The Dark Side of Love

Each year, Valentine’s Day offers the opportunity for couples to celebrate their love with lush red roses, candlelit dinners and heart-shaped boxes filled with chocolate confections.

However, the commercialized celebration of romantic love doesn’t often acknowledge the darker side of many relationships, which may include obsession, jealousy and even murder.

In his recent research, David Buss, UT professor of psychology and leading researcher in the field of evolutionary psychology, delves into the underbelly of romantic relationships to shed light on the psychology of love, desire, passion and sex.

Keep reading to learn more about his three recent books: “The Murderer Next Door,” “The Evolution of Desire” and “The Dangerous Passion.”

Sleeping with the Enemy
Based on the largest homicidal fantasy study ever conducted, Buss explains why we are all wired to kill, and what might push us over the edge in “The Murderer Next Door: Why the Mind is Designed to Kill” (Penguin, 2005). Using evolutionary psychology, he explains how the human mind developed adaptations to kill throughout human evolution, when murder was a necessity in the brutal game of reproductive competition.

Investigating the motives and circumstances of homicides—from demented serial killers to the seemingly harmless next-door neighbor—Buss conducts a detailed study of more than 400,000 FBI files, in which 13,670 of those cases involved a man killing his wife. Taking readers on a journey into the mind of a killer with harrowing stories of homicide cases and quotes from survey participants about the murders they fantasized about committing, he explains when they are most at risk for being murdered, or becoming the murderer.

Unearthing the Roots of Desire
Can women and men just be friends? What do women really want? Are men more promiscuous than women? In “The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating” (Basic Books, 2003), Buss offers evolutionary explanations to some of the most baffling questions about sexual desire and attachment.

Based on a global survey of 10,047 respondents in 37 cultures, he revealed that much of our romantic behavior is hard-wired from our evolutionary origins. Drawing from the study, he explains why men prefer attractive, faithful young women, and women gravitate toward men with money, social status and power. With a focus on gender differences in sexual agendas, Buss reveals how mating strategies have remained the same since the dawn of time.

Jealousy on Mars and Venus
Refuting the belief that jealousy is a sign of insecurity, Buss reveals that men and women are genetically designed for the green-eyed monster in “The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is as Necessary as Love and Sex” (Free Press, 2000). Drawing from experiments, surveys and interviews conducted in 37 countries on six continents, as well as insights from scientific discoveries, he explains how jealousy was adapted through human evolutions as an early detection system for reproductive threats.

Delving deep into the evolutionary past of the human species, Buss reveals how jealousy can not only destroy a relationship, but strengthen the bond as well. Taking readers on a journey through various cultures, from prehistoric times to present day, he also shows how women may elicit jealousy to increase their partner’s commitment and test the strength of a relationship.