There is a book by this title. How not to die alone by Logan Ury. As the name suggests it is a self-help book for improving romantic relationships. Whenever I say romantic relationships I feel like replacing the word ‘relationship’ with ‘entanglement’ but I refrain because it makes me chuckle and reminds me of the many red table talks Will and Jada Smith have had on this. Just to be clear, I think what they are doing is great. Whenever you look at a celebrity couple you see only happy pictures of ridiculously good looking people surrounded by wealth and privilege. Given how little they have in common with most of us, it is almost like looking at an alien species. I like that Will and Jada manage to discuss the many ups and downs of their relationship with such honestly (too much at times, but I guess that is an occupational hazard). I’m a big fan of self-help books, even when I don’t manage to incorporate much of their advice into my life. I figure if I keep reading good things it will eventually have some impact on the way I live.
Here is what I learnt from this book. According to this book, there are three kinds of people when it comes to romantic relationships.
There are the ‘romanticisers’; people who believe in ideas such as finding the ‘one’ or a ‘soulmate’. Such people have very idealistic notions about what it means to fall in love. As a consequence, they judge all their partners against a very high standard – if you have an idea of who you think your soulmate might be, then that idea is in your head, and naturally no living person can hold a candle to whatever perfect version you’ve created for yourself – and so tend to not commit in a long term manner to anyone.
Then we have the ‘hesitaters’. Such people, while their standards in love might not be that high, have very set ideas of how their life is supposed to turn out. The usually have a set timetable in their head, and think that they need to start worrying about love only after they have achieved a certain number of things. So say, such a person might want to find a partner, but only after she has completed school, completed university, landed a great job and established herself in her field. Then she will turn her attention to the task of finding someone. They’re called hesitaters because they will hesitate to commit to anyone till whatever aspects of their lives they want to sort out have been sorted out.
The last kind of people are the ‘maximisers’. For this I want you to think of a someone you know who is absolutely unable to decide on where to eat till he / she has researched all possible options, seen ratings on at least two apps, shortlisted options, gone through all the customer reviews and memorised the menu by heart. By the time you land on a place to eat it is either too late or you’ve already cooked yourself a little meal at home and forgotten all about going out. This is what a maximiser does when it comes to dating. Now, I’m not suggesting that finding a partner is similar to picking a restaurant. But the thought process is the same. Such people find it damn near impossible to commit to a person till they have done their full research, and even then, there is no guarantee that they won’t constantly be dealing with a nagging sense of ‘I could have done better / what if there is someone out there who is better than this.’
I know one of each category from amongst my friends. If I had to talk about myself, I would say I’m definitely a romanticiser. I judge people too harshly against an arbitrary ideal I have. If you take the time to scroll through Bookstagram someday (i.e., the section of Instagram dedicated to books) you’ll inevitably land up on a page dedicated to YA books or a page dedicated to recommending books that contain an enemies to lovers / soulmate trope. Full disclosure I’ve read a lot of these books and I find them immensely entertaining. But I also feel like this idea of believing in a soulmate is an escapist tendency. In essence, at the core of your belief, is an idea that someone will like all your flaws and deficiencies and that you won’t need to work on yourself, compromise or adjust in any way shape or form. That they’re going to be perfect for loving you and change themselves whenever you want without expecting even a shred of effort on your part – because to them you’re perfect. All of this is a little unreasonable to say the least.
But back to the book. The idea the author puts forth is that instead of being one of these three things, we should aim to be a ‘satisfier’. It doesn’t mean we have to settle. But once we have found a person with whom we have base compatibility and some attraction and the moment we think to ourselves, “this could be it” we should try and commit to that person. I’m sure we’ve all come across some version of a study showing us how too much choice incapacitates us. Choice is good, but too much of it becomes meaningless at times. The same thing happens with our relationships. If we get stuck in the mindset of ‘oh there could be someone out there who is better for me’ we are unlikely to find any sort of long-lasting peace in our relationships. Obviously this does not apply to relationships that make you unhappy or are toxic or abusive in any way. You should definitely not tolerate those. Instead I’m talking about the relationships we like – the ones we like a lot – but let go off because we are under the misconception that relentlessly exercising the limitless choice we have in selecting partners will eventually land us on someone who is *perfect*. Since no such perfect person exists, you might want to consider sticking around that one person who already makes you happier than you thought you could be.
The book also talks about how most of the times we look for, and confuse, short term romance traits with traits that will make a long term romance successful. Short term traits include qualities like good looks (whatever that means to you), charm, confidence, intelligence etc. Long term qualities on the other hand are more innate. These include things like being compassionate, being emotionally stable or even having a similar mindset (do both of you have similar ideas about what it means to lead a successful life?).
I enjoyed the book a whole lot and it is definitely worth a read. Especially, if like me, you hope not to die alone.