On Romantic Love: Simple Truths about a Complex Emotion

By Berit Brogaard

ISBN: 9780199370740

Author’s website: sites.google.com/site/brogaardb/

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Omar      



Romantic love presents some of life’s most challenging questions. Can we choose who to love? Is romantic love rational? Can we love more than one person at a time? And can we make ourselves fall out of love? In On Romantic Love, Berit Brogaard attempts to get to the bottom of love’s many contradictions. This short book, informed by both historical and cutting-edge philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, combines a new theory of romantic love with entertaining anecdotes from real life and accessible explanations of the neuroscience underlying our wildest passions. Against the grain, Brogaard argues that love is an emotion; that it can be, at turns, both rational and irrational; and that it can be manifested in degrees. We can love one person more than another and we can love a person a little or a lot or not at all. And love isn’t even always something we consciously feel. However, love — like other emotions, both conscious and not — is subject to rational control, and falling in or out of it can be a deliberate choice. This engaging and innovative look at a universal topic, featuring original line drawings by illustrator Gareth Southwell, illuminates the processes behind heartbreak, obsession, jealousy, attachment, and more.


“I used to have real, physical pain in my chest when I didn’t hear from him, and hearing from him or knowing I’d see him made me feel so infinitely good, like I was on ecstasy. Now I turn to ice inside when I think of him. I won’t make any last ditch efforts to turn things around. There is nothing left. I have miraculously recovered from an impossible romance.”

On Romantic Love is a book written by philosopher scholar Berit Brogaard. In this work, Brogaard looks at “love” through the many lenses of human experience, and how we all interact and handle it. Love is this thing, emotion, feeling, state that we have all experience through our lives and might not always know how to handle it, but still, it can be the most wonderful or painful thing that we have ever felt. Brogaard through the use of examples from letters and stories she explains different theories about what love is and how it affects us. We also look at what Love does us physically, at how we fall in Love, and at how we fall out of Love.

I normally review fiction and types of fantasy books, but from time to time I like to read scientific or psychologic articles, to learn more about what the current ideas or knowledge have come out lately. Given that I have recently read a lot of romance genre books, I thought it will be a good idea to look into what “love” is and learn more about it for future readings. At the same time, love is one of the most mysteries and exciting emotions that humans feel, it was fun and interest to read the different theories.

There are many theories and ideas in this book, but the one that I liked the most was what falling love does chemically to our brain. The idea that fresh love, just as once start to fall for somebody is like a new intake of chemicals to our system, like taking drugs. On Romantic Love, it describes the state of being in love like consuming cocaine:

“Cocaine is a serotonin/norepinephrine/dopamine reuptake inhibitor, like the most frequently prescribed antidepressants… When you fall in love with someone, norepinephrine fills you with raucous energy, serotonin boosts your self-confidence, and dopamine generates a feeling of pleasure.”

The book also mentions that there are sometimes when emotions such as Love can be an emotion that occurs unconsciously, and until it gets to a specific point the person becomes aware of it. It mentions that it doesn’t have to be only Love, but when you are in love and in a bad relationship, the resentment and anger starts to grow unconsciously in the back of your mind and can come out at any moment.

On Romantic Love has a lot more interest ideas and theories about Love and how we experiment with it in our daily lives. The book is a great read for readers who, like me, enjoy psychological articles with interest topics that can be related to other books we read.

If you like Love or you are interested in the notion of learning about how falling in love affects us, then I recommend you On Romantic Love by Berit Brogaard. After reading the book, your notion of love will change.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*