Helen Fisher, PhD, dives deep into all things love and relationships in Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray. With a PhD in biological anthropology, Dr. Fisher has been applying her expertise to the areas of love and relationships for years. She functions as the chief scientific advisor to Match.com and has been a presenter at TED conferences. Her book is a wonderful conglomeration of the vast knowledge she has acquired on the topics of love, relationships, and marriage.

Anatomy of Love covers a wide range in the discussion of love. A few of the topics that Fisher discusses include

  • Lust vs. Romantic Attraction vs. Attachment
  • Flirtation and the art of seduction – including the history and cross-cultural similarities
  • Love Addiction
  • The Societal Rules of Sexuality and the role of morality
  • Gender Differences

Fisher’s approach includes the biology, anthropology, sociology, and psychology related to the topic at hand. She is able to tie all of these areas into a weave that includes the similarities between humans and various other species. While some may find it difficult to find similarities with animals, Fisher is able to gently guide the reader through her explanations. For instance, she points out the role that scent plays in attraction. The author explains a study conducted by Jean Henri Fabre who discovered that the female emperor moth excretes a pheromone that attracts more than 150 suitors. She continues by explaining how pheromones play a role in the attraction between humans.

Her discussion of love addictions is truly fascinating. The chapter starts at the beginning of the attraction between two people and follows the development of the feelings between the people until the addiction arises. Fisher brings up the topic of jealousy within the realm of addiction. She points out that studies have shown that one gender does not experience jealousy more often than the other; however, the genders act out jealousy differently. Women tend to maintain the relationship whereas men are more likely to confront. The author also discusses the difference between positive and negative addictions in love and describes four different addiction types: Romance, Attachment, Violence, and Despair.

Fisher’s final topic, “Future Sex,” looks at how current sexual and romantic behaviors are a “trend forward to the past.” She touches on the act of “hooking up,” friends with benefits, and trial marriages. Her discussion of how men and women view sex and the sexuality of the genders was thoroughly refreshing. The author breathes life into the studies that have shown that women are just as sexual as men, they just express it differently and have different sexual attitudes. For instance, while men think about sex regularly and are more likely to initiate, a woman’s sexuality is much stronger, she experiences more contractions during orgasm, and she is far more likely to orgasm several times during a singular sex act.

Dr. Fisher supports her opinions and theories with evidence, and her resources are plentiful, including the studies she has conducted through the Kinsey Institute. Her presentation of the material is light and somewhat conversational, while maintaining professionalism and scholarly appeal.

Dr. Helen Fisher’s Anatomy of Love is a tremendous wealth of information. Many scholarly approaches to love, sex, and relationships can come off as dry as sandpaper. Yet, this particular text presents the topics in such a way that they do not lose their appeal and intrigue. This book will likely provide more than enough information for anyone researching relationships, either professionally or personally.

Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, Completely Revised and Updated
W. W. Norton & Company, February 2016
Hardcover, 464 pages
$26.95

Psych Central's Recommendation:
Worth Your Time! +++

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