Letter From the Editor

Love Frenzy: Can I learn to love the media? By Editor in Chief Robert Epstein

By Robert Epstein Ph.D., published on October 1, 2002 - last reviewed on June 9, 2016

Two issues ago I announced that I was embarking on a modest
personal experiment. I've long been disillusioned by two myths that
appear to underlie the quest for love and romance in much of the Western
world: the myth of "the one" (absurd) and the myth of "happily ever
after" (dangerous)-both fed to us daily by romance novels, Hollywood
movies and the like. I've also come to believe that dating is a kind of
farce, a silly game in which we display far more plumage than
probity.

Most marriages in the world are arranged by family members or
matchmakers, and in many of these, partners somehow learn to love each
other over time. Can this process, I asked, be packaged for Western
couples? I indicated that I was looking for a partner who would sign a
"love contract"with me in which we agreed (a) not to date anyone else for
six months or so, (b) to undergo intensive counseling in which we set out
to learn to communicate effectively, to trust each other, to learn about
each other's needs, to overcome past traumas, to forgive each other and
so on, and (c) to attend retreats and participate in exercises that will
foster our mutual love. This procedure, I speculated, has the potential
to bring about a deep romantic love and, perhaps more important, to
prepare people for success in a long-term relationship. I'm suggesting,
in effect, that we develop a proactive approach to love and romance. At
the moment, we enter into couples counseling only after a relationship
has failed; by that time it's often too late to save it. Why not teach
essential relationship skills and help people bond right from the first
kiss?

I'm more convinced than ever that this concept is sound, but my
public announcement has had unexpected-and somewhat overwhelming-results.
I've been bombarded with calls from media professionals and, although
I've never solicited "applications," I've received hundreds of letters,
photos and phone calls from women all over the world who want to try the
experiment with me. Many say that even if I don't pick them, they
desperately want the experiment to work. One woman sent me a $1,200 plane
ticket, asking me to meet her on her private island off St. Thomas (no,
I'm not going) and, as I type-and over my gentle objections-another woman
is flying from Michigan to San Diego to meet me. My staff has met four
times to try to figure out what to do with all the letters; so far, we're
stumped. As much as I'd like to, I simply cannot correspond with a
thousand women, never mind take them out to dinner.

I've turned down interview requests from CNN, the "Today" show,
"Good Morning America," "20/20, "Prime Time," "48 Hours," "Inside
Edition," "Dateline" and other television programs, most of which want to
follow me around with cameras for the next six months. Prompted by an
article in USA Today, pundit Bill Maher gave my project a thumbs-up on
one of the final episodes of "Politically Incorrect." I've given about a
hundred radio and newspaper interviews, two television networks are vying
for the rights to create a reality TV show around my concept (scary!) and
the largest radio program in the U.K. is already testing out my love
contract with multiple couples.

This is just a glimpse of the chaos that my simple idea has
created, and interest appears to be growing, not waning. Please note that
I have no data and that I haven't even found a partner. Also note that
the experiment I've proposed is a "personal" one, not a scientific one
(although a student at Oxford has just made "learned love" the topic of
her dissertation research, and other careful projects are getting
underway). What can we conclude from this frenzy? Well, for one thing,
neither the press nor the public seems to be concerned about a lack of
data. More important, the strong interest that people are showing
suggests that many in the Western world are fed up with our naive
approach to love and romance and are desperate for viable alternatives.
Have I found one?

Robert Epstein is editor in chief ofPsychology Today
, university research professor at the California School of
Professional Psychology at Alliant International University, and director
emeritus of the Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies. He earned his
Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard University.