Anatomy of Love – Helen Fisher


The Anatomy of Love is written by an anthropologist, Helen Fisher. The work is based on evolutionary psychology. The author provides some good line of thoughts on understanding the human mystery of marriage, love, and infidelity.  

About the Author :

Helen Fisher is an American anthropologist. She is a human behavior researcher, and has authored many self-help books. Today, she is a leading biological anthropologist on biology of love and attraction. Today, she is a Senior Research Fellow, at The Kinsey Institute.

About the book :

Fisher’s theory states that humans are capable of maintaining short-term and long-term relationships with more than one person. She proves this concept with various biological, psychological, sociological and evolutionary factors. She associates the factors with the human tendency towards infidelity. According to her love is a biological reaction between men and women initiating attachment behaviors with one another. This is causes by the activity of hormones called oxytocin in women and arginine vasopressin in men.

Her concept of infidelity is related to human Libido, due to psychological factors such as dissatisfaction, lack of emotional bonding, quality of sex in marriage, etc.,. All of these reasons put humans at the risk of adultery. Fisher states that “There exists no culture in which adultery is unknown, no cultural device or code that extinguishes philandering.” (Fisher, 1994, p.87). From an anthropological perspective, she mentions this infidelity issue as an evolutionary attribute. She states that the mating strategies of human species have evolved from its arboreal ancestors, and cites the example of gorillas living in harems.

However, she explains why some humans do not indulge in adultery. She uses the role of neurochemical circuitry in the brain as an explanation. this neuro-circuitry is actually responsible for a human’s libido drive, sexual attractiveness and the sense of attachment. These become the reason for indulging into or refusing to adultery.

Fisher’s theory of divorce states that intense pair-bonding and child-rearing occurs in the early years of marriage. This ‘four year itch’ period brings complex emotional ups and downs among the couples. This tendency can cause couples to mend or tear their pair bounding. She also mentions that couples having more than two children are less likely to get divorced than those with no children. She also agrees that the western cultural values and technologies have increased the divorce rates in the recent years.

Reference :

Fisher, Helen E. Anatomy of Love: a Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1994.

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