Aaron Ben-Ze’ev, is a Professor of Philosophy and a former president of the University of Haifa. He has written several books on the subject of love including In The Name of Love: Romantic ideology and its victims and Love Online: Emotions on the Internet; Here is a link to his website:
1. What made you interested in writing about the subject of wife murders?
Wife murdering is a very common phenomenon. It is estimated that over 30% of all female murder victims in the United States die at the hands of a former or present spouse or boyfriend. I was interested to know how murdering a beloved can be associated with love. Love is generally considered a moral, altruistic, and well-intentioned emotion; however, this idealized is far from realistic. Not only is love intrinsically ambivalent, but it can also give rise to dangerous consequences. In light of such predicaments, I wrote with Ruhama Goussinsky a book entitled, “In the Name of Love: Romantic Ideology and its Victims.” In this book, we argue that despite its highly moral tenets, Romantic Ideology implies extreme behavior: After all, “all is fair in love and war” is an expression often used to identify “true love.” People have committed the most horrific crimes in the name of the altruistic ideals of religion and love.
2. What commonalities did you find in men who had murdered their wives?
We propose the following features characterizing such a murder: (a) it is committed out of love; (b) whereas it is the most extreme manifestation of male domestic violence, it is not a “natural” continuation of that violence, nor is it the “inevitable” end of a path of male violence; (c) it is an act in which the perpetrator intends to cause his wife’s death, rather than one in which he temporarily loses control; and (d) it is the climax of a dynamic and gradual process culminating in an emotional state in which one person seeks to destroy the other even at the cost of self-destruction.
3. How has romantic ideology changed in the last 20 years?
Romantic Ideology has not been extinguished; in fact, the desire to fulfill it may be increasing. However, the likelihood of realizing such love, in particular within the framework of marriage, grows ever slimmer. For most people, such ideal love remains beyond their reach. The gap between what we want from love and what we actually achieve is increasing and the resulting dissonance gives rise to mounting dissatisfaction with our love lives.
4. Your book Love Online: Emotions on the Internet deals with Internet relationships. What was the most surprising thing you discovered about Internet relationships and what made it so surprising?
The lack of nonverbal information in text-based online communication led some researchers to claim that such communication is leaner and hence online relationships are less involving, less rich, and less personal than offline relationships. The results were the opposite: online relationships are as profound, and often more profound, than offline relationships: online communication involves higher proportions of more intimate questions and lower proportions of peripheral questions. Moreover, since there is faster and more profound self-disclosure in online communication, in many cases a profound relationship develops faster.
5. Why do you think romantic love is written about so much more than other kinds of love?
Romantic love is the most complex human emotion and one which is most relevant to human life. Part of its complexity is its dependence upon personal and contextual features. Accordingly, there is not risk of solving all the mysteries of romantic love in the near future.
6. Do you think people are more likely or less likely to say what they really think about life, politics and the world in general in an internet relationship? (why or why not).
Romantic relationships have traditionally involved deceptive elements; these are supposed to increase the romantic attraction and to decrease the risk of ending the relationship. Although online relationships provide more means to improve the deception, they also encourage many people to present a more accurate picture of their true self. The more time people spend in chatting with each other, the more open they are about themselves and the less likely they are to lie.
Sincerity is a great asset to successful personal relationships as it is correlated with a higher degree of intimacy. Accordingly, someone who wants to be emotionally close to another person will attempt to be sincere—or at least need to fake sincerity. The more sincere and open nature of cyberspace induces people to behave in ways that do not accord with their stereotypic figure. Thus, women may be more sexually expressive than they are in offline relationships and men may be more emotionally sensitive.
7. What makes the Internet such an appealing way to meet people?
Modern society promotes the value of efficiency. Greater pace at a lower cost has become the hallmark of modern society. This is also evident in the romantic realm: we do not have enough resources to meet all available partners before deciding who would be our best soul mate. The Internet provides a most efficient way to meet the maximum number of desirable people. The major flaw of online relationships is its negative impact on the participants’ actual environment. Such relationships can lead to marital discord and divorce.
8. What is your new book about?
My new book is about romantic compromises. In romantic compromises, we give up a romantic value, such as romantic freedom and intense passionate love, in exchange for a nonromantic value, like the wish to live comfortably without financial concerns. Nevertheless, in our hearts we keep yearning for the road not taken—the one with greater romantic freedom and a more romantic partner.
9. What made you want to write about romantic compromises?
Romantic compromises are currently the most common and painful syndrome in intimate relationships. There is hardly any research about such compromises and people are ashamed of them and hide them from others, and often from themselves as well. I believe that understanding the nature of romantic compromises will show the value of at least some kinds of such compromises, which I term “good compromises.” Realizing the necessity and value of such compromises may be of great help for many people and relationships.
10. You are a professor of philosophy; let’s imagine that I’m able to time travel via the internet and have a cyber date with either Sartre , Voltaire or Socrates – which one should I go for?
None. Go for the best, go for Aristotle. In any case, thanks for consulting me on this intimate matter for you.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)