Warning: do not read this book if you’ve recently broken up with your significant other for the following reasons: He wore sandals too often…and has a cat; he took way too long to respond to your emails (almost a whole day!); he never once rubbed your feet while simultaneously pledging his undying affection, while popping open a bottle of fine champagne, WHILE preparing you a romantic bath with sensual oils and rose petals AND reciting his favorites from a book of romantic sonnets.

According to Lori Gottlieb, these are three of many reasons why thousands of women find themselves 40, childless and single. Then again, according to Gottlieb’s research, if you consider yourself the marrying kind and have broken up with someone recently for those or similar reasons, you should read this book.

I admit, I prematurely judged this book, and every line in it by its cover, and most definitely by its title: Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Hollywood and my mother have taught me that I don’t need relationship advice that suggests I aim lower in the dating pool! But while Lori Gottlieb may somewhat force-feed her readers the bitter lesson that is being a lonely, single woman in your 40s, each spoonful is chock full of sound reasons to give up the ghost of Prince Charming and, as she puts it, “trade those impractical glass slippers for shoes I could actually wear.”

What quickly won me over is that Gottlieb does not approach her 300-page argument with the sugary egocentricity and idealism of characters on shows like Sex in the City. Instead, her rapier-like logic breaks down exactly how the unrealistic the criterion most women abide by when searching for a partner actually is, and how it preemptively suffocates any hope for establishing a meaningful connection with a man who may not immediately fit their exact picture of “The One.” Furthermore, Gottlieb’s unbridled honesty, supported by interviews with hundreds of married couples, single men and women, and a handful of reputable psychologists, reveals that a single woman’s fictitious “One” is the greatest enemy of a happily married future.

According to Gottlieb, many women who find themselves single late in life (and want to get married) have been so concerned they’ll end up “settling” for a man, they fail to see that “settling” simply means making a decision, and coaching that decision with a search for qualities that actually exist in men. Sure, we’d like to believe that at the end of our personal dating marathons await the tall, dark and handsomely rich fathers of our future children. But many women hardly stop to consider: “maybe the reason this knight only exists in my fantasies is because he is a fantasy. Maybe the right man for me was the slightly balding, paunchy but funny blind date I had last week who I refused to see again because he was, well, slightly balding and paunchy. And maybe – just maybe – I should consider my own flaws.”

In her hilariously honest way, Lori Gottlieb reminds us that while most of the keepers out there may not look like Rob Pattinson, few women searching for Mr. Right fall into the Kristen Stewart category either.

It is also incredibly clear in her book that Lori Gottlieb is hardly afraid of a disparaging rebuttal to her blunt analysis of why so many middle aged women find themselves without prospects, despite how successful, intelligent, and all around marvelous they may be. She does not excuse herself from the scrutiny, using her own “Cinderella complex” as a primary example of what can happen when your standards are as realistic as a Disney fairytale. Gottlieb backpedals into her own relationship history, highlighting several chances she had of cinching a potential spouse, only to have given him up because he was “too into sports,” or older than she imagined her future husband to be, two things that, in the end, hardly define the success of a relationship. As she delivers a hearty dose of reality to her readers, Gottlieb is gulping down spoonfuls of her own medicine.

Most importantly, this book is not simply an attack on feminism. Gottlieb is not asking frustrated single women to lower their standards or their self-esteem, but to weed out those requirements that hardly matter when it comes to a happy relationship. As Dan Ariely, a behavioral economist at MIT, put it: “The idea that people know what they want is quite ludicrous.” Considering the fact that our desires change as our lives change, we have to admit that what we need trumps what we desire in the moment, and that finding the former in a partner almost always makes for a long lasting, fulfilling marriage.

Frankly, reading scenario after lonely, desperate, contemplating-a-trip-to-a-sperm-bank scenario made me squirm in my seat. However, it was the crucial purpose for which this book was written that swept me to the last chapter. Here was relationship advice that wasn’t simply reiterating what Cosmo consistently gags up. Gottlieb presents us with an analytical, step-by-step account of why allowing a lofty set of expectations rule your love life is detrimental in the long run. So many women are waiting for the men around them to change, when what actually needs to change are the rigid, implausible standards our potential life partners must meet before we even consider “winking” them on match.com.

Even if you’re not convinced to reevaluate your standards or your idea of romance by the end of this book, you will have admitted to yourself that you did – at least once – relinquish the effort to establish a meaningful connection based solely on a guy’s looks or online profile. In the end, it’s best to keep our fantasy men where they belong: safe in harlequin romances and on the Oxygen channel.

Author: Lori Gottlieb

Publisher: Dutton Adult

Pages: 336

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