I am thrilled to have the author of Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough here today to answer some questions! I recently reviewed Lori Gottlieb’s book, and am thrilled she agreed to share more about the creation of the book with us. Welcome, Ms. Gottlieb!
Dr. S.: “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” is a catchy title, but I didn’t think the title was truly reflective of the book’s message. What were some alternate titles? Something else you wish it were called?
L.G.: Unfortunately, I didn’t get to choose the title, and I so wish that it accurately reflected the hopeful message of the book, which is about how to find lasting, passionate love. The book has absolutely nothing to do with lowering one’s standards or “settling.” In fact, the book is about having very high standards — extremely high standards — but having high standards about the things that matter for long-term, happy marriages, and letting go of the trivial things that don’t. In Marry Him, I talk to experts who study relationships and marriage from different perspectives — psychologists, behavioral economists, sociologists, neurobiologists, matchmakers, historians, couples counselors, dating coaches, you name it — then I write about their findings and try them out myself, like a dating guinea pig. What matters for lasting love? What doesn’t? Why do we often pick partners who seem fantastic when we first meet them only to discover that they aren’t right for us — and how might we have seen this more clearly from the beginning? How can we be more conscious about choosing great partners, especially when we’re young enough to have the most available options? How do our cultural messages about expectations for love sometimes lead us to make decisions that won’t necessarily make us happy? What does “true love” really mean? What keeps people in love?
Dr. S.: Your book doesn’t have a traditional happy ending. Was it tough (in either your mind, or the mind of your publisher) to end the book without a big wedding?
L.G.: I think it has a very happy ending, and a real happy ending. I talk about this in Marry Him, but the “traditional” happy endings we often see in movies involve that final wedding scene, and then we just assume that this couple that has been bickering for the past 90 minutes will go on to be compatible and happy for the rest of their lives. Look at Hollywood marriages — they don’t tend to end up that way.
As I say in the book, I’ve never dreamed about my wedding. I would dream about being happily married: Who’s the guy? What is our daily life like? What is it like to grow old with this person, to share life’s great adventures with this person, to create a memorable history together, to raise children together, to run a household together, to bring out the best in each other while accepting the worst in each other, to witness each other’s great pleasures in life and be there for each other’s difficult failures or disappointments, to make each other laugh and continue to surprise each other even as time goes on, to know somebody that well over decades and be known that well in turn? Marriage is a very rich, complex, challenging experience; it’s not about the big wedding day and who do you want to go to Tahiti with for the week.
Anyone can have a wedding. Marry Him is about finding the right person to go through life with. One expert in the book says, “There’s no perfect partner; there’s the perfect partner for you.” So the happy endings in the book are all the stories of the women who used the tools in Marry Him to find to find their perfect partner. And for me, the happy ending was that while I learned these lessons much later than I would have liked to — my point in the book is that young women will save themselves a lot of heartache and have a much easier time finding love if they learn these lessons early on — I did, finally, learn them. At the end of the book, I acknowledged that it would be far more challenging to date in my forties than it had been to date in my twenties and thirties (a reality that women need to be aware of), but I also felt that I had a much better chance of meeting the right person now that I’d gained this insight. I suppose if I were to write a post-script to the book, I’d let readers know that, eventually, I did meet somebody great. And if I’d dated the way I had before researching and writing Marry Him, I might have missed out on the opportunity to be with this person whom I’m so lucky to have in my life on a daily basis. But in the book, I follow several women on their dating journeys, and for the ones who take the advice and really examine their old patterns, their endings are very happy, too.
Dr. S.: If you were to give relationship/marriage/commitment advice to a young woman just entering the dating pool, what would be your #1 piece of advice?
I wish it were that easy, that I could give the magic answer and poof — that’s how you find love! I think that all of the advice in Marry Him needs to be taken together to really help people get clear and to realize that they have far more control over how their dating lives are going than they think. That said, if I had to pick one general idea, it would be that many people treat dating like ordering a meal at a restaurant. They want to order up a person a la carte: I’ll take a little of this, more of that, less of the other, and please leave the annoying habit or less-than-ideal physical feature on the side. But a person comes as he or she comes. There are “no substitutions” at this restaurant. It’s not your partner’s job to be everything you want at all times. That’s impossible. One expert in the book said to me, “Lori, instead of making a list of all the things you want in a guy, I want you make a list of everything a guy would have to put up with, in order to spend his life with you.” Our girlfriends are always telling us how fabulous we are, and while we all have many appealing qualities, we’re also as flawed as the next person. That exercise — writing down what a guy would have to compromise on if he wanted to spend his life with me — really made me see things differently!
Dr. S.: What are you working on these days? Any new books we can look forward to?
I’m working on a piece for The Atlantic about sex in marriage! I also have a private practice and do relationship consulting at www.lorigottliebtherapy.com.
Dr. S.: One of the things I often write about in my blog is stress management. We all know that yoga and meditation are great, but I am more interested in unique and creative methods of stress management. What do you do to relieve stress?
This might sound corny, but I do in life what I suggest people do in Marry Him. I focus on the important things that I’m grateful for and I let the small things go. I don’t mean that I’m a Pollyanna. It’s more that when life’s challenges present themselves — and they always will — I remember that I have all kinds of choices. I can choose to be stressed over minor things or I can choose to put my energy elsewhere. It’s completely up to me how I react to a particular situation, big or small. It’s really about having perspective — am I running from the bears and about to be devoured, or is this just disappointing (and the disappointment will pass) or a nuisance that I’ll have to deal with temporarily? It doesn’t take the stress away completely, but it does make things feel far less overwhelming than they would be if I didn’t slow myself down, access my more objective self, and see the situation for what it is. I find that having that kind of perspective makes daily life so much more relaxing.