Erich Fromm‘s The Art of Loving (1956) is a philosophical and psychological exploration of the nature of love. It begins by questioning whether love is an art that requires knowledge and effort or merely a pleasant sensation that one “falls into” if lucky. Fromm argued that most people believe the latter, while he subscribed to the former. As an art, love necessitates practice and a certain degree of maturity to succeed at it.
Fromm posits that people misunderstand love for several reasons. First, they tend to focus not on loving but on being loved—striving to improve their desirability by becoming more affluent, famous, or attractive instead of learning to love. Second, they think of love as finding an object to love rather than a faculty to cultivate. They believe that loving is simple, but finding someone to love is challenging, whereas, in reality, the opposite is true. Lastly, Fromm points out that people often confuse “falling” with “standing” in love, which involves care, responsibility, respect, and knowledge.
The initial rush of emotions when two previously isolated people suddenly discover each other may be exciting, but these feelings are fleeting. True love involves “standing” in love, a skill that takes years of hard work to develop, just like any other art or skill. Fromm argues that love is not something we stumble upon but must actively learn and cultivate over time.
In the end, Fromm emphasizes that despite the difficulties in learning and practicing love, it is a most valuable pursuit, surpassing material possessions like money, fame, or power. The mystery of existence can only be uncovered through our relationships with nature, purpose and meaning (through fruitful work,) and, most crucially, with other people. Hence, to fully experience the richness of life, it is necessary to cultivate the art of loving in all its forms.
Read The Art of Loving. It’ll deepen your appreciation for the complexities of love and human connections.