Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton is a philosopher and the founder of The School of Life. He has written dozens of philosophical books, including two on relationships. For the Zeitgeist feature in issue 15, Jocelyn de Kwant interviewed him about how our romantic view of the perfect relationship causes lots of problems for couples. Here’s a taster of the interview.

In your view, romanticism is part of the problem
“Yes, but don’t get me wrong: I’m not against romanticism. It’s a wonderful part of life and an important part of being human. We have a realistic side and a romantic side. But the romantic side has been made overly important in our culture. In the 16th century, romanticism was considered a mental illness. These days, romanticism has totally taken over rational thought. And that has gotten us into trouble; it has made our expectations unrealistic.

Romance is part of the beginning of love. That is why romantic love stories end there. The sheer excitement about being with a new person, of falling in love—it’s thrilling! It’s the discovery of closeness, where before there was distance. The constant sending of messages, finding out what you like about each other, holding hands for the first time, having sex in unusual places—it is a basic way of saying, “Our love is everywhere.” It’s one of the most exciting things in anyone’s life. But you can’t keep up that constant wonder about each other, about how soft your partner’s skin is. It is very easy to lose sight of that. We should try, of course, not to, but perhaps romanticism evolves more into a kind of mature appreciation.”

You can read the rest of the interview in issue 15.

Text Jocelyn de Kwant Handlettering Valerie McKeehan