If you’re in a relationship, there’s more than an even chance it’s going to fail. That’s just science.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
But if you’re actively looking for a relationship and failing, you may need to change your approach.
Which is why we spoke with Dr. Michael Bennett, a Harvard-educated psychiatrist, and his daughter, comedy writer Sarah Bennett. After dissecting feelings in 2015’s bestseller F*ck Feelings, the duo has returned with a new treatise on love called (wait for it) F*CK LOVE: One Shrink’s Sensible Advice for Finding a Lasting Relationship.
In a nutshell? When it comes to romance, think more like a CEO, and less about all the feels.
Just released, the book takes a chapter-by-chapter dive into the traits people cherish most in a partner: charisma, beauty, chemistry, communication, a sense of humor, family stability, intelligence and wealth.
Plus, lots of charts, listicles and decision trees, like “Should I go on a date with this person I’m interested in?” and “5 Simple Tips for the Silent Type.” The book takes on all angles of a relationship, from Internet dates up through children and divorce.
It’s helpful. And, unlike most self-help guides on love and dating, purposefully funny.
We asked the two some questions, which they replied (much like their book) as one unit … except for one inquiry.
InsideHook: You two dedicate the book to Mona (mother/wife). How did she take this, given the subject matter?
F*ck Love: Having been married to the elder Bennett for about 40 years, Mona knows that the title isn't a declaration of love's meaninglessness, but a humorous, frank way to get readers to consider that love is worth ignoring when you're trying to figure out whether the object of your infatuation is actually a worthy, long-term partner. As Dr. Bennett's worthy, long-term partner, Mona shares the belief that you should never let love get in the way of common sense and good, careful research. She’d also point out that she doesn't love the use of the F-word in the title of our books.
IH: What was the impetus to write this book — Bad relationship(s)? Media saturation? Friends doing dumb things in the name of love?
FL: Mainly it was the number of Dr. Bennett's patients who are struggling to find love, or, even more frequently and unfortunately, dealing with painful divorces that are almost always caused by problems that were obvious from the beginning. That means these marriages weren't ruined by insufficient or insincere love but by major differences or bad behaviors that were always evident and are never likely to change. This book aims to teach readers how to identify those behaviors so they can avoid them (and divorce, and massive shrink bills) in the future.
IH: It’s your second book. How is working together?
FL: Lucky for us, working together still works because neither of us could write the book alone; Dr. Bennett lacks the time and experience to write and not-Dr. Bennett lacks the patience to listen to and advise people. Somehow, despite the occasional spats and bickering, we’ve been able to produce our small series.
IH: You call this a “practical guide” and utilize a “management/business approach” to relationships ... isn’t being practical the least interesting part about love?
FL: Of course — being practical is not only an uninteresting part of love, but often of life in general. Then again, being passionate and impulsive all the time, as fun as it sounds, isn't a sustainable way to live; it's not just prohibitively exhausting to almost everyone over 30, but it will fill your life with instability, conflict and regrettable body modification. If you're looking for a long-lasting, fulfilling relationship, at least two of those aforementioned factors would make such a thing impossible. A solid marriage is like a business — you and your spouse run a household and/or a family — and if one partner isn't reliable or can't handle finances, love won't keep your partnership from going belly up.
IH: Of the traits you break down, is there one more important than the other?
FL: We break down traits that people think they want in a partner — sense of humor, looks, charisma — but aren't a positive indicator that someone will make a good, solid spouse. So of those traits we discuss, none are necessarily good or bad (or better or worse than the others); they all can make you feel good and good about the person you're interested in, but they aren’t necessarily good for you, your partner or your possible future together.
IH: What’s the best quick advice you give in the book?
FL: That it's OK to go to bed angry, because trying to resolve marital conflict when you're at your most exhausted and cranky can cause the kind of damage that will last long beyond the morning after.
IH: Is marriage really the best solution?
FL: Not at all — this book may be a guide for people looking for committed relationships, but we begin by asking readers to consider whether they're interested in marriage for the right reasons, or whether marriage is right for them, period. Some people want to get married for the dress/ring/ability to say they beat their younger sister down the aisle, all stupid reasons to enter into a legal commitment. Others just don’t have the kind of personality that is suited for marriage, nor do they always have the good luck to meet a good partner, and if you find that being single doesn't prevent you from feeling fulfilled and living up to your values, then there's no reason to push yourself to find someone (and worse, feel like a failure when you can't). We believe everyone has to assess their own needs realistically and then do the best they can with who’s available. If you determine that marriage is what you're looking for, this book will help you on your search, and if you don't, you'll probably still enjoy our fart jokes.
IH: What do you guys think of Valentine’s Day?
FL: We share the traditional skeptic's point of view that it's a good way to fill restaurants, sell roses and make the Hallmark shareholders happy. We also accept that, as much as we'd prefer to instead have a “Matchmaker’s Day” or “Acceptance Day” that's just not gonna catch on like a cardboard heart filled with mystery chocolates.
IH: Sarah, in the book, you write “Since funny people aren’t always fun to be around or work with, they rarely make good partners ...” You’re considered a funny person, so … what are you trying to say?
FL (Sarah): Ahem. Actually, I wrote this more as someone who's spent a lot of time around (but careful not to get involved with) male comedians, many of whom seem to live under the paradoxical credo of, I hate myself, why doesn't everybody love me? Hating themselves while simultaneously/constantly craving praise and acceptance is a mindf*ck, both for them and any girl who seems interested, which leads to lots of bitching about being single to any sucker within earshot (again, ahem). Moi, on the other hand, would be an excellent partner in a serious relationship, which I think I've proved by turning my answer into a joke.