“The key question I was interested in was: can you choose to love? It turns out the answer is pretty complicated, because when we start digging into that question we quickly slide into a tangled mess of theories about biology, evolution, psychology, myths and stories, and social structures around relationships. I started reading Irving Singer, who wrote an in-depth trilogy about the philosophical history of love. He said that although romantic lovers lose certain freedoms in relationships, the love they acquire compensates. This statement frustrated me because it wasn’t clear how much freedom we ought to give up, or how we should even begin to think about love and freedom as an equation.
I stumbled across the existential thinkers and found they dealt specifically with this question, including Max Stirner, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir – all of whom I discuss in my book. Now, calling someone an existentialist is fraught with danger, because Beauvoir and Sartre reluctantly accepted the label, and Stirner, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were retrospectively affiliated with existentialism. Although it’s debatable whether they were all ‘existentialists,’ they all certainly contributed to existential thinking about love and freedom.
There are two main ways we can understand this: ‘freedom from’, which refers to freedom from oppression, arranged marriages, traditional gender roles, or being slaves to our desires, for example; and then there’s ‘freedom to’, which is the freedom to choose whom you want to be in a relationship with, freedom to marry or not to marry, and so on. The existential idea is that once we free ourselves from all the pressures around us, many of which we might not be fully aware of, then we can be free to create more authentically meaningful relationships. However, this is all easier said than done. As Nietzsche wrote, “invisible threads are the strongest ties.”
The book, according to the author