Why you should settle for Mr Real

Lori Gottlieb wrote a book seeking to identify what is important in a long-term relationship, but she found herself in a media storm

By Robyn Rosen, September 2, 2010
Lori Gottlieb: “Have high standards about the things that matter”

Lori Gottlieb: “Have high standards about the things that matter”

When 43-year-old single mother Lori Gottlieb published her book Mr Good Enough: The Case for Choosing a Real Man over Holding out for Mr Perfect, earlier this year, a media storm ensued.

Now, the book is to be made into a film. No doubt, another storm is on the horizon.

Gottlieb, who describes herself as a "Reform Jew who loves the traditions", was propelled into the limelight after she wrote a provocative essay for Atlantic magazine in 2008 in which she said anyone who hits 30 and is still single, "feels panic, occasionally coupled with desperation. If you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go," she advised.

In 2007, having not found Mr Right, Gottlieb decided to have a baby via a sperm donor. Her essay, chronicling her decision, became the bestselling book, the rights of which have been bought by Spiderman star Tobey Maguire.

"I wrote this because, like many women who find themselves single at a certain age, I was confused as to why I hadn't found the right guy yet. And I realised, as I spoke to my friends who were happy in their marriages, that what they loved about their husbands were qualities that none of us talk about when we're dating. We look for such different things.

"So as a single woman and a journalist, I went out to find some answers. I wanted to know, what really matters in love and long-term romantic happiness? How do you know if you're being too picky or if you're just not right for each other? What does healthy compromise look like? What's going to be important 10 years or 20 years down the line in, and what's not?"

Gottlieb received "thousands" of emails in response to the book, some in appreciation, others in abhorrence and the press was equally polarised.

"We were all shocked by what the British press reported," Gottlieb said.

"My book is about finding true love by looking for what's important and letting go of what's not, at any age.

"They hadn't read the book. It clearly states that you must have chemistry and physical attraction and be completely in love with the person you choose to marry. It's simply saying, be aware so you can find that guy.

"But the British press said: 'Lori Gottlieb wants us to settle for second best and lower our standards.' Huh? Never. I'm saying, you should have high standards, but make sure you have high standards about the things that actually matter when it comes to happiness in long-term love."

And while the critics poured over her words, the blogosphere was equally as fascinated with her life.

"What's author Lori Gottlieb smoking?" asked gossip blogger Jezebel. "She sounds like a bitter woman who could not get anyone to marry her by 30 so she feels that everyone is the same as her," said H from Leeds.

"I don't give advice," Gottlieb says. "This isn't an advice book. What I do is collect all the research. I talk to psychologists about what makes for happy marriages, neurobiologists about chemistry, behavioural economists who study how and why we make choices in mate selection, social scientists about and how the culture influences those choices - and then let the reader decide what to do with this information. I hope it will help them to look for what is actually going to make them happy in love, instead of some preconceived and rigid notion of who their type is and who The One has to be."

She even spoke to a rabbi as part of her research - Rabbi David Wolpe, of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

"I wanted to know what he thought about soulmates and love and compromise in relationships," she says. "And he was incredibly honest with me, and offered such surprising insights and personal revelations.

"The chapter in the book where he tells me about his own marriage, and the issues there, and his observations of single men and women in his congregations is one of the most interesting and enlightening in the book, I think."

Her advice remains predominantly the same for Jewish singletons. "The only difference might be that Jewish guys tend to be on the shorter side, and that Jewish women often say: 'I want a guy who's Jewish and 6ft tall'. If you won't date a guy who's 5ft 9in, you're really limiting yourself and possibly turning away a huge number of fabulous men.

"The research shows - and so does my own experience - that often our assumptions about who we will or will not be attracted to are very wrong.

"And we prevent ourselves from meeting the person we might actually fall in love with, because of these assumptions."

Last updated: 3:09pm, September 3 2010