The idea that romantic passion is a mental illness may not be the most welcome message for Valentine's Day, but Tallis, a British clinical psychologist, acknowledges that it's a condition for which we may never want a cure. Tallis includes a good deal of research testifying to the obsessive nature and destructive power of romance. He begins by tracing the medical diagnosis of love based on physical symptoms to the Greek physician Galen. Leaning heavily on Darwin, Tallis considers the role of love in perpetuating the species: for instance, he notes, hidden ovulation in women (rather than the loudly advertised ovulation of chimpanzees, whose rear ends turn bright red) may secure a man's fidelity, since he doesn't know when she is most fertile. Based on the results of a survey conducted by a marketing consultant, the author surmises that men fall in love more often than women and experience the emotion more intensely. He also cites a study showing a low divorce rate in Asian cultures with arranged marriages as proof that these marriages are more satisfactory than Western marriages. Lauding rationality in the choice of a mate, he makes questionable comparisons between the role of dating services in the West and arranged marriages in the East. He ends this lively but not always convincing study with the unromantic conclusion that amity and mutual understanding must balance passion for love to last.
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