Happy Relationships Blog

Can Love Last: The Fate of Romance Over Time Book Review

Posted on: February 18, 2009

Can Love Last: The Fate of Romance Over Time
By Steven P. Mitchell, PhD.


If Radical Honesty is ridiculous to the point of being hilarious, then Can Love Last: The Fate of Romance Over Time by Stephen A. Mitchell, Ph.D. is equally frightening. What is amazing is the book is so intelligently written!

Dr. Mitchell expands Nietzsche’s theory in Thus Spoke Zarathustra that God is dead (Zarathustra was an ancient philosopher who philosophized on the concept of monotheism, or the belief in one God) written just before Nietzsche went crazy, by concluding the relationship is dead, that long-term love is impossible.

How does he do this? Dr. Mitchell elaborates that the only path to a long-term relationship is by deadening the emotions by taking Freud’s sexual theory to its fiery conclusion. 


If you want to read a book that clearly shows the essence of the genre of relationship books consists of merely describing negative relationships, then this is the one to read. He first bases his theory of the relationship on Freud’s conclusion that we are animals just like the rest of the animal world. “…The human being is not even ‘master in his own house’: we do not even run our minds. Mind is…a ‘hierarchy of superordinated and subordinated agencies, a labyrinth of impulses striving independently of one another toward action.’” Unbelievably, the notion that our bodies rule our mind, that thinking is not an active process, is still believed in psychology today.

And when it comes to love and romance, well really sex, Dr. Mitchell states that Freud concluded our relationship problems were caused by a “psychosexual inhibition, a constraint in the capacity to arrive at and sustain desire itself, a kind of psychological flaccidity. A man might be capable of performing the physical act, going through the motions, but without passion, without intense desire.”

He follows this with a comment Freud made in 1916 that “Society must undertake as one of its more important educative tasks to tame and restrict the sexual instinct…Otherwise the instinct would break down every dam and wash away the laboriously erected work of civilization.”

In other words, the basis of the author’s conclusion of the relationship is it eventually peters out. Notice there is no theory from a female perspective. In a most extreme example of circular logic, the path to happiness is by developing emotionally to an extremely unhappy state-of-mind.

This theory is followed up with the conclusion a romantic, loving, harmonious relationship is impossible because, “it easily degrades into something else, much less captivating, much less enlivening, such as sober respect or purely sexual diversion, predictable companionship, or hatred, guilt, and self-pity.” In other words, because we are animals without the use of our minds then our biological beings eventually take over this predictable relationship we are supposed to have with the person we fell in love with.

This book is an extremely significant cop-out on the psychological industry’s inability at understanding the problems in negative relationships to the point of being able to fix them. “Romantic love has been regarded as, at best, a brief prelude to a more stable, ambivalent love.”

Does the author use case studies to present his point? Of course he does, but his case studies are the most extreme of any written. Amazingly, Dr. Mitchell points out that childhood traumas provide the foundation for the problems, but does he fix them? No. A number of his male patients are impotent. One requires the services of a dominatrix for sexual relief while another masturbates in public.

The author does give us a hint of his own psychological health when he states, “the momentary aggressive fantasies I generate in relation to strangers are nothing compared with the intensity of the homicidal fantasies I harbor toward those I live with and love most deeply.”

So does this book help unhappy couples? Not even close!

by Tim Kellis




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