The XX Factor

The Science of Falling in Love

If you have read a women’s magazine in the last year, you have probably come across Robert Epstein , whose specialty is the science of falling in love. Phrases such as “love at first sight” teach us to think of this as a bolt from the blue, a force beyond reason that moves mountains. But falling in love can be reduced to a series of simple exercises, explains Epstein in his cover story in the latest Scientific American Mind . You can breathe together and touch gently or do “soul gazing,” which means staring into each other’s eyes.

The theory is popular because it removes the chance element from finding the perfect partner. But it’s also unpopular because it makes a beautiful thing seem mechanical. Epstein likes to say the average person has 350,000 potential soul mates. He’s also in favor of the arranged marriage, which he argues builds intimacy over time.

Sarah Vander Schaaff, my new favorite mom-blogger , has a great take on Epstein. Many of his exercises sounded familiar to her, and she realized they sounded exactly like standard techniques she learned in acting school. She then conducted an online survey of actors and discovered that yes, 93 percent of them had indeed fallen in love on the set. These romances did not necessarily last but they tended to ignite on stage. Does this mean Epstein’s method works? Possibly. At the very least, it explains the Hollywood divorce rate.

Photograph of hands in mantle by Photodisc/Getty Images.