In his book The Course of Love, Alain de Botton, observes the following:
“The world upsets, disappoints, frustrates and hurts us in countless ways at every turn. It delays us, rejects our creative endeavours, overlooks us for promotions, rewards idiots and smashes our ambitions on its bleak, relentless shores. And almost invariably, we can’t complain about any of it. It’s too difficult to tease out who may really be to blame; and too dangerous to complain even when we know for certain (lest we be fired or laughed at)."
He then explains that we pick people we love - “the very nicest, most sympathetic, most loyal people in the vicinity” to blame for our frustrations and disappointments. It is, of course, completely unfair and irrational, if not absurd. But people who love us are the ones who understand us and tolerate our behaviour. They are the ones “most likely to stick around while we pitilessly rant at them.”
Still, even with this good explanation it is difficult to excuse such behaviour entirely. De Botton says that therein lie the rules under which love operates. He argues that “our wild charges are a peculiar proof of intimacy and trust, a symptom of love itself - and, in their own way, a perverted manifestation of commitment."
“Whereas we can say something sensible and polite to any stranger, it is only in the presence of the lover we wholeheartedly believe in that we can dare to be extravagantly and boundlessly unreasonable."
Alain de Botton’s latest book The Course of Love is one of the most original and thought-provoking books I’ve ever read. It’s written as a case study of a relationship between two people - Rabih and Kirsten - who meet, fall in love and get married, which is when love really begins. The reader follows the couple “ever after” through sulks and disappointments, children and infidelity, blame and maturity. Every so often the author adds his own commentary to highlight valuable lessons sprouting from the most prosaic situations, be it laundry or a fleeting crush. The sulks are explained as a failure in communication; happiness in love - as finding familiarity. The book is frightening in its absolute honesty and appealing in its uplifting wisdom.
True to his style, de Botton excels at navigating the perils of love and marriage with wit.
“Choosing a person to marry is hence just a matter of deciding exactly what kind of suffering we want to endure, rather than of imagining we have found a way to skirt round the rules of emotional existence.”
On this note, I know exactly what I’m getting as a present for a friend of mine, who is getting married next month. The Course of Love is a bible of love for the faithful and atheists alike.