The Great Psychoanalysts: Sigmund Freud


He described himself as an obsessional neurotic. For although the father of modern psychology told us so much about our inner lives, he was touchingly vulnerable himself.

How to Understand Sexiness – a Film

The Great Philosophers: Arthur Schopenhauer


When it comes to sex, we are, in theory, living in wildly liberated times. So you would think it would be easy owning up to certain kinds of sexual desires. But it's very tricky to talk about many of the things that turn us on.

Porträt des Philosphen Arthur Schopenhauer, 1852

For the griefs of love, he may be the finest among philosophers. He was surely also one of the most pessimistic. Arthur Schopenhauer was born in Danzig in 1788.

The Great Psychoanalysts: Anna Freud

Crushes – a Film


We’re particularly down on people we call ‘defensive’. They blame others for what’s their own fault. They hear reasonable criticism as cruel attack. They deny they have a problem when they clearly do.


They happen in the privacy of our minds, pretty much everywhere. At the pool, the conference, the aisles of the supermarket. The dynamic is always the same: very little knowledge – indeed complete ignorance.

Why Melancholy People Can Be Attractive

Léa Seydoux, Venice Intl Film Festival, 2009

There are many types of beauty and many ways of being sexy. But at certain periods of history some major possibilities get neglected.

The Transitional Object

What babies can teach us


The English psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott developed the idea of a Transitional Object. He wanted to draw attention to the very important work done by children’s much-loved teddy bears.


We expect - of course - for it to be the other way around: we teaching them. But they have a host of important lessons for us too, if we dare to pay close enough attention.

How we end up marrying the wrong people

Why you are so annoyed by what you once admired

Prince Charles, Prince of Wales with his fiance Lady Diana S

Anyone we could marry would, of course, be a little wrong for us. It is wise to be appropriately pessimistic here. Nevertheless, one encounters some couples of such primal, grinding mismatch.

The Diamond Jubilee By Flickr Photographers

One of the things that makes us fall in love with people is realising they can do something we can't. We get attracted to people who seem capable and at ease with parts of life in which we struggle.

Why might one still bother with marriage?


It’s tempting to think of marriage as old fashioned. Why not just live with someone and be done with it? What need for a public ceremony? Why the weird traditions that people normally keep away from?

What do the things that turn us on mean? A brief theory of sexual excitement

If it wasn’t for you…

"Smashed" Portraits - 2012 Sundance Film Festival

The things that get us sexually excited can often sound rather improbable. On the face of it, Wellington boots, a heavy knit fisherman’s jumper or a car park seem unconnected to erotic satisfaction.


There are many nice things we want, but are somehow a little scared of getting, because they are bound up with risks and subtle inner complications we don't quite have a handle on.

Have you become a bit lecherous?

Why the fear of rejection never goes away – even when you are in a committed relationship

Men play volleyball on the beach below Sugar Loaf

You are queuing to go through to Departures; one of the guards at security has lovely, almost turquoise eyes. You are intrigued by the way they're frisking the occasional passenger.

A suspicious woman observing her husband at the phone

There are sweet moments - early on in relationships - when one person can’t quite work up the courage to let another know just how much they like them.

How love stories ruin our love lives

Blue is the Warmest Colour - 22 Aug 2013

It sounds strange to ask what a novel might be for. We tend not to wonder too much what role made-up stories should have in our lives. Generally we suppose we just read them for entertainment.

Why you’re (probably) not a great communicator

The hardest job in the world

Man writes 'I LOVE U' in the sand for his sweetheart, 1920-60.

One of the ideals of modern relationships is that both parties will be ‘good communicators’. ‘Communication’ is held to lie at the heart of a thriving partnership.


Under such a title, one expects something properly heroic: inter-planetary travel. Perhaps the flotation of a public company. A breakthrough in renal cancer research.

Why you need to learn a little charity

Why you resent your partner

Retailers Hope For A Good Christmas Despite The Current Economic Gloom

It is one of the seven virtues in Christianity. It used to have a central place in Roman ethics and Judaism as well. Today, we remain deeply impressed by the idea of charity, but often from a distance.

Couple doing domestic chores

One of the couple has been out all day: they’ve been to three meetings, grappled with a failing supplier, cleared up a misconception about tax rebates and sought to bring the new CEO on side.

Why – when it comes to children – love may not be enough

Book At Bedtime

Anyone of childbearing age will be surrounded by examples of catastrophic parenting in their own and previous generations. We hear no end of gruesome stories about breakdowns and resentments.

When is one ready to get married?

How projection makes you hard to live with

Healthy Marriage Initiative Classes Held In Pennsylvania

It used to be when you’d hit certain financial and social milestones: when you had a home to your name, a set of qualifications on the mantelpiece and a few cows and a parcel of land in your possession.


You’re flicking through a fashion magazine and playfully suggest that your partner might want to make a few experiments with their wardrobe. How about a different pair of jeans or a new T-shirt?

If you loved me, you wouldn’t want to change me

One bowl of Dutch strawberries could save your relationship

Restoration Work Completed On Michelangelo's David

There are - when you start adding incidents up - rather a lot of things about you that your partner seems keen to change. They notice how you put off ringing your mother.


This bowl of strawberries was painted by a Dutch artist called Adrien Coorte at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Coorte (generally unknown outside his

How to make better porn


There’s an inconceivable amount of pornography sluicing through the cyberworld. It feels out of control and often not too admirable. But could pornography perhaps be improved?

On the madness and charm of crushes

Why we go off sex

Claudia Cardinale in the street

You are introduced to someone at a conference. They look nice and you have a brief chat about the theme of the keynote speaker. But already you have reached an overwhelming conclusion.


Everyone knows that at the beginning it happens all the time…and then, as relationships get longer, it doesn’t really any more. We say it’s because we’re too busy, or tired, or just not in the mood.

What to talk about on date night

I hate you Mum


You try to set aside a special evening every now and then. That would have been absurd in the old days, you were alone so much of the time, but now there’s a need to schedule it in the diary way ahead of time.

Thank kew mum, Kew Gardens, England, Mar 2014

In the US this weekend, and in other parts of the world at about this time, people celebrate Mother's Day – a ritual specially designed to allow children to take a moment to express their gratitude for their mothers.

Why secrets are good for love

Postcards. Circa 1920. A picture of a romantic couple kissing behind an open book whilst sitting together on a bench.

For years, you felt burdened with thoughts, feelings and opinions that didn’t seem to make much sense to anyone else. You sometimes wondered if you were going mad.

I love you so much, you’re to blame for absolutely everything

A lover’s guide to sulking

Celebrity Sightings In Park City - January 18, 2014

You and your partner are waiting, and waiting, at the airport carousel for your luggage. Other people are wheeling their bags away. Soon, you are the only ones left standing by the now empty conveyor belt.


They have a habit of ruining embarrassingly long stretches of our lives. They will - by nature - seem absurd to others for they are triggered by what are, ostensibly, the very ‘small things’.

The School of Life

Ten Virtues For The Modern Age