The Problem With Being Too Logical in Love – Free Ebook

It seems odd at first to imagine that we might
get angry, even maddened, by a partner because

they were, in the course of a discussion,
proving to be too reasonable and too logical.

We are used to thinking highly of reason and
logic. We are not normally enemies of evidence

and rationality. How then could these ingredients
become problematic in the course of love?

But from close up, considered with sufficient
imagination, our suspicion can make a lot

of sense. When we are in difficulties what
we may primarily be seeking from our partners

is a sense that they understand what we are
going through. We are not looking for answers

(the problems may be too large for there to
be any obvious ones) so much as comfort, reassurance

and fellow-feeling. In the circumstances,
the deployment of an overly logical stance

may come across not as an act of kindness,
but as a species of disguised impatience.

Let’s imagine someone who comes to their
partner complaining of vertigo. The fear of

heights is usually manifestly unreasonable:
the balcony obviously isn’t about to collapse,

there’s a strong iron balustrade between
us and the abyss, the building has been repeatedly

tested by experts. We may know all this intellectually,
but it does nothing to reduce our sickening

anxiety in practice. If a partner were to
patiently begin to explain the laws of physics

to us, we wouldn’t be grateful: we would
simply feel they were misunderstanding us. Much that troubles us has a structure akin

to vertigo; our worry isn’t exactly reasonable
but we’re unsettled all the same. We can,

for example, continue to feel guilty about
letting down our parents, no matter how nice

to them we’ve actually been. Or we can feel
very worried about money even if we’re objectively

economically quite safe. We can feel horrified
by our own appearance even though no one else

judges our face or body harshly. Or we can
be certain that we’re failures who’ve

messed up everything we’ve ever done – even
if, in objective terms, we seem to be doing

pretty well. We can obsess that we’ve forgotten
to pack something even though we’ve taken

a lot of care and can, in any case, buy almost
everything at the other end. Or we may feel

that our life will fall apart if we have to
make a short speech even though thousands

of people make quite bad speeches every day
and their lives continue as normal. When we

recount our worries to our partner, we may
receive a set of precisely delivered, unimpassioned

logical answers – we have been good to our
parents, we have packed enough toothpaste

etc. – answers that are both entirely true
and yet unhelpful as well, and so in their

own way enraging. It feels as if the excessive
logic of the other has led them to look down

on our concerns. Because, reasonably speaking,
we shouldn’t have our fears or worries,

the implication is that no sane person would
have them; our partners make us feel a bit

mad. The one putting forward the ‘logical’
point of view shouldn’t be surprised by

the angry response they receive. They are
forgetting how weird and beyond the ordinary

rules of reason all human minds can be, their
own included. The logic they are applying

is really a species of brute common-sense
that refuses the insights of psychology. Of

course our minds are prey to fantasms, illusions,
projections and neurotic terrors. Of course

we’re afraid of many things that don’t
exist in the so-called real world. But such

phenomena are not so much ‘illogical’
as deserving of the application of a deeper

logic based on a sympathy for the complexities
of emotional life. Our sense of whether we’re

attractive or not isn’t about what we actually
look like, it follows a so-called logic that

goes back to childhood and how loved we were
made to feel by those we depended on. The

fear of public speaking is bound up with long-buried
and tortuous emotions of shame and a fear

around competing and dealing with another’s
envy.

An excessively logical approach to fears discounts

their origins and concentrates instead on
why we shouldn’t have them: which is maddening

when we are in pain. It’s not that we actually
want our partner to stop being reasonable;

we want them to apply their intelligence to
the task of reassurance. We want them to enter

into the weirder bits of our own experience
by remembering their own. We want to be understood

for being the mad animals we all are, and
then comforted and consoled that it will (probably)

all be OK anyway. Then again, it could be
that the application of excessive logic isn’t

an accident or form of stupidity. It may just
be an act of revenge. Perhaps the partner

is giving brief logical answers to our worries
because their efforts to be more sympathetic

towards us in the past have gone nowhere.
Perhaps we have neglected their needs. If

two people were being properly ‘logical’
in the deepest sense of the word – that

is, truly alive to all the complexities of
emotional functioning – rather than squabbling

around the question of ‘Why are you being
so rational when I’m in pain?’, the person

on the receiving end of superficial logic
should gently change the subject and ask:

‘Is it possible I’ve hurt or been neglecting
you?’ That would be real logic.

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