Provocative writer Lori Gottlieb, author of “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough,” is sure to spark a lively Q&A session when she appears at the JCC of San Francisco on Monday, Oct. 25.
The 43-year-old Jewish single mother isn’t shy when it comes to sharing her controversial perspective on dating, marriage and achieving romantic happiness.
Gottlieb’s byline has appeared in the New York Times, the Atlantic and Time, among other well-known publications. She also is a frequent contributor on NPR’s “All Things Considered.”
Gottlieb spoke to j. by phone from her Los Angeles home.
Q: What did you learn from the process of writing “Marry Him”?
A: I learned what makes for a happy marriage and that our cultural notions of what’s going to make us happy are so misguided. I’m not asking people to marry just anybody. But for those who are single and would like to be with a partner, but are having trouble finding one, maybe they’re looking for the wrong things. And that’s why you get into these patterns of dating people who you don’t want to spend your life with.
Q: It seems many Jewish women have an added pressure to find not just the perfect mate, but also someone who shares their religious beliefs. What’s your advice for them?
A: If finding someone who is Jewish is a deal breaker, then you have to flexible with other things. Most Jewish guys are not that tall, but if you require a Jewish guy who is over 6 feet, then maybe you’re not being realistic. We have to look at ourselves honestly. Am I perfect? No way. When you’re in a marriage, no one is perfect. You have to find what’s going to make you happy romantically in the long term.
Q: You consult Rabbi David Wolpe of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles in “Marry Him.” Were you surprised by how open he was about his marital life, and why consult a rabbi?
A: I was definitely surprised. He was really honest in using examples from his own life, which resonated with me. Spirituality is a big part of a relationship. Even if you don’t consider yourself spiritual, there’s a lot of wisdom you can seek out from your community. Mine happens to be the Jewish community.
Q: In the beginning of your book, the women you chat with come off as frenetic about what they want in a partner. How do you suggest single women start their hunt for Mr. Good Enough?
A: First, I hope those women are mirrors to help others look at their own deal breakers, and what they want and need in a relationship. Yes, these women are extreme. But if we’re honest, we realize that we all have preconceived ideas of what we require. The first step is to be aware of this. I found that men initially look at the overall vibe of a woman, while women were nitpicking specific aspects of the guy.
Q: Is there anything women should do to make themselves more appealing to the opposite sex?
A: What’s making women unappealing is the judgmental attitude they bring on dates. The issue isn’t that women aren’t appealing. It’s more that women are not letting themselves find the person they are allowed to fall in love with. It’s not about changing anything fundamental — it’s about looking for a partner with a different perspective.
Q: Would your younger self take your book’s advice?
A: One of the reasons I wrote this book was because I never had anything like this. You read so many different advice books that tell you to do this or that — it’s so confusing! I decided I was going to present the data I collected, put it in one place and let people draw their own conclusions. I would have loved to have that in a book when I was younger.
Q: How would you convince someone who is skeptical of settling for Mr. Good Enough?
A: You are looking for your soul mate, but there isn’t just one. Our definition of “soul mate” is very skewed. People need to broaden their concept of what this person really is. This book is trying to help people find that soul mate. He might not look like Brad Pitt, but he’s out there.
Lori Gottlieb will be at the JCCSF 7 to 9 p.m. Monday, Oct. 25. For ticket prices and more information, visit www.jccsf.org/arts-ideas/lectures/history-current-affairs.