When I got back into dating after my divorce, I was determined to do it right. For years I’d fantasized about being single, having fabulous sexual adventures and going on incredible dates.
So, as soon as the dust settled, I naturally turned to… the bookstore.
Over four years, I devoured hundreds of thousands of pages from experts on how to date, mate and relate. Some of it was questionable (Always wait for him to text? Really?). Some of it was surprising (Men can actually think nothing at all). And some of it was timeless (Fill your life with love and love will find you.).
I tested what I read in real life to see if it worked and documented some of those experiences in my own recently-released book Love Lessons from a Lap Dancer.
Of the dozens of works I studied, the following held the most value. If you are serious about elevating your dating game, these (in addition to Love Lessons from a Lap Dancer, natch) might be just what you need to read now.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray
I actually picked up this self-help classic on a date. We’d popped into a thrift store and were perusing the book section, when I saw a dog-eared copy of the original paperback and knew I had to have it.
“Someday I’ll use this to read your mind,” I’d joked to my date. By the time I finished the book, that relationship was long gone. Then again, I’d venture that Gray’s book, first printed in 1992, has outlasted many relationships.
The essence of Men are from Mars,Women are from Venus is that men and women have similar yet different needs in relationships. For example, when women are upset, they usually like to talk it out. When men are upset, they usually like to work it out on their own. Hence, if a dude is stressed or upset, a woman should give him space (something that goes counter to what many women, including myself, would naturally want to do.)
If you’ve ever worked in communications or marketing, you know the first rule of any campaign is to understand your audience. If you want to understand your partner, it helps first to understand their gender. This book delivers the goods.
What I learned: Men need different things from their partners than women do. If a man pulls away in a relationship, don’t chase him. When he’s ready, he’ll come back.
Never Sleep Alone by Dr. Alex Schiller
OMFG! I was so happy to find this book in the dating and relationships section at my local big-box bookseller. Unlike just about every other book on the shelf, it didn’t assume my sole purpose for dating was to find my one true happily ever after.
In fact, according to Never Sleep Alone (NSA), it’s perfectly legit to get some, and then get some more from whomever you want, whenever you want, wherever you want (including while travelling internationally alone – something the “doctor” highly recommends).
Written in the dominatrix-like voice of Rosalyn Hart’s fictional sex therapist character Dr. Alex Schiller, NSA, lays out a step-by-step plan – filled with clever acronyms such as PEEPs (persons of equivalent erotic potential) and BDSM (be direct, seem mysterious) – on how to attract absolutely anyone to you. Then it sends you on a series of challenges to become the type of powerful person who does this regularly.
I tried about half the things in the book. And while they required a major step outside of my comfort zone, they totally worked.
What I learned: STFU (shut the fuck up), ask questions about the other person and don’t give your entire life story away to someone you just met.
Marry him: the Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Lori Gottlieb
This book’s title pissed me off. It pissed me off enough to buy it. And when I read it, although it still pissed me off, I had to admit it actually made sense.
The essence of Marry Him is that many women are far too picky about superficial qualities and too many young women think that they will always have a plethora of choice when it comes to men.
Fact: after your mid-30s, there are more single women then single men. The numbers widen exponentially as you age. Hence, Gottlieb argues, if you are in your late 30s, 40s or 50s and want to find someone to settle down with it’s not in your best interests to be superficial. (Note: this doesn’t mean having no standards. There is a difference.)
But, more than that, Gottlieb stresses, women should stop being superficial at any age because the man you want for the long-term might not come in the wrapping you originally envisioned him in.
Case in point. I almost didn’t go on a second date with my boyfriend because on the first date he came across as a total nerd (he is a self-described “nerd light”). Fortunately, after telling him we wouldn’t be a good match, I reconsidered and he agreed to hang out as friends. Today, we have been together for almost a year and I’ve never been happier.
What I learned: character trumps status, looks and money when it comes to success in a long-term relationship.
Calling in the One: 7 Weeks to Attract the Love of your Life by Katherine Woodward Thomas
“I did this book and within months I met my fiancé!”
I heard this multiple times before picking up Calling in the One in November of 2015. Over the next seven weeks I did every exercise in it. I wrote letters to exes, did rituals of my intentions, and cleared space on a my bathroom shelve for my future man’s stuff.
Like clockwork on week eight I met a man I thought was my soul mate.
Holy shit. Was I wrong about that! (Wow. Dodged a bullet there.) But… just under a year later, I met another guy who was and continues to be a really great match for me.
This book is really about learning to love and be loving to yourself as a great way to prepare yourself for a meaningful relationship with someone else.
I still do the first exercise where I open my arms and then hug myself telling myself I am open to giving and receiving love. It looks ridiculous but it works.
What I learned: Let go of past hurts, be loving to yourself, fill your life with love, and love will find you.
Mate: Become the Man Women Want by Tucker Max and Geoffrey Miller
For a few years I was slightly obsessed with pick up artists. What did these guys know that women could learn from, I wondered? While many books on how to meet women written by men have no idea why women want what they want. Mate isn’t one of those.
In fact, although co-authored by Tucker Max, a former self-described asshole, this book is refreshingly devoid of douchebaggery.
Maybe it’s because Tucker is married and a dad now. Maybe it’s because it’s co-written by Geoffrey Miller, an evolutionary psychologist and university prof. Either way, Mate is one of the best guides I’ve seen for men ever on how to understand and attract women.
In 331 pages, it brings forth solid arguments for why women look for certain qualities in men, and then shows exactly how a man can exhibit those qualities with specific behaviors.
Filled with facts, personal anecdotes, exercises and quick summaries, this is the book I wanted to create for women when I set out to write Love Lessons from a Lap Dancer. While it might not be for everyone, it certainly inspired me.
What I learned: Understand where the people you are trying to attract are coming from, and be the person you aspire to be with or without a mate.
What books changed the way you view dating, mating and relating? Weigh in below.