What's Love Got To Do With It?

Two Strangers Participate In An Unusual Love Experiment

Robert Epstein, a 49-year-old bachelor and Harvard-trained psychology professor, is determined to fall in love - deep love, even married love - and even if it's with a stranger.

But stranger still is how he plans to do it. Epstein, an editor at Psychology Today, has devised what he claims is a scientific experiment, designed to teach two people to fall in love, and make that love last. Correspondent Bill Lagattuta reports.
"We have the tools of couples counseling that are normally used on failing couples. And the question is can we use those tools on people just starting out," says Epstein. "And that's really the question I'm raising."

Last year, Epstein, who lives in Vista, Calif., announced in the pages of his magazine that he was looking for a partner for his experiment, called "Learning to Love."

He said that he was looking for someone who would sign a "love contract" and agree to spend several months trying to learn to love him. Over 1,000 women volunteered from all over the country.

"I do know that we can fall in love with lots of different people," says Epstein. "The idea that there's only the one soul mate is absolute nonsense sold to us by Hollywood."

Epstein received candidate letters from an ESPN announcer, a bathing suit model, even one woman who sent him an airplane ticket to a private island off St. Thomas. For some reason, these women were not considered as model candidates to sign Epstein's "love contract."

"This is the love contract and the main provision is we're not going to date anyone else," says Epstein. "We're going to go into couples counseling right away. We're gonna go in there and actually foster a love."

It may sound clinical, but Epstein says it's very romantic: "It's deeply romantic, with a little realism thrown in."

Epstein has loved and lost before. He has four kids, but he says he doesn't think he's ever had a "long-term, healthy relationship."

"I've definitely been swayed by passion," he says. "And then we get together, maybe we live together, in one case I got married. I don't want to do that anymore. I want to go into the next relationship with my eyes wide open."

He believes he will find that perfect match very soon.
One thing Robert was determined to do was not fall into the same old traps, like love at first sight.

"Love is blind, but is it really love, that's the question," says Epstein.

But it seems that last Christmas, Epstein decided not to listen to his own advice. At Newark Airport, he got on board his plane and found a man sitting in his seat. He decided to take a vacant seat in front.

Fate stepped in. Hovering over the seat was Gabriella Castillo, a former ballerina and socialite from Caracas, Venezuela.

"I was kind of stuck. There were other women with whom I discussed this idea who said no," says Epstein. "Gabriella is remarkable in that she's a wonderful person and she's willing to do some of this in a fishbowl."

Gabi, as she is called, agreed to come to California to try to learn to love Epstein.

"I think she's very beautiful," says Epstein, laughing.

"He's very intelligent. I love when he talks and I listen to him," says Gabi, 40. "And I think he's very cute."

Are there any sparks? Of course, they say.

"We're sparkin'! We got some sparks," says Epstein.

But can a nerdy Harvard-trained psychologist, and a passionate South American beauty, actually learn to love each other?

"I would like to get engaged if it works," says Gabi.

Part II: Doctor Of Love

  • Rebecca Leung

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