I am fascinated by human behavior. I love finding out why we do what we do; particularly when it comes to matters of the heart. It always seemed to me that in this area of life, so often dominated by important decisions, intense feelings, judgements, passion, and opinions, things get confusing pretty easily.
It also seemed to me that we could find explanations about love in the empirical evidence provided by research that explores human behavior.
Andrew Trees must have felt the same way. In his book Decoding Love he gives extensive explanations for human behavior in those confusing matters of the heart.
He does offer empirical evidence, but it’s vague. He constantly refers to research and studies conducted, of experiments, tests and comparisons, but very little specificity is given. There are no citations and very few names or dates of the research.
Trees makes his points well, however, through his dynamic writing style. Readers identify with the points that Trees is trying to make, having experienced many of the scenarios themselves. In so doing, he lets us see the veracity of his claims. Very few writers can do that, but he does, and he does it very skillfully.
Now, about those claims: in a very systematic, logical way, he reveals the flaws in our current way of thinking about relationships. The biggest culprit is our idea of romance: two people meet, fall in love, marry and live happily ever after. How they meet and fall in love are presented ad nauseum in fairy tales, movies, novels, songs and television shows. The flaw is in the idea that romance happens through luck, determination, coincidence or comical misunderstandings. The other flaw is that we believe there is one true love that was made for us, and we just need to find that special person. But none of these things help us find a mate.
To prove what does help, he culls evidence from a wide range of places: Freudian psychology, pop culture, economics and biology. All of the ideas he presents leads us in a direction far, far removed from our traditional ideas of courtship and romance.
Out of all those areas, I found one most compelling: he says that who we choose to fall in love with—and yes, it is a choice—depends mostly on our subconscious, but our conscious minds are the main obstacle from being successful. For one thing, we often state our feelings about another, but our true feelings may be nothing like what we said they were. This arises from an inability to articulate those feelings.
What happens is that people state only the feelings that they can articulate easily. Once they do, their true feelings drown under an ever-increasing amount of words and descriptors that are easy to talk about. Like all things, we start to believe what we hear if it’s repeated often enough. However, those initial feelings are still there, buried deep within us, yearning to be recognized. The result? Miscommunication, frustration, resentment and arguments, and the inevitable breakup.
What he advises in order to avoid this is an idea I love: trust your instinct. As I have said before, I believe our instinct is one of the many gifts He bestowed on us. It is the Holy Spirit, and it is our unfailing,wise and loving guide. His idea that our deepest feelings cannot often be articulated brought to mind a beautiful quote from St. John of the Cross: “Silence is God’s first language.” If we engage in a silent, loving, trusting relationship with God, aren’t we capable of doing the same with our beloved?
Another thing he advised, in the same vein, was to stop discussing, over analyzing, weighing and measuring, and defining the relationship. In my own terms, he’s telling us to shut down the Relationship X-Ray Machine. I couldn’t agree more.
He completely debunks the idea of just one person who is custom made for us, using Game Theory. He believes that our greatest chance of meeting a suitable mate occurs after 12 bad dates. In other words, according to statistical probability, the13th person we date has the most successful chance of building a lifelong partnership. I didn’t understand a word of the theoretical basis, but still enjoyed reading it.
Perhaps the most useful piece of advice he gave was to never believe relationship advice. It was refreshing and humble of him to say, “you don’t have to believe a word of this,” and given his vague references, you don’t. But as I said, so much of it reflected experiences I’d had, so it was an easy sell.
The remainder of the book presents far more information, but for the sake of brevity I chose the ideas that resonated most with me. Overall, though, I found this book fascinating and fun. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.