3 Things = Love

It all started with what a friend and I call “The Scary Book”. Some time last year, she told me she was reading a book that made her want to say “yes” to a date with a marginally employed hipster artist dude when she previously had no interest in dating him. Given that this particular friend had very little interest in dating at all, never mind dating guys with less-than-stellar prospects, I was curious. So I looked it up: Lori Gottlieb’s Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. I read the first few pages on Amazon and, the thing is, Gottlieb really can write — I was hooked. I trotted over to the public library and read The Scary Book.

Ah, perfection

The Scary Book is scary because it encourages fear-based decision making. If you want to get an idea for what’s in store, please read Gottlieb’s article in The Atlantic of the same name. I wasn’t the ideal target for the book seeing as I don’t want children, but I was at the exact age that the author says women start to lose their appeal for men. The message was clear: settle for the first decent man that comes around or you’ll find yourself settling for a man of much lesser quality a few years down the road. And then you’ll regret not having married Mr. Good Enough with whom you thought you didn’t feel a connexion, or maybe the passion was missing… or he chewed his food too loudly, hadn’t read Tolstoy, whatever. The book wasn’t only scary, it was downright bleak!

Now, let me be clear, I reject the premise of this book. The supremely unromantic notion that love and passion are overrated and that, once you have a family, a partner’s reliability trumps any awkwardness or schlumpiness that may have put you off at first really doesn’t speak to me. Call me crazy, or blame the French blood coursing through my veins, but I’ve always believed that the rush of adrenaline that comes with having a wild crush someone was essential. I know that mad passion doesn’t last forever, but I always thought that the memory of it, and the momentary revival of it, would be what could sustain a couple when they’re dealing with dirty diapers and all the rest. [But what do I know? The only creature that could call me “mommy” (if she had words) poops in a box and cleans her entire body using her own tongue.]

That’s not to say I didn’t learn anything from The Scary Book. In fact, I found the author’s stories about dating as a single mom in her forties and being coached to try and pick suitable men, ones that were attainable and appropriate for her lifestyle, very educational.

Is this your dream guy?

First off, the dating coach she hired was right — women have ridiculous expectations! Many ladies tend to have a long shopping list of attributes they want in a potential mate that can include anything from minimum education, fitness and income levels to a specific clothing style and a knowledge of Loire Valley wines. The most common AND unrealistic item on the shopping list is height. There really aren’t very many men over 6′ outside of Sweden. And, personally, I’ve been happiest dating men whose lips I could reach, so I think everyone needs to get over the giant mania.

Gottlieb goes a bit too far in saying that most women aren’t as special as they think they are, but it is useful to ask yourself whether, if you actually did meet the ideal shopping list dream man, that person would be drawn to you as you are right now? Mmhm, I thought so…

Ok, yeah, I’m getting to the 3 things.

After a tough talk about expectations, Gottlieb is told to pick 3 non-negotiables and to stick to only the 3 when selecting dates on an online dating site — everything else is negotiable. I can’t tell you how amazingly useful this exercise was for me! Sure, 3 things are not a lot and, ultimately, you need more than 3 compatible points in order to be with someone. Nevertheless, choosing my 3 things helped me focus in on what was really important to me.

John Cusak as Lloyd Dobler in 1989's Say Anything set the boyfriend bar pretty high for my generation

John Cusak as Lloyd Dobler in 1989’s Say Anything set the boyfriend bar pretty high for my generation

Shortly after picking my 3 things, I met someone with whom I had oodles in common. We’d read the same books, liked the same movies, had both travelled extensively, shared common cultural reference points, laughed at the same jokes, were of similar political opinions, etc.  But he only had, at most, one of my 3 non-negotiables. I knew from the moment I met him that it wouldn’t work, but I let myself get distracted by all that other stuff and by friends who said I should give him a chance (I wrote about this very thing in another post). Needless to say, I came to my senses pretty quickly and moved on.

What’s lovely about the 3 things is that it’s quite likely that, when you do meet someone who has the 3 things, this person will also have a lot of other great qualities too. Has the 3 things… plus likes too cook? Super! Has the 3 things and good taste in music? Phenomenal! The 3 things are essentially about core values; once you have that, everything else is frosting on the cake… tasty tasty frosting.

Even though I reject The Scary Book and most of its content, I must say I’m very glad to have read it at a time when I was fed up with dating. Thank you, Scary Book, for helping to clear the fog. (And yes, I did find my 3 things plus so much more! Shhh, don’t tell anyone.) What are your 3 things?

Postscript — Brenda’s 3 things: sexiness; nice/kind human being; ability to laugh at the silliness of life


  1. My Italian blood forces me to oppose gottlieb’s premise!

  2. My three things: Must make me laugh, not smoke, be smart with money. Being attractive just goes without saying! So, once the guy is good looking, these are things that are important to me.


  1. […] only physically strong men turn me on. You must decide what is fundamentally important to you (see 3 Things = Love). If you’re a hunter, you may fall in love with a vegetarian, but only if hunting is an […]

  2. […] partner. But it won’t always be so and that’s why I’m paying close attention to Lori Gottlieb’s article about the dearth of sex in egalitarian marriages (Does a More Equal Marriage Mean Less […]

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