It has taken Lori Gottlieb many years of dating to figure out what’s really important to look for in a husband, and after talking with matchmakers, marriage researchers and a dating coach, she’s figured out that it isn’t a guy’s height or how he dresses.
In her new book, “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough,” (Dutton, 2010), Gottlieb advises women not to wait too long before walking down the aisle, even if it’s with a man who isn’t the man of what they thought their dreams should be.
Gottlieb is 43 and the single mother of a 4-year-old son, with whom she attends Tot Shabbat at a local Reform temple. From her home in Los Angeles, Gottlieb spoke recently with The Sisterhood about the mistakes women make in their quest to find a mate, the Jewish notion of soul mates and why she no longer has a “list.”
Debra Nussbaum Cohen: Why is it so hard for women to find the right guy to marry?
Lori Gottlieb: We’re too picky about the things that don’t matter and not picky enough about the things that do. We get too caught up in the little specific trivial things. The other day somebody said to me ‘I just got engaged and we met on Match.com. I hadn’t noticed on his form that he had kids. I never would have gone on the date if I’d known. I fell in love with this guy and his kids, too. But if I’d seen that he has kids I would have picked the guys who didn’t.’
Did the impetus for the book come from a Jewish place?
Not really. It’s pretty universal. A lot of us who are out there dating have very specific ideas about what the guy’s going to be like. We rule people out based on criteria that have nothing to do with what matters in long-term romantic happiness. No one says I want someone who’s kind and has humility and is generous. Ask someone what they want they say “I want someone who’s this tall.”
I had a mental checklist in my head and compared any guy I went out with to the list, like ‘You have to be ambitious, but not a workaholic.” The guys I dated met a lot of these criteria but didn’t have the other qualities I want in the person I go through life with.
Do you believe in the idea of “the” right guy or a bashert?
I never thought there’s only one person in the universe for me, but I did think that when we met I’d drop peas in the supermarket and he’d pick them up and our eyes would meet. I’d feel like it was destined somehow.
What do you think now?
I’ll quote Rabbi David Wolpe, who told me that when he’s meeting with couples before they get married, they say “I found my soul mate.” Do I believe it’s their one and only soul mate? Not at all. There are lots of people we could be happy with. It’s that our soul develops differently with different people.”
Is part of the problem that many women of our generation defer marriage in order to get graduate degrees and establish careers, and then find a smaller pool of potential mates once they’re in their 30s?
I don’t think the problem is establishing careers and deferring marriage. We’re meeting interesting men, but overlooking the ones who might be right for us.
Nobody should marry young because they feel pressure to get married. They should get married when they find the right guy – but they should make sure that they aren’t overlooking the right guys along the way. If you figure out what truly matters for long-term romantic happiness when you’re 30, you’ll have a much easier time finding someone than you will if it doesn’t sink in until you’re in your 40s.
Has your list gotten shorter?
I don’t have a list anymore. My dating coach had me narrow it down to three essential needs. He has to be kid-friendly, has to be intellectually curious and has to be financially stable. Not Bill Gates, but have a job and support himself. Assuming that I’m attracted to him, if he fits those I can’t turn down a first date with him.
I’m saying don’t overlook the guys who could become Mr. Right because of some preconceived idea in your head of who that guy is.