Settling for an ‘8’

“And I challenge you, above all, to date yourself.”

– Gemma Rose, Settling for an ‘8’, Together magazine

This is probably one of my favourite articles for Together magazine. I am really into romantic relationships: reading, writing, watching, talking about them as well as experiencing them. In my blog and magazine articles, I refer regularly to the advice from my relationship gurus, Matthew Hussey and Natalie Lue. So when I got the opportunity to write about relationships for last December’s issue, I decided to focus on the idea of settling for second (or third or fourth) best in relationships.

“Don’t settle!” is a phrase I hear a lot, and it’s one that I’ve used all too blindingly on friends. But, I think it can be very misleading because the idea of settling is very subjective. It’s probably quite difficult to know if second best is actually so because we may not have a clue about who is best for us. The more I read on relationships – as well as be in one – I realise that being self-aware plays a key role in finding the right person. Knowing who you are will hopefully help you know what you want and separate “the wheat from the chaff“.

I’ve pasted part of the article below. If it entices you, you can read it in full (p.17 – 18 on pdf) or a shortened online version. The longer version is better! After the excerpt, I’ve also added references to the article, in case you want to read more.

I hope you enjoy it, and if you have time, leave a comment or write to me with your thoughts. What do you think it means to settle in a relationship? Do you think we should? Is there really such thing as The One, or should we just go for the ‘8’?

Settling for an ‘8’: Gemma Rose wonders if we should settle for second best in love

When I recently read an article by Lori Gottlieb for the Atlantic magazine, written in 2008, ‘Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough‘, I was initially saddened by what she had to say: that once a woman is over 30 and is single, she obviously wants to get married and have children. Thus, she should start being less picky because once she gets to 40, the dating pool reduces considerably and she only has the dregs to choose from. Gottlieb was then in her early 40s and a single mum. She yearned for a man in her life and regretted dismissing so easily those men she met in her 20s and 30s. Whether you should hold out for the love of your life or settle, Gottlieb is clear:

“My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling “Bravo!” in movie theatres. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.”

Following the success – or the controversy – surrounding this article, Gottlieb wrote a book (under the same title) to delve deeper into the issue. Although I have not read the book, subsequent interviews with Gottlieb suggest that the book paints a slightly less depressing picture compared to the original article. She appears to say that the person of our dreams does not exist; that we should give people a chance rather than simply dismiss them because there was no instant chemistry, or because they were called Sheldon. Go for the ‘8’, she says, instead of holding out for the ‘10’, because you’ll be waiting a long time.

Read more… (p.17 – 19 of Pdf).

References:

How we end up marrying the wrong people, The Philosophers’ Mail

What I’m really thinking: the matchmaker, The Guardian

For good advice on emotional unavailability, read Baggage Reclaim by Natalie Lue

Advertisements

The art of conversation

“Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.”

– Sherry Turkle

My article (p.17 – 18 of Pdf or pasted below) for Together magazine’s September issue focussed on the art of conversation. I have to admit, I started having more conversations with strangers because I wanted to practise getting more dates. But as this, er, “practice” continued, I realised how important it was to just converse with someone, even anyone!

A couple of years back, I watched the Ted Talk ‘Connected, but alone?‘ by Sherry Turkle, a cultural analyst who studies how technology is shaping our culture. Her talk chilled me slightly, that we are withdrawing more and more from face-to-face interaction and substituting it with technology: text, email, social media. In her New York Times article, she questions whether we have lost our trust in each other as human beings when we prefer a technological device as our confidante.

Please let us prove her wrong.

A little bit of conversation: Gemma Rose suggests that conversation should be treated as an end in itself

In January, I made a pledge to meet more men. My dating history was a bit chequered. I was often flummoxed as to why I wasn’t meeting many men in general, let alone decent ones. I lamented to my girlfriends over all the good guys being taken and so consigned myself to spinsterhood. Sick of hearing my dating woes, a friend floated the simple, yet ingenious idea of having fun with single people instead of drowning my sorrows with smug marrieds. My ears plucked up; I awoke from my stupor. The year 2014 would be the year of more dates, which meant meeting more men.

I sought knowledge on how to ‘put myself out there’ from the New York Times best seller Get the Guy by Matthew Hussey. Unlike other dating books that are either akin to the Ten Commandments (The Rules), or summarize all disingenuous male behaviour into one line (He’s Just Not That Into You), Matthew Hussey’s approach differs: take the focus off him and put it back on me by living  a life that I love, true to my values and my worth. Being sociable is part of loving life. So if I wanted more dates, I needed to meet more  men. If I wanted to meet more men, I needed to start talking to them.

The first step was to start conversations with anyone. I asked the security guard at work about his day; I discussed the dangers of processed carbohydrates with the dinner lady at the canteen; I got life tips from the elderly lady at the hair salon. I started complimenting people more, from strangers to friends, ranging from their shirt to their character. A little conversation and a smile went a long way.

This practice made me more at ease and confident when starting conversations with attractive men at parties, in bars, in the supermarket or on a plane. The key to building connection and seeking compatibility, according to Matthew Hussey, is to “seek values, not facts”. It is fine to launch into the “What do you do? Where do you come from?” type of questions, but the values lie in the ‘Why?’ questions: “Why do you do what you do? Why did you move to this city? Why did you decide to quit your job and go travelling? Why did you have a sex change?”. ‘Why?’ gives you the clues to probe more, to respond, or to subtly move the topic on. It opens the door to let the other person out, and to let you in.

It soon dawned on me that great conversation was not just for meeting men but for all the encounters in my life. With more opportunities to talk to people, I became more authentic in the questions I asked and the answers I gave. If I was stuck in a boring or difficult conversation, I made a bigger effort to be interested. I studied the person’s facial expressions and voice, I asked for clarification when needed. I placed  myself in my companion’s shoes. My  frustration, annoyance or boredom soon faded.  I made a connection.

There is a wealth of information on how to have good conversations. The book How To Talk With Anybody About Practically Anything by Barbara Walters is lauded as one of the finest books on the subject. It’s dangerous to believe that some people are blessed with good conversational skills and that a good conversation arises by pure chance. Beliefs like these give us an excuse to be lazy and complacent in our interactions. A good conversation takes work, practice and cultivation. It requires listening, understanding, openness and creativity; it demands the communication of our views, the clarification of our thoughts and the confirmation of who we are, all under the auspices of politeness, care and respect. Making conversation is about adding value to that person at that moment, whether that moment lasts a minute or an eternity.

As we conduct more of our lives over the internet, never have our efforts to have good conversations been so vital to our wellbeing and for living the good life. If we don’t force ourselves, we risk becoming as banal, soulless and disconnected as a 140-character tweet.

In the book The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis defines the love of friendship by this question: “Do you see the same truth?” He writes that a friend is someone who agrees with the question, yet may not necessarily agree with the answer. This is what a good conversation should be based on: the willingness to see the same truth, irrespective of whether you actually do.

My first magazine publication

This week, a Brussels’ lifestyle magazine Together published my article ‘Three deep breaths’. It is about how leaving space in our lives can help us make more positive and healthier choices. Just click on the image below and it will take you straight to a Pdf version of this month’s issue. My article is on pp.15-16 of the Pdf version.

Together magazine

I hope you enjoy reading my first ever magazine publication and do let me know what you think!