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March 2

Good (enough) lovin’: Q&A with embattled author Lori Gottlieb

Filed under: books,media,Psychology — posted by Paula @ 8:32 am

lorigottliebLori Gottlieb’s Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough–which started life as an article that got a whole lot more people to read The Atlantic–has been getting heated attention since its publication in early February. The book has garnered high praise from many relationship experts, book critics, and readers, and also — shall we say — spirited dismissals from nay-sayers who question Gottlieb’s facts, premise, or even her emphasis on marriage.

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.

marry-himI 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!


February 25

A more fruitful approach to dating! BG Q&A with author Amy Spencer

Filed under: Advice,books,TV — posted by Paula @ 6:50 am

orange2Amy 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!


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