LOVE IS A STORY by Robert J. Sternberg


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 A study of how the partners in a couple create, and work to sustain, a particular narrative motif that largely defines the nature of their romance and according to which they play certain roles. Sternberg (Psychology and Education/Yale; Successful Intelligence, 1996, etc.) notes how important internalized narratives are in providing guidelines for the way we live: ``Once we have a story, we can interpret almost any events as confirming it, elaborating on the story as we see fit.'' At the same time, a particular narrative ``keeps being written throughout each person's life'' and ``even after a relationship ends, we may rewrite the story several times.'' The heart of this book is an exploration of 26 narratives that shape couples' lives and that involve everything from power imbalances (``the teacher-student story'') to fear (``the horror story''), from a certain amount of estrangement (``the science fiction story'') to mutual tending and nurturing. (``the garden story''). For all 26, Sternberg methodically describes the nature of the story, provides some ``diagnosis'' (``lines'' or worldviews that accompany it), offers two case studies, and probes each narrative's strengths and weaknesses in terms of the prospects for a relationship's survival. If his book has a weakness, it is that it's a little too schematic; there is not enough here about couples torn between multiple narratives or how couples do, and might, respond when once mutually satisfying stories turn dull or otherwise sour. Nor is there material on how race, ethnicity, and sexual preference influence couple stories. (Are there distinctive stories that gay and lesbian couples have? All of Sternberg's case stories come from heterosexual ones.) These omissions aside, this is a terrifically interesting and enjoyable book, one that will probably be read by married and unmarried couples, singles, and the counselors who work with them.

Pub Date: Feb. 14th, 1998
ISBN: 0-19-510642-3
Page count: 236pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 1997


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