a child, but not what kind of child it will be. Neither can the child choose its parents. With a sexual partner, a conscious choice is possible in principle, but, as rule, a partner is imposed on us through the strange phenomenon of 'love on first sight' of which we already analysed the aspects of 'over-estimation' and 'euphoria'. For reasons unknown to us, we suddenly feel attracted to one particular person. We can discern many grounds for such fascination, but whatever the reason might be, the fact is that one out of many possible candidates is imposed on us. Blind attraction makes us insensitive to the possible charms of all other candidates. In that respect, a partner is imposed on us in the same way as a child.

B. Shaw said that falling is nothing more that unjustifiably preferring one woman above another. This contention is widespread, but nevertheless mistaken. It only applies to potential partners. As a matter of fact, the preference is justified as soon as love is reciprocated. Precisely that tiny difference - the jump from potentiality to reality - makes in fact the big difference. For it is the herald of a difference that grows increasing in as much as the relation becomes more gratifying in ever more respects. Once the choice made, the real and increasingly many-sided gratification not only strengthens the attractiveness of the beloved, but makes it also irreversible: the more love unfolds, the less attractive other partners become, for the simple reason that, with them, gratification is only a promise. Strangers are maybe attractive as such, but their appearance also betrays that they are not ready: not every beautiful mouth is prepared to kiss. Compared with the appearance of the beloved, the appearance of strangers becomes increasingly poor, not so much because it is only a promise, but foremost because it also rejects and is thereby rather a threatening reminder of the absence of the beloved. Also herein do lovers not differ from the little baby, who turns his head towards his mother when confronted with a stranger. It would be as nonsensical to hold that love of a child for his mother consists of unjustifiably preferring the woman out of whose womb it happens to be born. Just like lovers for each other, so are mother and child the one and only for each other. Countless parents could raise a child, but only its own parents do it effectively. The love of a child for his parents is therefore even less based on overestimation as that of sexual lovers.

The above holds only in so far as the relation continues to unfold satisfactorily. As soon as it becomes structurally unsatisfying, the reverse is true: the sight of the beloved becomes the very symbol of dissatisfaction. A new relation now becomes a promise, that can perhaps be kept, and such promise comes to contrast with the certainty that the existing relation will remain unsatisfying. The pace in which romantic love dwindles is an index for the degree in which love remains unfolded.

This approach sheds a new light on theories that want to understand polygamy or promiscuity in terms offamiliarity and the appeal of novelty. Rather than dwindling way, love tends to become ever more intense. The thrill of novelty does not outweigh the efficiency, the fullness and the tangibility of the familiar, on the condition that the familiar is really familiar and has not surreptitiously turned strange. The statement that novelty appeals holds only when formulated somewhat more explicitly: that estrangement stirs the desire for novelty. Whoever is familiar, becomes all the more selective, demanding. He does not get excited on every occasion. That provides a new key to the understanding of 'impotence', of which a first riddle has been solved in chapter III on 'The beautiful woman'. And this sheds also a new light on the potency of chain-lovers as it is embodied in Casanova's organ. They are not (yet) selective: they prefer their lovers faceless or masked, pure bodies without soul. Besides, the argument of novelty sounds rather hollow in the mouth of those who do not allow real novelty to develop in an unfolding relation, and who thereby condemn themselves to the one-sidedness of an exclusively sexual relation. And that holds especially for those who want to legitimate their polygamy by contending that they search for another aspect of womanhood in every other woman.

The exclusiveness of romantic love sheds also a new light on the pyramids of attractiveness. Not everybody can choose the preferred partner. On the other hand, every relation begins with blind romantic love. As soon as the fuse is lit, the relations in the pyramid are changing: the more concrete and complete a relation, the more the other partners move to the bottom and the own partner moves to the top, where he becomes the 'only and only', regardless of the place he took in the beginning of the process. As love can unfold undisturbed, the structural damage of love that results from the sheer existence of pyramids dwindles. There are only second hand partners before the game is played. That there are pyramids at all, presupposes a perverse refusal to engage in an enduring relation, or a return to the amphitheatre. Only there do we have the necessary broad perspective. Only to the degree that the perverse move is allowed to become predominant, does the conflict between first and second choice join the inability to let the relation develop. That goes especially for economical attractiveness, which is not inborn, like the beauty of a body, but can be learned by all people of good will. No genes are blocking our way here: a sovereign decision suffices to turn living together into a veritable 'coitus' in the true sense of the word, and to turn what is commonly despised as daily drudge into a permanent orgasm.

That the exclusiveness of romantic love implies monogamy is not evident. Only authors like Kraft Ebing write: 'The fascination through one single person of the other sex with a concomitant indifference to all other partners, as we can find it with true lovers, could be a marvellous trick of nature to realise the monogamousrelations which further her aims'. From the fact that there always are only two beings who match each other, Weininger concludes that marriage is legitimate and that 'free love' must be rejected from a biological point of view. Ortega y Gasset is less explicit when he remarks that nothing makes a man more indifferent to the attractiveness of other women than being in love. Against the same background, he discerns general beauty from the individual characteristics with which one falls in love. Only authors who want to escape from lifelong monogamy along perverse, promiscuous or polygamous coordinates are alarmed: because of its selectiveness, romantic love cannot but be suspect in their eyes. All those who depart from polygynous, polyandrous, communist or promiscuous primeval times, have to deny the existence of individual preferences. With many authors, this is only apparent from the fact that they try to find an explanation for the emergence of individual love. With other authors, it is formulated plainly. To the last category belongs Freud, who sees the orgy as a regression to a former state of sexual relations, where romantic love did not yet play a role and where all the sexual partners were considered as equal. Anticipating what follows, we can mention already here that that romantic love is not at all some recent of Christian invention. There is mention of it in the oldest texts and anthropologist found it in every corner of the world. H. Fisher justifiably holds that 'this ecstasy cannot but be a universal human trait'. And what is more: personal preference is not at all an invention of humankind, but a phenomenon that can be found with many animals.

That the 'first sight' of romantic lovers seems to be a divine inspiration induces many an author to find a rational foundation for this choice. Their theories prefer to overlook that the 'coup de foudre' precisely has to compensate for the impossibility to make a rational choice. One of the oldest of these theories is the well known story of Aristophanes in Plato's Symposion: how double-beings are cut in two halves that henceforth are desperately searching for their lost counterpart. This theory is echoed in the eugenetic theory that partners make their choice in view of obtaining an average, like in Campanella's City of the Sun. With Schopenhauer, it is the sense of beauty which thereby guides the sexual drive. Galton made a composite photograph of many faces and found the all composites are more beautiful than the separate elements, because all the irregularities are wiped out. The theory became popular among philosophers of art (Groos, Taine, Baine, Guyau enz.). In the wake of Schopenhauer, Weininger formulates a law of attraction which allows to predict that there are always two beings who are the best match. With Jung, the choice is made in view of flattening the opposition between extraversion and introversion, as well as between the four ways of perceiving (intuition, feeling, thinking and sensation). Symons believes Galton is right in putting that sexual selection tends to reduce variability and to reduce the extremes in the distribution over the population. Money is talking of 'love maps'. Al these theories survive in popular thinking in the form of the belief in 'types' in all kinds of forms and in the feeling that partners are predestined to each other, the feeling of always have know each other.

A second series of theories focuses not so much on the quest for complementarity, but rather for identity ('homogamy'). Westermarck proclaims the 'law of identity, as when Japanese marry exclusively Japanese. Wundt refines Westermarck's theory. With him, one chooses a partner which is identical enough, but no too identical in view of stimulus of novelty. Havelock Ellis thinks that there must be sufficient similarity in religion, artistic predilection, nationality and class. Small differences are welcome, but big differences lead to alienation. Dawkins holds that too much and too little differences are genetically deleterious. Ortega y Gasset holds that lovers choose a partner that corresponds to their deepest being. A variant of this theory poses that there is a predilection for similarity, but this time not between the partners, but between the partners and/or their parents. Thus, Freud holds that love is directed to the parents in a first phase, and then to a strange sexual partner.

Both theories are only seemingly irreconcilable. The heterogamous choice betrays a longing for homogamy in the fact that the opposition is merely complementary. When both complements are united, we get the same ideal (realised in the child). Thus, Ortega y Gasset holds that most people choose an average that corresponds to the ideals of a race. It is remarkable how, conversely, the homogamous theory is mitigated by some heterogamy: the most homogamous partners are members of the family, so that straight homogamy would come down to incest. Thus, Wundt writes that lovers are attracted by partners of the same race, tribe or family, but that there is, on the other hand, an instinctive rejection of marriage with parents or siblings. In our first chapter, we described how, for Freud, primeval love was incestuous. We come back on the relation between romantic love and incest in chapter XII.

A third theory, finally, ascribes the choice to chance and thus denies the existence of the problem. Krafft Ebing is talking about 'fetishism' which he ascribes to a purely associative connection between sexual arousal and a particular sexual appearance.


We already described how the lovers have to become each others complement as economical gratificators and each other mirror image as consumers. The blind choice of romantic love can create the required favourable conditions, but there remain always differences to be bridged. No wonder that lovers adapt themselves to each other with a sometimes astonishing willingness, and that they thereby often yield in points that were breaking points in previous relations with other lovers or their parents. It is as if they hypnotise each other to flatten the differences: just like hypnotisers, they give each other 'suggestions', which they expect to be blindly obeyed, and, just like the hypnotised, there are willing to submit themselves to whatever suggestion. From this point of view, we should question the widespread belief in the statement that romantic love would make blind for the shortcomings of the partner. Nothing is less true: every lover does his utmost to remedy the shortcomings of himself and his partner, and that presupposes that he perceives them and hence is not blind for them. Lovers are aware of the shortcomings, but are euphorically convinced that they will be able to wipe them out: exemplary in the defloration and orgastification of the woman, and in the reciprocal adjustment of the frequency of lovemaking. Love has to surmount all kinds of obstacles in order to realise adaptation. Only in as much as it fails, begin the lovers to overlook the shortcomings. Stendhal speaks of 'crystallising': to see advantages in every trait. The phenomenon is far more positively approached by Ortega y Gasset, who remarks that a lover can asses the qualities of his mistress far more accurately that the outsider.

The hypnotising of the partner often seems to extend to self-hypnosis. Lovers not only want to exhibit their beauty to each other, they often become really more beautiful. Already Michelet writes that a lack of beauty is often the effect of a lack of love. As soon as a woman is loved, she becomes more beautiful, to the point that you often do not recognise her any longer. Also Havelock Ellis describes how a new beauty appears in the face of a woman in love and a how new force radiates from all her activities: 'Such is the exquisite flowering of love'. Such reciprocal suggestibility is of crucial importance for the persistence of romantic love. Only when hypnosis is turned into its opposite - quarrels - do the minor differences grow out to unbridgeable gaps and to grounds for divorce. The counterpart of romantic love isquarrelling or divorce. We can compare this with the shift from 'positive transference' into 'negative transference' in the psychoanalytic cure.

This aspect of romantic love has been more than neglected from a theoretical point of view. Some authors are talking about the one-sided education of the woman by her lover. Thus, Michelet bluntly writes that the lover has to create his mistress and has to transform her into his better self, without asking himself whence the educability comes from. Michelet correctly describes the meaning of this transformation (which should, of course, be reciprocal): it will keep the fire burning. In the same spirit, Havelock Ellis holds that the choice of a partner is only one part of the story. The other part is the 'art of love' which strives to reciprocal adaptation in marriage. The countless hidden qualities are brought to development in a 'constructive selection'. He gives the (one-sided) example of a woman, who in a first marriage became an expert in literature and in a second in politics. Let us remind also of Chapter III, in which we mention the fact that many a man thinks he has to sexually educate his wife.

Other authors acknowledge in addition the 'hypnotic' character of reciprocal adaptation. Forel thinks that the sexual drive inspires reciprocal feelings of sympathy which act like magnetic forces and points to the resemblance between hypnosis and love. Tennov puts that the continuous emergence of thoughts of the beloved is typical for romantic love, and compares with the hypnotiser who asks to concentrate all thoughts on him. Freud describes the role of hypnosis in romantic love and in the psychoanalytic cure, but reduces it to the relation between the primeval father and his horde. .

Still other authors describe the willing adaptation to each other as a kind of alienation, as a loss of identity. Already Capellanus is talking about a kind of slavery. above all psychoanalysis has contributed to making the adaptation of lovers suspicious. As is well know, Freud replaced hypnosis through the spontaneously emerging romantic love of the patient in the analyst (transfer). Such romantic love ensures the willing cooperation of the patient and the expectation that the analysis will work the miracle, but it should gradually be replaced through the will to solve the problems on ones own. From romantic love to rationality: such conception of therapy has its roots in the ideals about romantic love, and had an influence on them in their turn. Reik thinks that one falls in love as one discovers a shortcoming in oneself and understands romantic love as a kind of masochistic submission. Maslow rejects 'M' love as a state of dependence and puts that people should pursue 'S' love, a state of individual autonomy and independence. The same goesfor other 'humanists' like A. Ellis. Bach and Deutsch (Pairing) hold that partners should show their 'true face' and should not try to adapt to one another. This is also the case with Robert Rimmer. Such psychoanalytical prejudice spread also in the world outside psychoanalysis and psychotherapy in general. Via Schilder, these ideas reach Ortega y Gasset. He comparesromantic love with hypnosis: Tristan's love potion is an old symbol for the psychic process in question.

All these theories are the corollaries of the principial and increasing refusal to submerge in a more encompassing super-individual organism. Tennov says that there are many people who do not know the bliss of romantic love. That only reminds us of the countless people who declare that they do not dream, although they do so every night for several hours. In the same vein, there are many who do not allow themselves to fall in love. And there are also those who, when their relationdeteriorates, are no longer able to remember the days when they were in love, again: just like with dreams that tend to be forgotten.

Nie wieder erwachen,
wahnlos hold bewusster Wunsch!

Wagner, Tristan und Isolde

Romantic love, hence, is not blind, neither in the sense that it would create unrealistic expectations, nor in the sense that we would erroneously prefer one partner above the other, nor in the sense that we would submit ourselves slavishly to the desires of the partners at our own detriment. But, perhaps it is blind in the sense that many lovers are not prepared to comply to the norms of society and in as far as they prefer to withdraw within the confines of the couple. The phenomenon is described by many authors. Ortega y Gasset writes: 'For the lover, the beloved is always and everywhere present. Apparently, the whole world is condensed in the partner. Basically, there is no longer a world for the enamoured'. To Ortega y Gasset, romantic love is not only a narrowing of consciousness, but a kind of 'psychic angina' at that. Alberoni is talking about the complete erotic indifference to social position, rank, prestige, fame. In the arts, such social blindness is depicted in Romeo and Julia, Wagner's Tristan and Isolde, Strindberg's 'Fraulein Julie' and in Elvira Madigan.

In how far are we dealing with blindness here? Meanwhile, it will have become apparent that economic imperatives and above all the development of social cooperation are the arch-enemies of love. from way back, again and again there appear individuals, who resist the subduing of their love or who refuse to have their love disturbed through engaging in the social division of labour. That is apparent already from the bits on the side in a marriage that has been reduced to a purely economical relation, and from the promiscuity of Don Juan and his followers, who are no longer prepared to engage in an enduring economical relation. Promiscuous lovers have their total lack of consideration for economical imperatives in common. On a tribal level, they leave aside the constraints imposed by the marriage classes, and on later levels the constraints imposed by a 'marriage de raison' or their profession. It suffices to refer to legendary examples like Abélard en Héloise, King Eduard who resigned the throne in order to marry Wally Simpson and so on. Many promiscuous do not go so far: they are not prepared to resign an economic marriage. Their 'romantic love' is restricted to sexual relations and their imposture is directed solely against the restraints on sexual contact. Others are not prepared to engage in relations as such, and their protest is situated beyond all the obstacles that oppose a completed relation. As opposed to the merely sexually promiscuous, lovers are out at an enduring and complete relation, and are not prepared to compromise with a 'marriage de raison'. Everywhere where marriages are arranged, there are lovers who cannot reconciliate their love with their regard for the demands of their parents, exemplary in Romeo and Julia. Their appearance is an heroic endeavour to reverse the world-historic trend whereby the social division of labour cannibalised the sexual division of labour. In that sense, romantic love is the counterpart to the 'resexualising' of social relations described it in chapter VII (Homo Economicus). The extent to which romantic love opposes socialisation is historically determined: the more developed the society, the stronger the breakthrough of love unfolding has to come to conflict with the socially organised labour. Romantic love is historically determined only in so far as it becomes increasingly anti-social. Apart from that, it is a universal (in principle).

Unfortunately, these breakthroughs of the desire for complete love have to necessarily fail . Initially, love can fluently unfold, because it is initially primarily sexual. The economical cooperation can remain restricted to minimal sexual division of labour, or even to rudimentary forms of social labour performed together (even when it is only robbery, like with Bonny and Clyde). The possibility to survive outside society becomes increasingly restricted, and, as soon as there is talk of children, there is no room at all. Hence the many double suicides of lovers, like the 'shin yu' in Japan, Wagner's Tristan and Isolde or Elvira Madigan and her lover.

The widely heard criticism that such romantic love is insane, is only founded in so far as people are no longer able to survive without social labour. Romantic love is only misleading in as far as it creates the expectation that the beloved will gratify all his needs, whereas society is increasingly usurping this task. Only this expectation has to be mitigated. The reluctance of lovers against society is constructive in as far as it leads to consumptive ascetism. The desire to live from love alone stems the tide of total socialisation. If all people would be in love, society would befall the fate that it wants to bestow on love: dying out ! That lovers become indifferent to social relations and social labour finds its counterpart in the fact that they submit themselves slavishly to the command of their beloved. Only those who do not realise how much they are subordinated to the slavery of money, can find it estranging that lovers submit themselves to each other out of love. Only when the exchange between money and beauty is called love, must the completed love which is called 'romantic love' seem blind insanity.

Not only towards work do lovers become indifferent, but also towards friends. Already Capellanus mentions the phenomenon. It is as if the same love that binds the couple undermines the bonds to the community. Conversely, ascetism seems to be a fertile soil for sometimes overwhelming feelings of communality: just think of the already mentioned chant in orthodox cloisters. That the couple comes to oppose the community, has more to do with the fact that the community more often turns itself against the couple, as we shall demonstrate in chapter XI on the orgy.

All these forms of 'blindness' are in so far clairvoyant as they lay bare the wounds that have been inflicted on love. No wonder that romantic love is often experienced as a threat to the established order, as an anarchistic force. No wonder that 'free love' has been suspect from way back.

The above does not imply that there is not something like neurotic romantic love. This is so common, that it obfuscates the existence of true romantic love as described above. A rather common form of neurotic romantic love is the shift from admiration for an ideal to falling in love with it: the sexualisation of a pedagogic relation. A legendary example is the relation between Camille Claudel and Rodin. Another form of neurotic romantic love is romantic love that endures without being reciprocated. This is pure phantasmagoria, the emotional counterpart of masturbation. Just like the coitus, real romantic love is reciprocal per definition. Alberoni thinks that romantic love can be one-sided. Neurotic is also falling in love in order to get the feeling of still being attractive or to prove that one is more attractive than a competitor (Mantegazza and Stendhal's 'amour-vanité'). Neurotic is also falling in love with falling in love because of the euphoric feeling of redemption: falling in love as a drug that makes insensitive for social pain (not otherwise than mysticism). Therein, romantic love is the prefiguration of incest!


Time has come to approach monogamy from a broader perspective. If it is true that the desire for a lifelong and complete monogamous relations is so deeply rooted in man, their should be ample historical evidence to it. Many authors are convinced there is. As opposed to the many authors who contend that, in primeval times, humankind ha been polygamous or promiscuous, there is a whole series of authors who descry in monogamy the primeval form of all human loving relations.

In the Christian West, these theories are of course the oldest, and they used to refer to the primeval couple, Adam and Eve. A milestone is 'History of Human Marriage', published by Westermarck in 189. Westermarck launched the first attack against the tidal wave of theories on primeval polygamy and promiscuity through putting that, in primeval times, one man used to live together with one woman, to have sexual relations with a single partner and to raise their children together. His position was endorsed by many others. Crawley declares triumphantly that promiscuity belongs to a mythological phase in human thinking. Wundt descries a trend towards monogamy in higher animals, which culminates in humans with permanent monogamy. Malinowski writes a foreword to the umpteenth edition of Westermarck, and in which the asserts that a union between man and woman, based on personal affection derived from sexual attraction, on economical cooperation and reciprocal services, but above all on a common relation with the children, is the origin of the human family. Murdock praisesWestermarck and puts that the nuclear family is universal. Also Lévi-Strauss pays a tribute to Westermarck on occasion of his death and repeats that the modern pattern of monogamous marriage, independent residence of the young couple, warm relations between parents and children is also the prevalent pattern in cultures that did not evolve or returned to the most elementary level of civilisation.

This tradition receives strong opposition in 1927, when Briffault strongly defends the idea of primeval communism, and thereby criticises especially the position of Lowie. The debate withers as a result of the increasing success of Malinowski's anti-evolutionism, that made any speculation about the evolution of marriage increasingly suspect.

After the Second World War, the debate that had been abandoned by the anthropologists, is taken up on a more primitive level by the biologists. Lorenz descries in the behaviour of goose a parallel to human monogamy. D. Morris contends that the most successful people are monogamous and, to him, societies that promoted other forms of marriage are dead ends of human evolution. Wilson holds that humans are programmed to form groups with the couple as a kernel. Also H. Fischer concludes that humans are monogamous, although they are also programmed for divorce (serial monogamy).


The authors in this tradition are not at all blind to the fact that not all people have been monogamous at all times. They have different explanations for this phenomenon.

With many authors, it is not precisely clear whether they are talking about reciprocal monogamy. The unfaithful or polygamous behaviour of predominantly males is made consonant with their theory by silently assimilating monogamy with monandry. The full text of Westermarck' quotation above reads: 'a man and a woman (or many women)'. D. Morrris ascribes the common unfaithfulness to the fact that behavioural mechanism that has to assure monogamy is not yet firmly stabilised from an evolutionary point of view. Wilson thinks that monogamy is disturbed by the greater sexual desire of the male.

A second reaction consists in reading polygamy as a form of disguised monogamy. Murdock describes non-monogamous relations as composite forms of the family: in polygyny, one husband is considered to play the role of father and husband in more than one family, thus uniting them in one encompassing family. Sexual relations with the sisters of the husband are considered as 'extensions' of the marital relation. We find a similar approach in Lévi-Strauss, who puts that, in most cases, polygamous families are not more than a combination of monogamous families, even when one single person plays the role of several husbands, on the sole ground that, for example with the Bantu, the women live in separate huts. Also the Mormons would then be monogamous because their wives equally live in separate houses. And also in a harem, every woman uses to have her own room.

We already described a third reaction: sexual relation are not reckoned with and only the economical relation is taken into account. There is no problem, then, in calling the Westerners monogamous, nor harem keepers who are only married with one of the women in the harem.

A fourth reaction, finally, consist is considering the non-monogamous forms of marriage as special adaptations or as cases of degeneration or sophistication: think of the degeneration of the biblical monogamy of Adam and Eve into the 'depravity and grossness of manners' in Sodom and Gomorra, as described by the Jesuit Lafitau. Müller thinks that polygamy is a phenomenon of degeneration. The most sophisticated version of this theory is formulated by Wundt. This author turns the hypothetical development from agamy over group marriage and polygamy to monogamy upside down in an involution from primeval monogamy, over polyandry, a combination of polyandry and polygyny (group marriage) to monogamy. All the other forms of marriage are to be analysed as derivates of monogamy caused by power relations (polygyny) or scarcity of women (polyandry) or both. Deviations of monogamy are time and again described in terms of degeneration and placed in the same category as pederasty. Wundt is talking of motives that go against human nature and against which legal restrictions have to be imposed. Lévi-Strauss asserts that the monogamous family is practically universal, except in some very specialised and sophisticated societies, and not, as previously supposed, in the most crude and simple types.


Let us remark that authors who defend primeval monogamy, tend to regard it as a kind of victory over the polygamy or promiscuity, this time not of primeval man, but of our animal forebears. They situate polygamy and promiscuity (just like incest) in a prehuman phase and have the birth of mankind coincide with the emergence of monogamy and the incest taboo. The triumph is this time not historic, but moral (Weininger), evolutionary (Westermarck), or cultural (Lévi-Strauss). Typical is the way in which Lowie refers a phase of uncontrolled promiscuity to a phase between the oldest anthropoids and the precursors of the hominids. This old theory on promiscuity survives also in the way in which Lévi-Strauss descries the transition of 'nature' in 'culture' in the imposition of the taboo on incest and the corollary exogamy rules. Polygamy and incest are thus unjustifiably referred to the animal kingdom, according to the old practice of rejecting unwanted sexual practices as 'beastly'.

In their fervour, other authors go so far as to see human monogamy announced in the animal kingdom. The would like to recreate the entire animal kingdom in a kind of ark of Noah, filled with monogamous animals. This fervour can take rather ridiculous forms: the gorilla, which happened to be the harem keeper with Dr. Savage, is promoted as a monogamous example for man by Westermarck, Wundt and B. Russell. Wundt even asserts that Darwin held that monogamy was the primary form of human marriage. For Wundt, there is no polygamy whatsoever in the animal kingdom. 'In nature, there is no intermediary polygamous phase between agamy and monogamy, but merely transitory phases formed by the increasing duration of marriage'. Murdock goes so far as to put forward that the nuclear family is older than humanity. H. Fischer mentions robins and foxes.


The counterpart of the authors who defend the thesis of primeval monogamy are the countless advocates of primeval polygamy or promiscuity. Whereas the apologists of monogamy have to explain the existence of polygamy and promiscuity, they have to account for the 'degeneration' or the 'elevation' of polygamy in - mostly 'Western' or 'Christian' - monogamy. There are diverse explanations: the monogamous propensity of humans that could only unfold in the higher states of cultural evolution, the imposition of the incest taboo, economical motives (becoming sedentary, private property) and the male obsession with paternity. Since the diverse explanation often go combined, we give a global survey.

With Vico, the 'promiscuous' Gigantes began to develop love for one single woman as soon as they became sedentary. Fourier descries an evolution of the free love (= reciprocal polygamy) of primeval times over polygyny to monogamy under the influence of the development of private property. Bachofen describes how women, after the agricultural revolution, installed monogamy as a reaction against their 'zum Tode beschlafen werden' of men. With McLennan it is, conversely, the men who were out at abducting women, to isolate themselves, and to found a family, but they were not able to realise their goals, because they could not maintain their independence against their competitors. Lubbock thinks that primeval men began to abduct women to be able to monopolise them, and that this custom spread because of the increased possibilities of affection, comfort, the natural wishes of women and better education. Only in 1873 does Morgan introduce the incest taboo, which was imposed in view of the amelioration of the race: the incestuous primeval communism is gradually replaced by monogamy through increasing restrictions. The theory is taken over by Engels, but here it is the advent of private property - and the necessity of ascertaining paternity - that is responsible for the advent of (compulsory) monogamy and the corollary unfaithfulness. Elimination of private property in the era of socialism will enable the unfolding of true - free - monogamy. Krafft Ebing sees monogamy emerge as a consequence of the feeling of shame and the advent of agriculture. Weininger describes the victory of monogamy after a matriarchal and polyandric primeval period, as a creation of men whose individuality can only be completed with a single being of the other sex. Frazer talks of a transition from promiscuity, over group marriage to monogamy a consequence of increasing restrictions on incest in view of (unconscious) eugenetic motives. Freud takes over his theory of the restrictions on incest, but does not believe in motives of eugenetics. The installation of the incest taboo is a consequence of the murder on the primeval father. Feelings of guilt (as a psychological factor) and the will to continuate the cooperation between the brothers (as an economical factor) made the brothers resign from incestuous partners, so that they had to look for sexual partners elsewhere. Like Engels, Briffault understands the dawn of primeval communism as a consequence of private property (from clan to family) and of the decline of the economical importance of women since the agricultural revolution. The explanations of biologists come down to a regression to a more primitive level. According to R. Smith, monogamy is the result of the endeavours of homo sapiens to contain the reciprocal polygamy of homo erectus in view of control over the women. That is also the opinion of Margulis. Sherfey holds that patriarchy had to repress female sexual freedom in view of ascertaining paternity. And that is also the view of Hrdi.

Next to these psychological, eugenetic and economical explanations, there are also more 'idealistic' ('cultural') ones, where moral, religious, literary or scientific influences are held responsible for the spread of monogamy. Already in the 'Symposium' of the Early Christian Methodius is it written that mankind had to exchange marriage between brothers and sisters for marrying women from other families; that they had subsequently to give up plural marriages; that they had to stop being unfaithful, to resign from intercourse and finally to remain in the state of virginity. The idea of an evolution toward an increasing respect for individuality is formulated by Jean Paul (1804) and further developed by Hegel (the so called 'romantic period' in his world-historic model). Krafft Ebing states that the moralisation of sexuality received a strong impulse from Christendom, which elevates woman to the same level as man, and concludes that Christendom is superior to polygamous cultures, especially to Islam. Bloch descries the first traces of individual love in the time of the troubadours and minstrels and sees it develop further with Shakespeare, in Rousseau's 'Nouvelle Héloise' and Goethe's 'Werther', to come to its apogee in Friedrich Schlegel's 'Lucinde'. Lucka points to the influence of courtly love. Briffaul reminds, next tot the already mentioned economical factors, of the influence of Christendom, which completed 'romantic love' by insisting on the transformation of the heathen Celtic literature to Courtly Literature. Also Russell refers to the influence of courtly love. Havelock Ellis situates the origin of personal love in the Hellenistic period and sees it appear in the West only with the (Celtic) story of Tristram. The most influential representative of this trend is Denis de Rougemont. In 1939, the year of Freud's death, this author publishes a book wherein he describes the relation between the advent of 'romantic love' and the spread of courtly love. Schelsky holds that individual love is an invention of Christendom and of the cultivation and adoration of woman by the Troubadours and Minstrels in the 11th and 12th century. The O' Neills assert that the idea that one can only love one person at a time originates in Courtly Love and acquired scientific respectability through Freud's doctrine that an individual disposes only of a limited amount of love. Tannahill adds to the influence of Courtly Love the cult of Mary, imported from Byzantium. J. Cleugh points to the fact that the first love affair in China appears only in 'The Red Chamber' in the 18th century. Barash ascribes the repression of polygamy to our Jewish-Christian addiction to the nuclear family.

We will come back on the incest taboo as an explanation. As a counterpart against becoming sedentary (agriculture) and private property, we stressed (next to the natural perverse trend) the development of society, the consequences of which turned out to be far more complex than described above. Our criticism on 'the discovery of individuality' can be found above (reversal of the polygamous trend). Why, finally 'idealistic' explanation fail, will become apparent below.

How much the theories on primeval monogamy may differ from those about primeval promiscuity and primeval polygamy, they agree in one aspect: if monogamy has not been universal from the beginning, it triumphs at least in the present, and referred promiscuity and polygamy to primeval times.

Wo bleibt denn der 'Wo du hingehst,
da will auch ich sein' Text?

Bertolt Brecht, Dreigroschenoper.

The countless authors who see romantic love appear only in the age of Tristan, overlook the fact that there are many literary, and even mythological sources which glorificate romantic love. The counterpart of Freud's primeval horde are the many primeval loving couples in the beginning of the world or of mankind: just think of the Biblical Adam and Eve, not to mention the many mythologies where the world owes its emergence to a coitus of the primeval couple.

Also after the creation, there is mention of many a couple in love. In the stories a man primitive tribes, also the polygamous ones, romantic love is often depicted. From the German mythology stems the story of Siegfried and Sieglinde, and from the Celtic that of Tristan and Isolde.

With the higher (monogamous and polygamous) civilisations, the oldest scriptures describe romantic love. Sappho is one of the oldest texts in Greece, where romantic love flourishes in Hellenism. The story of Narcissus teaches us how, already more than two millennia ago, one could starve for love, and all the symptoms of romantic love are described in the Indian Kama Sutra. Let us also refer to the Indian story of Sakuntala. The 'idealistic' theses like those of Rougemont are not tenable, were it alone for such testimonies in the oldest texts.

Not only in myths and literature, but also in philosophy is the theory of monogamy to be found from the very beginnings: just think of the story of Aristophanes in Plato's Symposion.

As we have often seen in this book, art is far more clairvoyant than science. It should not escape our attention, however, that the glorification of the couple in love does not coincide with a glorification of monogamy. Quite the contrary: the entire profane literature seems one continuous praise of unfaithfulness. Another music drama of Richard Wagner can serve as paradigm here: this time not his Parsifal, but his Tristan and Isolde, perhaps the most completed version of the story. Its counterpart for polygamous unfaithfulness is Sheherazad. Countless are the stories of lovers who know to penetrate the harem, like in 'Die Entführung aus dem Serail'. In the already mentioned 'Swan Lake', the couple in love triumphs over the polygamous subordination of women. The same goes for the whore that has to be rescued from the brother, like in Verdi's Traviata.

So unter Sonn und Monds wenig verschiedenen Scheiben
Fliegen sie hin, einander ganz verfallen.
Wohin ihr? Nirgendhin. Von wem davon? Von allen.
Ihr fragt, wie lange sind sie schon beisammen? Seit kurzem.
Und wann werden sie sich trennen? Bald.
So scheint die Liebe Liebenden ein Halt.
Die Liebenden', Bertolt Brecht.

Artistsuse to associate romantic love with unfaithfulness. And that reminds us of the difference between factual and (desired) form of relations. It is immediately apparent, then, that the historians of monogamy give a misleading account of the facts by forgetting to make that distinction. Factual monogamy can be the realisation of the desire for monogamy, or the factual appearance of desired polygamy or promiscuity that is out of reach. Briffault could be right in stating that, in a polygamous society, the majority has still only one woman; and not unjustifiably could Lévi-Strauss call monogamy'abortive polygamy'. And that would be a real problem for all those who refer to the overwhelming universality of factual monogamy as evidence for the monogamous nature of man.

The history of factual monogamy testifies to the unstoppable advent of this form of marriage indeed. We can surely take for granted that factual polygamy has been the rule in many hordes and tribes, at least in the upper layers. For the majority at the bottom, the rule has surely been monogamy. With the advent of commerce and cities, there came more room for polygamy in the higher strata of the population, whereas the increasing poverty on the base will have resulted in increased factual polygamy, if not for compulsory ascetism. Already under August, universal monogamy is pleaded for (Lex Julia against divorce, celibacy and unfaithfulness). Especially Christendom tried to contain factual polygamy. In Paulus and his followers, as well the little man as the neglected found a strong spokesman for factual monogamy. In the wake of Christendom, Islam was out at containing polygamy by imposing a maximum of four women. The westernisation of the world since colonialism and the development of capitalism completes the triumph of factual monogamy. Pitt Rivers describes how missionaries tried to eradicate polygamy. Bourgeois and socialist political theories had the same effect. In Turkey, polygamy was forbidden from 1926 onwards (Ataturk) and other progressive regimes followed suit. More important than a legal ban is that the increasing development of social cooperation, especially since the advent of capitalism, diminishes the room for polygamy in the long term. Briffault rightly points to the increased costs of living. On top of that, the same development favoured the accessibility of marriage. That appears positively from the fact that the increased welfare of the proletariat in the Western world lead to an unparalleled boom in marriages, and negatively from the fact that only poor whores (Thailand, Philippines, and now also the Eastern Block) and slaves are disposable for the market of unfaithfulness. Whereas the division of the world in states internally leads to a diminishment of the economical differences, the differences between the states only increase. That only troubles the view on the long term development. In a world-historic perspective, it cannot be denied that there is an unstoppable tendency towards factual polygamy.

The overwhelming success of factual monogamy is overshadowed by an equally overwhelming success of unfaithfulness. The increase in marriages goes hand in hand with an increase in divorces. Kinsey stated that only 33% of the American men was 'monogamous'. In all the industrialised countries, the percentage of male unfaithfulness is about 70 %. Also female unfaithfulness goes increasing. In as much as married women can protect themselves better against unwanted pregnancy, they can live longer periods of their live without children, and in so far as they engage in social labour, they become more independent of the sexual division of labour in marriage. Recent data point to more and earlier unfaithfulness of women. It seems that women are taking the lead. To the real unfaithfulness must be added the increase of unfaithfulness in fantasy with imaginary partners in novels or with images.

Thus, the word-historic triumph of monogamy is equally the world-historic triumph of unfaithfulness. The procession of the monogamous couples is threatened from all sides, formerly through harem keepers, then through pimps who begin to sell their ware alongside the road, increasingly also by seductive don Juans, and finally by the marchers themselves who begin to make eyes at each other and increasingly begin to change places. The path along which the procession marches becomes increasingly steeper as the peaks of society begin to loom up at the horizon. Although every participant began his journey with the greatest expectations, the enthusiasm in the procession is not precisely great. And the participants look rather stern: not only for themselves, but for the competitors at the sides of the road. Secretly, they would like to stay aside, in so far as they would rather have preferred to stay in the valley, to pluck the flowers in the green meadow.


The triumph of unfaithfulness testifies to the fact that people do not want lifelong monogamy and compels us to regard the omnipresent monogamy a mere factual monogamy. Is Briffault right when he contends that monogamous people are not yet polygamous? Or not yet promiscuous? The very romantic love that induces lovers to be unfaithful testifies to the contrary: enamoured lovers want lifelong and complete monogamy. But, we are faced with the paradox, then, that the same romantic love that is out at lifelong monogamy is at the same time the main cause of unfaithfulness. On what grounds, then, did we call the real existent monogamy as factual monogamy?

The paradox that monogamy is at the same time wanted and unwanted, is solved as soon as we remember the obstacles that prevent the unfolding of love. Ever more monogamous relations begin as wanted monogamous relations, but they have of necessity to end up as unwanted relations.Only unfaithfulness is, as already Engels remarked, the true testimony to the monogamous nature of man. Or, to phrase it with Havelock Ellis: that marriages today seem often so unhappy, is because we are no longer prepared to be unhappy and keep up appearances.

Unfaithfulness can lead either to serial monogamy, and then dissolves into promiscuity, or to an engagement in a second relation next to the first one, and then dissolves into polygamy. Only then do we begin to understand that something like factual monogamy does not exist at all: every monogamous relation sooner or later becomes a part of a polygamous or promiscuous network. Only when we restrict polygamy to harems, and loose the brothels and one night stands out of sight, can we oppose monogamy to polygamy. And only when we want to overlook that lifelong and reciprocal faithfulness scarcely exist, can we oppose promiscuity and monogamy. What exist, hence, is not monogamy, but merely a combination of polygamy and promiscuity.

But, at the same time, something other begins to dawn on us: that the polygamous and promiscuous fabric is woven from the accumulation of countless outbursts of romantic love, that would like to endure lifelong and become complete in principle, but that, for reasons meanwhile well known, sooner or later cannot but lose their élan.

Only now do we understand how much the decapitated maiden testifies to monogamy. That goes especially when the execution is postponed: for the mitigated forms of relative promiscuity, which manifest themselves in divorce followed by new relations: the serial monogamy that H. Fisher wants to sell us as human nature. In the face of an ever worsening relation, many give up their intention to remain faithfulfor a whole life and begin a new relation with the same hope. One step further leads to promiscuous relations combined with an enduring relation, which is continued solely for economical or pedagogical reasons (alimentations as an economical contract and co-parenthood included).

Not only promiscuity, also polygamy is the negation, and at the same time the secret testimony of the monogamous fervour. We already mentioned how the separate parts that normally are integrated in one and the same relation, are distributed among several specialised partners and thus turn out to be hidden monogamy. We can even deepen this analysis. The desire for monogamy creates at the same time the inability to divorce the partner whom one loved ànd the desire to begin a new relation. A first monogamous relation is extended with a second one. Often a new wife is taken when the first turned out to be infertile or was unable to give birth to a boy. Often it is not so much better mothers who are looked for, but better sexual partners. When also the second does not meet the expectations, a third partner is taken, and so on, as far as the economical, fertile or sexual potential reaches. According to this pattern, most harems are built up, just like the more hidden forms of it: monogamous marriages with side relations or whoredom. In that sense, polygamy is a condensation of the conflict that originates in the monogamous desire. How much this analysis is right, is apparent from the fact that nobody falls in love with more than one partner and begins a lifelong relation with each of them, whereby each partner would be at the same time his lover and the mother of his children. That is why harems (or polygamous relations in general) are built out stepwise as serial monogamy. No doubt, such relation between polygamy and unfaithfulness inspired Mahomed Effendi, Turkish ambassador in France, to say to Hume that Christians spare themselves the trouble of keeping a harem by housing their seraglio in the houses of their friends.

Thus, the world-historic triumph of monogamy is not only the word historic triumph of unfaithfulness, but at the same time also that of polygamy and promiscuity. And only this triumph testifies in unison: not to the polygamous or promiscuous nature of man, but to the primeval desire for a lifelong and complete monogamy!

Certainly, man has a 'primeval nature' in matters of love, but that nature is malleable in the perverse, promiscuous and polygamous dimension. There is nothing wrong in looking for a human nature, only in conceiving this nature in terms of 'drives' and not alo in terms of 'higher functions', and above all in taking this nature as unalterable. The diverse values on the three coordinates along which primeval love varies, offer diverse people on diverse places and times diverse possibilities of satisfaction. And, since there is something like primeval love, there is no such thing as a history of love, but only a history of the way in which love deviates in various degrees from point zero in three dimensions. Primeval love is not something that existed in a lost Atlantis. It rather seems that its deformation, first through the struggle against nature, but increasingly through society, can be restored only in a utopian future. In expectance of this omega of history, primeval nature realises itself only in promiscuous, polygamous and perverse variants. History does not change our nature, rather does our nature demand history to be realised. Perhaps, what Nietzsche said about God holds for love in the first place: that 'this is so great an event, so far away and so beyond comprehension, that times cannot possibly be permeated by it yet'. The wait is for willing ears....

Meanwhile, it will have become clear that faithfulness to love can only consist in attempting to approach, alongside the three coordinates, the kernel as near a possible, and not through imposing lifelong monogamy. Only through resigning from the centrifugal lure in a this time genuine ascetism, an ascetism that understands itself as ascetism, and not a completeness, can faithfulness to love be realised.


Meanwhile, we have sufficiently analysed the causes of the necessary failure of lifelong monogamous romantic love. We deem a whole series of factors responsible. Let us sum them up once more: the eclipse through competitors on the pyramids of attractiveness leads to self-contempt and makes one's partner second choice; the reluctance to be abducted from the exhibitionistic amphitheatre and to submerge in pregnancy ignites the perverse move; through the advent of society, intercourse is reduced to the simultaneity of rape and theft; the necessity to engage in social relations makes that all continue tohobble on one leg, so that no one is the first and the last; and, finally, the dwindling of sexual division of labour makes it possible to survive without a sexual partner.

After our analysis of romantic love, we have to add two more obstacles.

Nothing warrants that there is a becoming partner for every body, like in Aristophanes' story, nor that one would find him if he existed. Nothing warrants that the propriety that seems to be there at the moment of romantic love, will last forever. A beautiful woman is not necessarily a good co-operator, a good mother or a good helper of the aged. And from the first sight on which we fall in love, these qualities can not be read. Nothing warrants, finally, that the history of social relations will follow the same course with both partners (qua prestige for instance). Pregnancies affect women otherwise than men, man and woman have a different career and become acquainted with different friends, and so on. That is a fourth theory, which, this time on justified grounds, explains why romantic love is transient. Ortega y Gasset thinks that love is eternal in principle, but that is fades away because of the changes in personality during life. Also Alberoni holds that partners cannot but change in an ever changing world. Or to phrase it in somewhat more real terms with F. Giroud: 'You loved a fiery young man that wanted to become a writer, and end up with an industrial, worrying about taxes. You were in love with a romantic and vulnerable woman, and end up with a Boeing pilot in your bed'

A second important obstacle, that we now can appreciate in its full weight, is the increasing cultural diversity, which reduces the chance of stumbling on equals. Romantic love begins with the perception of identity and ignites the desire to flatten the differences In uniform hordes, there will not have been much to flatten. In our age, people are exposed to such different influences, that looking for a kindred spirit is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Michelet is one of the few who recognised this problem, and who, in contrast with figures like Alberoni concludes that identity has to be brought about: 'In our modern time love does love what it finds, but what it creates'. That holds especially for the differences in matters of opinions about the relation itself: the most diverse views are in circulation. It is already quite a task to find out how the partner imagines a relation, let alone to find a partner who holds the same view. And what is more: every partner can relapse in previous models or become susceptible to new ones. One starts with the idea to have a good housewife, but she suddenly want to engage in social labour; one starts with the idea that labour has to be distributed equally, but one of the partners is no longer prepared to do something in the household; one has made children, but suddenly wants to behave as if they were not there; one starts with the idea of faithfulness, but one of the two suddenly wants to switch to an open marriage; or one of the partners discovers his homosexual or her lesbian nature; or one of the partners suddenly proclaims that relations with friends or with parent prevail, and so on. That there circulate so many different views on love, would not be so dramatic, were it not that they are often rather the cause than the remedy...

In the nine previous chapters, we have described and analysed all the aspects of the sexual misery. Only in the next three chapters, one and another will be placed in a broader perspective.

eXTReMe Tracker