About a decade ago, I was changing careers. It was a life crisis—I’d been in academia my whole life, didn’t want to be a professor anymore, and had no idea what else I could do that might be happier. So, being a researchy kind of person, I looked for good books, articles, and online resources that could help me. I found a lot. Inspiration, information, introspection—it was all out there waiting for me to mine it, and though it didn’t leave me with certainty about what to do next, it did leave me with great ideas about what I might want to do and how to navigate the process of making this change. It gave me a good ground to stand on.
Now the career change is behind me, and I’m happily ensconced in my freelance life. On to the next task: love. I want to find a relationship (in my case, with a man). So I’m dating. I have good feelings about online dating: I met my previous boyfriend of five years on my second online date. It won’t take long to find someone, right? Wrong. It’s taking a while. It’s not so easy. So, being a researchy kind of person, I look for good books, articles, and online resources that could help me. There aren’t any. There’s a ton of material out there, but apparently our finest minds aren’t dedicating themselves to the topic of dating the way they are to the topic of career change.
And that leads me to this, the first in a series I’m calling:
Dating and Relationship Books that Don’t Suck
I have two books in this category so far, and two more possibles, and enough optimism to call that the beginnings of a list. Even better, I can supplement this series with two related ones:
- Online Resources about Dating and Relationships that Don’t Suck
- Ideas about Dating and Relationships that Don’t Suck, Most of Which I Originally Got from Other People’s Writing and Maybe Developed Further on My Own (probably a shorter title for that one)
I’m striving for shortness with these, because you and I are both busy, so maybe this will be the longest post, since I just spent four paragraphs introducing the idea. Now on to the first book.
THE BOOK: It’s Not You: 27 (Wrong) Reasons You’re Single, by Sara Eckel
WHY IT DOESN’T SUCK: It’s Not You is the first book in this series because it’s the foundation of everything to come. There’s a big culture out there—at least in women’s dating—designed to make you think that if you reach a Certain Age and are still single, either you’re doing something wrong or there’s something wrong with you. There isn’t. It’s a lie. You’re fine.
You know how I know this? I read Sara Eckel’s book, which goes through all the contradictory reasons you tell yourself or others tell you you’re still single and shows, using research and logic, why none of these reasons hold water. For example: You Have Low Self-Esteem. You’re Too Intimidating. You’re Too Desperate. You’re Too Independent. You’re Too Picky. You Don’t Know What You Want. Yadda. Yadda. And yadda. But the most important one is the big tent one: You Have Issues. The culture of “You Need to Change” pretends to us that a good relationship is the Great Reward at the end of a long journey toward self-perfection.
It’s a lie. You know how I know this? I read Sara Eckel’s book. Which I’m not going to quote or look back at to make sure I’m being precise or anything—we’re both busy, remember? And besides, what matters in this Very Subjective Series I’m beginning is what stuck with me enough that I can, as we had to do in third grade, put it in my own words.
So what stuck with me is this: Look around at all the people you know who are in healthy, happy, long-term, romantic relationships. Are they perfect? Have they solved their issues? Did they have to “work on themselves” to find their partners? No! They didn’t. They lucked out. Most of them, if they’re reflective types, “work on their issues” in the context of their healthy relationships.
Most of your friends, according to my very scientific survey of my friends, met their partners in school, where we were all surrounded by singles our age. Most of the rest met later, online or in a bar. Some few met just in life. If you’re not lucky enough to have met a great match for you in any of these ways, what should you do?
Keep going. Take breaks when it gets to be horrible, which it certainly does. But generally just keep going. Keep meeting people. Keep being your creative, resourceful, and authentic self, and keep looking for someone you like to talk to and also touch and who feels the same way about you (as I think Eckel said, but I can’t find it on a cursory search, so it may have been Susan Piver, whose book I was reading at about the same time).
Back to why I wanted to talk about this book first. A lot of my other posts about dating and relationships will be advice on things we can do differently. But that doesn’t mean that any of them are Things Wrong With You or Things You’re Doing Wrong that are keeping you from being in a great relationship. They’re just things we can do.
After all, personal growth helps us grow as persons and facilitates healthy relating and overall happiness. But it comes from a foundational understanding that we’re really fine—in fact, we’re amazing. And one of the things that makes us amazing is that we like to understand and entertain a broad range of ways of thinking and acting and critically incorporate them into our lives (see the discussion of reflexivity in my book—and check how I worked a reference to my book in there without even trying! Go me.).
So that’s book #1, and maybe these posts will be longer than I expected. And that’s okay. You know how I know it’s okay? I read Sara Eckel’s book. Okay maybe that’s not really why, but it’s all in the family.