Gottlieb’s thesis: a woman, particularly an older woman (and by “older” we mean not 27), who allows pickiness and a sense of entitlement to restrict her dating life is missing an opportunity to find her “Mr. Good Enough.” It has, understandably, rankled some who take issue with the idea of “settling” — shifting definitions though it may have — or those who wonder if women, in fact, aren’t picky enough.
An animated, friendly lady with a good sense of humor about it all, Gottlieb is well-prepared to counter criticism from people who have read no more than her book’s title and thus feel qualified to reject it.
I have to admit, the subtitle of your book (The Case For Settling For Mr. Good Enough) is a little hard to digest, and I wonder if it doesn’t subvert what is basically a helpful and positive message about having more realistic expectations. Was this your choice of words, or your publisher’s?
Well, this came from the original subtitle of the Atlantic article, but it’s used to really get people to think about what “settling” actually means. Forgive the pun, but some people are unsettled by the idea of “settling.” But the thing is, I’m not telling women that they have to set low standards, or put up with relationships that don’t work. I’m suggesting they revise the list of things they’re looking for in a man — to conform with what actually makes a strong relationship and actually makes people happy in love.
There’s a presupposition here that marriage is a good thing for people–
Nope, no presupposition there at all. I’m saying that marriage is something I want personally, and I’m not alone in wanting it. So I was trying to figure out what was keeping me from finding the right guy. If you aren’t interested in marriage, there’s no reason to read a book about how to be happy in a marriage. This book isn’t for people who are happy to go through life single. It’s for people who want to find long-term romantic happiness and are curious about how to do that.
Your book is unusual in that it’s not truly a self-help book, although it does give advice to readers. Maybe it’s more like a memoir of a certain period of you life, with some breaks in the fourth wall…
It’s not self-help or a memoir, really–this is journalism. I’m a journalist by profession, and I did a lot of research to explore the question: what really matters in love? I interviewed neurobiologists to talk about chemistry, sociologists to talk about how the culture influences us, scientists and researchers who study relationships and marriage, men and women who were out there dating and who were married. The goal was to get some answers for myself and others struggling with these questions.
You emphasize the importance of distinguishing between “needs” and mere “wants” when looking for a life partner, and how learning to separate the two led you to a successful online match with the man you dub “Sheldon2.” I know you were only seeing him for a few months, but it sounds like the experience provided an important insight for you anyway.
Actually, I’m still in touch with “Sheldon2.” We’ve stayed in touch, and talk regularly, but yes, definitely: that was a lesson in not letting superficial criteria get in the way of more important qualities. I mean, I saw his bowtie in the [online dating profile] photo, and thought “Ugh! I don’t wanna date Orville Redenbacher!” but then it turns out the bowtie was from his grandfather, and was a way of honoring his connection with him. And his profession, which was listed as “real estate”—well, he had studied architecture, really loved his work, but I wrongly assumed he wouldn’t be creative enough. And Sheldon2 is 5’ 6”—I’m 5’1 ½ —and I just never thought I’d be attracted to a guy who was 5’6”. And I was so wrong, again! I was very attracted to him. But I learned that I had to get past that stuff, the stuff I always thought was important but had nothing to do whether he might make me happy
Were you able to process that lesson in your dating behavior after that?
Oh, yeah, and I have to say, my inbox is full of emails from men who’ve read the article or read the book and like what I have to say. Cuz I’m basically saying, let’s stop judging men on these superficial criteria, and value them for what they bring to a relationship–and they appreciate that.
Early in the book you pose the question “how much compromise [in a relationship] is too much?” and the question doesn’t explicitly get answered. I’m curious if you were able to answer that question at least for yourself.
Sure, that’s something that people have to address for themselves, and I think, again, it goes back to valuing what is going to make you happy in the long term, not what might look good on paper or what you assume will make you happy but so far hasn’t.
Your book is clearly written from a female heterosexual perspective, but have you gotten any feedback from the gay community?
Yes, the response has been very positive–it’s a universal theme. Hey, everyone wants to find their Mr.–or Ms.–Good Enough!
Amy Spencer’s Meeting Your Half-Orange: An Utterly Upbeat Guide to Using Dating Optimism to Find Your Perfect Match is one of the most inspiring, least depressing dating guides you’ll ever read. Named for the notion that every one of us has a perfect mate out there somewhere—one’s media naranja (“half-orange”), to use a Spanish idiom—Spencer’s formula for finding a life partner involves identifying what you really want, admitting that you really want it, and then letting go to a degree that allows you to enjoy the ride rather than stress out about it. The delightful author and blogger, who embodies the positivity that she espouses, spoke recently with BreakupGirl.net about her deceptively simple advice.
The basic gist of Meeting Your Half Orange is to maintain optimism and inner certainty during the search for Mr./Ms. Right, and to “act as if.” Does this differ in any significant way from the Law of Attraction that we’ve been hearing about for the past few years?
There is certainly a similarity to The Secret, but dating optimism is more grounded. It’s based on neuroscientific and psychological evidence that by thinking more positively, you can actually change the neural activity and even the structure of your emotional brain, which is where we house our emotional memories and which affects our perceptions of everything in life, including love. By seeing and reacting to the world through a more positive emotional brain, you change everything from your body language to those knee-jerk reactions you have in dating, to how you see people and how people see you, which changes what you experience in life and love. The Secret can be powerful, but a little woo-woo to some. This isn’t. So I wanted to share with people how to use this to their dating advantage.
You seem mindful of grounding your ideas in science and research. Did you feel pressure to make your theories more believable to the average reader?
You’re right, I am mindful of that. But it’s not so much about making readers believe me, but allowing them to believe in how much power they have—that changing their point of view isn’t just a surface silly thing, it can actually change you physiologically. I think when we know why something is actually working—like why a certain exercise will firm up your abs—it just makes you more likely to do it.
How would you respond to someone who is uncomfortable with what on the surface appears to be a “passive” approach to dating?
Well, that sometimes action has to start on the inside. I used to think that if I wanted to find love, I needed to treat it like a job and physically go on as many dates as were humanly possible. But being that active was exhausting me! So I made a switch from being physically active in dating to being emotionally active. When you’re determined to feel awesome about yourself and your life and how great your relationship is going to feel, you’re actually not being passive at all!
When do you know it’s time to move on from an attraction that isn’t resulting in a relationship?
If you’re feeling it for someone else but they don’t want a relationship with you, then I say get on the train and get outta there before you get sucked into something fruitless. It takes practice trusting yourself and your radar for the wrong guy (what I call your “wrong-dar”) but if you want to feel happy and loved in a relationship and you’re not getting those feelings with someone you’re attracted to? Then you’re not being open and available for the right guy when he shows up. Maybe it’ll be this guy later, after he wises up, but for now, I say move on.
Who did you envision as your typical reader while you were writing this?
You know, I had two specific people in mind. One is my friend Lily who I write about in the book, who was often asking what to do in her dating life. And the other was my former single self. That may sound weird, but when I would tell my single story to people, it didn’t matter how old they were—23 or 53—or what town they were from, they’d really relate. Our single experiences are so much more alike than we realize. So I wrote the book I wished I’d been able to read when I was having little lonely breakdowns in my living room and hoped it would speak to all the women who have felt like that, too.
Some of your counsel is a little counter-intuitive–e.g., you advise readers not to make dating a priority and to trash pre-existing “lists” of qualities they are looking for in a mate. Have you gotten some push-back from reviewers or readers who found your ideas kooky?
I haven’t actually gotten any push-back on those “backward” ideas. More so, people who find it refreshing to hear a new way of looking at things. Though the “don’t making dating a priority” gets a few more eyebrows. I just believe it’s more important that you feel great about yourself and your life than that you punch in for dates. If you’re weary and down about all the dating you’re doing, that will hurt more than help you. And as for those lists, yes, I do say trash the ones that list qualities you want in a mate! Because you don’t actually want a handsome guy with a great laugh. What you want is a relationship with someone you feel attracted to who you laugh together with. Looking for someone with a list of qualities is nearly impossible! But meeting your list of how you want to feel isn’t. And that’s when life surprises you, when a guy doesn’t look or dress or work like you “pictured,” yet you’re two happy peas in a pod when you’re together.
How did you gather your interviewees and “experts”? It’s quite an erudite and varied bunch–artists, writers, neuropsychologists, professors, etc.
You know, I’ve been so into the topic of optimism for so many years, I approached the book the way I’ve seen DJ friends choose music: You go to a music shop, find one artist you like, dig up an album of another band they played in, and then a special disc that band once made, and on and on. That’s pretty much how I found my experts. I’d read one psychologist’s book, see who they were inspired by or studied under and then I’d read that book and look into their studies. I also reached out to a lot of friends who had interesting friends to tell their stories. Overall, I wanted to get stories from women all over the country in all walks of life and all ages to show how optimism can affect anyone’s life, no matter what you start with, and what relationship you’re looking for.
Do you think there will be a sequel–maybe about “Growing an Orange Family” or some such?
I’ve had a few ideas about how to follow this book and I’m not sure yet which direction I’ll take yet, but the practice of optimism can be used in so many areas in life, from marriage to your half-orange, to family and beyond. So as soon as I know what book I get to “squeeze” out next, I’ll let you know!
Filed under: books — posted by Breakup Girl @ 7:09 am
Thinking of getting married? Just a small City Hall ceremony with a justice of the peace — and a therapist? Today’s your day. See this goodie from BG’s PR wire:
RELATIONSHIP EXPERT TO COUNSEL JUST-WED COUPLES IN FRONT OF MANHATTAN MARRIAGE BUREAU
(New York, NY) “With the escalating divorce rate it is crucial to give just-wed couples something much more fortifying than a Victoria’s Secret leopard and lace teddy,” says relationship author Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW. To kick off her mission Amatenstein, author of the just-published THE COMPLETE MARRIAGE COUNSELOR: Relationship-Saving Advice from the Top 50 + Couples Therapists , will bring along a therapist couch from Washington Square Institute in the village where she is a staff therapist.
Says the expert, “Instead of throwing rice, I’ll hand couples a book and a sheet containing the collected wisdom of the top 67 marriage counselors in the country and in some instances offer an on the spot mini-session!” Amatenstein adds, “I’m open to being a witness if called upon.”
Says Helen Fisher, author of Why Him, Why Her: The Complete Marriage Counselor “is a wonderful book…full of ideas about how to make the partnership you really want.”
WHEN: February 12, 2010 - 10 AM to 1 PM
WHO: Sherry Amatenstein, LMSW, couples counselor at Washington Square Institute and author of THE COMPLETE MARRIAGE COUNSELOR
WHAT: Romantic triage for just-wed couples
WHERE: City Clerk’s Office, 141 Worth Street
New York, NY 10013
Often couples wait until things are very bad before communicating issues that are wrong. Probably the most important bit of advice imparted by the experts who include John Gray, Harville Hendrix and Judy Kuriansky, according to Amatenstein: “It’s never too early to get a head start on your marriage…Even if that marriage is of five minutes’ duration!”
Amatenstein plans an as-yet-unscheduled visit to Las Vegas chapels, home of the quickie wedding. A second phase of her marriage-saving tour will include stops at the two top honeymoon destinations Hawaii and the Bahamas.
Author (and FOBG) Lori Gottlieb appeared on the Today Show this morning to discuss her — to me, bizarrely — inflammatory book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, which basically urges women to be picky about the important stuff (kindness) and not picky about the not-important stuff (height), and which Lemondrop summarizes rather equitably here. What it’s left in its wake is a lot of women feeling very rankled and defensive about being told they should “settle,” which is not really what Lori is saying. That said, I understand the defensiveness. Women, rightly, do not like to hear, which they often do, over and over, that they are “too picky.” (Yes, picky. About the person you are going to spend your life with. Urr?) Not that there aren’t women (and men) who are indeed “too picky.” But to be told that, or to get that message from our culture, which single women do, over and over, can be insulting, dismissive, unsympathetic. For one thing among many, it puts the dating onus squarely and only on the woman, whereas it’s not like every still-single woman is surrounded by terrific uncomplicated men on bended knee, just waiting for her to get over her thing about bowties or “no lawyers” or whatever. Women who have gone on a million dates with and given a million chances to a million perfectly nice guys who for whatever legitimate reason leave them lukewarm do not want to hear that they are “just being picky.” They are tired. They are trying. Go away. That’s part of my theory, anyway, for why Lori’s message, fairly or not, has left so many women so totally steamed.
I also wonder this: to the degree that men are paying attention to this tempest in a coffee-date, how does this message make you feel? If I may render it in the shorthand of stereotype, it’s basically “give the short bald poor guy a chance.” Do you feel that Lori’s advice, for those who follow it, could spell triumph for the common man? Let us know in comments!
Through the insights gleaned from these candid chats, Greenwald, a professional yenta and dating coach, became a staunch advocate of third-party “exit interviews” for both men and women who have been blown off after one or two dates and desire some useful info about what might have gone wrong. She likens these post-mortems to performance reviews at work, and thinks they are the key to discovering potentially stymieng blind spots about one’s own dating behavior. Recently Greenwald has begun training others to become professional“exit interviewers.” Here’s what she had to say in an INTERVIEWinterview with BreakupGirl.net:
Why do you think it’s helpful to know why someone didn’t call you back, as opposed to just letting go and moving on?
Rachel Greenwald: Well, it’s like anything in life. Feedback improves your performance going forward. It’s a tool. You could be doing something like sending the wrong signal, or giving the wrong impression, and…not getting the results that you want. If only someone could coach you about how you were perceived and what went wrong, you could use that information to change things and get better results next time.
Do you think most people being “exit interviewed” are going to be honest?
Increased focus on–and longer trajectories of–career development
It’s an interesting topic. Among my own friends–many of whom have been married and divorced at least once–the major obstacle to marriage seems to be disenchantment with the institution itself, although I’ve also noticed that even the vehement nay-sayers seem to soften around the issue when their partners want to get hitched. It seems that, even if individuals are ambivalent about making it legal, our society as a whole is still pretty fixated on the idea–or else books like Ms Seligson’s would not exist.
I turn to you, reader: Is there a real difference between living together (or dating someone long-term without cohabitating) and getting married? If so, what do you think it is? And has that made you more, or less, interested in marriage?
The coveted top two spots are occupied by books written by…comedians. Hey, if I want to be lectured by some smart-aleck goofball about my love-life, I’ve got my bathroom mirror, thank you. The credentials of the other authors are a little shady, too: reporters, secrets-revealing “playas,” and Harvard MBAs, but only two actual relationship counselors.
Only a few of these “relationship books” are about, well, relationships. The bulk are basically how-to books (for straight women) to snag a mate, please a man, or foil those slippery guy-tactics that, allegedly, all men employ, at all times.
A decade is a long time, and surely there have been more subtle, less condescending, and more realistic books written about love that don’t nakedly play into women’s fears and insecurities, nor into the myth of male weakness that says all straight guys, harboring endless secrets, are afraid of women. So! What are your favorite relationship books of the past ten years? (Aside from THE OBVIOUS, of course.) Alternate perspectives (LGBT, non-marriage-oriented, bridge-lovin‘) encouraged! My list would include:
Love in the Present Tense: How to Have a High Intimacy, Low Maintenance Marriage by Morrie & Arleah Schechtman. This slim volume contains some of the most useful relationship advice I’ve ever read, and much of it is counter-intuitive bordering on heretical. The Schechtmans — marriage counselors with backgrounds in business — argue convincingly against ideas like “couples need to love each other unconditionally,” “relationships are hard work,” and “conflict is always a sign of trouble.”
How to Be an Adult in Relationships: The Five Keys to Mindful Loving by David Richo. It’s easy to fall into unconscious childhood patterns when we are in the vulnerable position of loving someone. Psychotherapist David Richo — an uncommonly poetic writer — emphasizes mindfulness and a spiritual approach to partnership, avoiding the manipulative strategies that we almost all fall into when we aren’t careful.
You’ve heard this comparison: dates are, for helpful or painful, like job interviews. (In this economy, let’s hope at least one or the other, depending, is plentiful.) But career counselor and author Nicole Williams sees it the other way around: when women (or “girls,” as she calls ‘em) apply the received dating wisdom of the post-Rules generation — basically, “don’t give the milk away for free” — to their workplace, they can create a new, strong, and female-friendly way of doing business.
Williams’s book, Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success, has been getting mostly positive coverage in magazines as disparate as Money and Cosmo, and is currently ranked at #32 on Amazon’s business books list. Whether you agree or disagree with the tenets of her philosophy, she has some interesting advice for women coping with some typical year-end job bugaboos. We caught up with Williams during her crazybusy book tour.
BG: The recession rages on, and it seems that about 10 percent of the US population has been “dumped.” What are the parallels between the post-breakup “Slanket and Zebra Cakes” period and the first few weeks or months of unemployment?
NW: It’s oh-so similar. Rejection — personal or professional — sucks. But the difference is at the end of the day, as much as you’d like to lay fetal and eat (or frankly drink) your way to delirium, a girl’s got to pay rent! Let yourself have a good cry and feel like shit for a week (or if desperate…two) but you know what they say about getting back up on the horse…Get back out there while your contacts are fresh, your skills are current, your confidence has a pulse and you haven’t convinced yourself all would be fine if you could just land yourself a spot on The Hills.
BG: Those of us still in the workforce will soon be facing the dreaded Holiday Office Party–any tips on how to survive?
I’m fine with the hookup as long as he’s not your boss, you do it after the party (where no one is going to see you), and with someone you actually have a hankerin’ for. I’m not big into one-night work stands–it’s way too hard to see him day-in and day-out if there’s no long term potential. The risk is too great and let’s be honest, there are lots of options out there.
On the drinking front: one is fine, three is not.This is a big occasion where you really can make an impact and it’s better not to do that drunk. Break free of your usual crowd and get to know the big-wigs, talk about something other than the latest financials, and wear something that isn’t your usual office attire. But be careful, it’s not New Year’s party-sexy–it’s still work.
BG: Another recession question: say you like your job OK, but you learn at the year-end company meeting that there will be no raises or bonuses this year. (Not unlike “I love you but I don’t foresee marriage anytime soon”?) Should you stay or should you go?
Such a great question. It’s not just about the cash (although if it’s been years, you’re a high producer and the company is flush…it is), it’s about the compensation package. Are you learning things and meeting people who you’ll be able to turn into money-making opportunities?Is your boss offering up extra vacation days, some other sort of hearty “thanks”? Is she or he giving you time and attention–offering you constructive feedback, introduction to important people? If your boss isn’t into you (and doing NONE of the above), I’m all about cutting and running. Just remember that in this economy, money isn’t the only indicator of love.