“Why am I still single?”
If you’re single and searching, there’s no end to other people’s explanations, excuses, and criticism explaining why you haven’t found a partner:
“You’re too picky. Just find a good-enough guy and you’ll be fine.”
“You’re too desperate. If men think you need them, they’ll run scared.”
“You’re too independent. Smart, ambitious women always have a harder time finding mates.”
“You have low self-esteem. You can’t love someone else until you’ve learned to love yourself.”
“You’re too needy. You can’t be happy in a relationship until you’ve learned to be happy on your own.”
Based on one of the most popular Modern Love columns of the last decade, Sara Eckel’s It’s Not You challenges these myths, encouraging singletons to stop picking apart their personalities and to start tapping into their own wisdom about who and what is right for them. Supported by the latest psychological and sociological research, as well as interviews with people who have experienced longtime singledom, Eckel creates a strong and empowering argument to understand and accept that there’s no one reason why you’re single—you just are.
|Publisher:||Penguin Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.60(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Sara Eckel has been a freelance writer for more than fifteen years. Her essays and reported pieces have appeared in the New York Times, Salon, Forbes, Time Out New York, the Shambhala Sun, GOOD, Martha Stewart Living, Self, Glamour, Working Mother, Woman’s Day, Cosmopolitan, and other publications. Her short fiction has appeared in Speakeasy and Sanskrit. She lives in Kingston, New York, with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter 1: You Have Issues
When I was thirty-one, I quit my job and broke up with my boyfriend in the same month.
The timing was mostly coincidental—the resignation the result of a slow, methodical transition to full-time freelance writ- ing, the breakup a rash decision based on a crush. In the span of a few weeks, I had decimated my life. All that was left was a freaked-out woman in a three-hundred-square-foot studio with a small desk, a rickety futon, and a heart full of unrequited longing. I’d wake most nights at the usual witching hours— three, four—sitting up straight on the futon, staring out my one window, wondering what the fuck I had just done.
But I had no regrets. Yes, I had blown my life to smithereens, but I would rebuild! I would take this cold cement foundation and create, brick by brick, the life I wanted, become the person I wanted to be—namely, a woman who the men I loved would love back.
Thus began the construction of Sara 2.0, a task that dove- tailed neatly with my new career, writing about relationships and personal growth for magazines. Over the next several years, I interviewed psychology professors and therapists, shamelessly peppering the conversation with anecdotes from my own life— the nonstarter relationships, the failed dates, the witty, hand- some men who steadfastly refused to love me.
I also talked to many self-help authors, each with a fix-it plan tailored to their persona. There was the Tough-Love Married Lady, who declared the key to finding a soul mate was to quit whining, get real, and for goodness’ sake put on a little lipstick. There was the Magical Soul-Mate Finder, who prescribed jour- naling, nature hikes, candlelit bubble baths, and other hocus- pocus. There was the Man—i.e., a moderately cute guy who wrote a book—who gave insider tips on how to hook up with him, which usually involved not being critical and having long hair.
So I grew my hair out. I took bubble baths. But mostly, I started examining my issues. Was my failure a result of my latent commitment phobia (cleverly masked as really wanting commitment), as one helmet-haired expert implied? Did I feel inherently unworthy and broadcast that low self-assessment to every man I met? (Another gentle suggestion.) Did my failure to “love myself ” mean I was unable to love another?
The author who posited the commitment-phobia theory was a brassy shrink with a Dr.-First-Name moniker and a cache of rhyming, trademark-protected aphorisms. In a mildly scolding voice, she explained that if I thought a particular guy stopped calling me because he was afraid of commitment, then I had to ask myself if it was me who feared commitment.
I remember sitting at my desk, phone cradled under my chin, thinking, okay, this woman is cheesy and annoying, but she makes good sense.
Because when I looked back on all the men I’d dated, they fell into two distinct categories—those I had broken up with, and those who broke up with me. The guys I ended things with arguably would have continued to see me had I not been so terrified of committing. I dealt with this fear by preferring the guys who broke up with me (or who were never interested in the first place), aka the commitment-phobes. I must have wanted the commitment-phobes because I was a commitment-phobe.
Thus I skated in these perfect circles of logic; ignoring the many areas of my life where I had no problem committing— leases, work assignments, dinner plans (this last point might not win me any humanitarian awards, but in New York City it’s a notable trait)—and brushing aside the hard-core fact that many of the men who lost (or never had) interest in me proceeded to commit to other women.
I was just relieved to have an explanation—that meant there was something to “work on,” something to do. I could confront my commitment issues—try to be more reliable, get a dog.
But even if I had dispensed with this explanation, of course there were many others to explore. Maybe was I too needy, or too independent? Too desperate, or too picky? Too close to my father, or not close enough?
I pored over the data, creating an extremely detailed roster of my flaws and inadequacies, and emerged with a portrait of a self-conscious, frequently anxious insomniac who likes her wine a little too much and is capable of morphing into a snake-haired harpy when arguing about health care or gun control.
A lot to work on.
And work I did: To develop confidence, I took acting lessons. To expand my soul, I taught writing to disadvantaged kids. I also bought an apartment, adopted a sweet rescue dog named Taffy (commitment!), and became a regular at my local yoga center. I went down the checklist of all the things that could possibly be “wrong” and found a rich, fulfilling counterweight. When I went to parties or met men on Internet dates, I walked into the room with a straight spine and a confident smile. See how together I am? See how happy? See how perfectly autonomous as a single person—yet also radiating the necessary warmth and vulnerability to let you in?
I had a lot of fun, made many friends, traveled to foreign countries—the whole happy-single-woman shebang. But my love life, when it existed at all, was a random assortment of tepid dates, weird make-out sessions, and two-month what-the- hell-was-thats.
Meanwhile, people all around me fell in love like there was nothing to it. They moved in together, got married, had babies— often without the benefit of a single yoga class! I didn’t get it. I was the one reading all the books. I was the one confronting my issues.
My frustration came to a head while visiting a friend in Oregon. At the time she was living in a 1920s lake-house bun- galow with her cute, friendly musician boyfriend. I was bitterly envious. But more than that, I was confused—why was it never me? I spent the week venting, complaining about how unfair life was, wondering aloud what was wrong with me. My friend, quite naturally, became annoyed.
“You’re not going to find anyone until you get right with yourself,” she said.
I lost it—what did she think I’d been doing all this time? And anyway, what was up with this idea that self-actualization was a prerequisite to a relationship? I knew plenty of happily married people who lugged around suitcases full of hang-ups. If everyone had to “get right with themselves” before finding a partner, the population would have died off long ago.
These points, I would later learn, are supported by clinical research. University of Washington psychologist John Gottman—a marriage researcher famous for his 91 percent accuracy in predicting which newlywed couples will ultimately divorce—found that everyday neuroses do not hinder success in marriage.
“You might assume that people with hang-ups would be ill- suited to marriage,” he and coauthor Nan Silver wrote in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. “But research has found only the weakest connection between run-of-the-mill neuroses and falling in love. The reason: We all have our crazy buttons— issues we’re not totally rational about. But they don’t interfere with marriage. The key to a happy marriage isn’t having a ‘normal’ personality but finding someone with whom you mesh.”
It turns out you can be happily married even if you never resolve your issues with your mother or your weight—a fact that becomes completely intuitive when you think of any three married people you know.
Sure, there are those whose emotional problems—from garden-variety intimacy fears to full-blown personality disorders—prevent them from being in committed relationships. The problem is, these pat conclusions have been lobbed at all singles seeking love. Unless you declare that your unattached state is completely chosen (which will arouse suspicions of another kind) the odor of “what’s the deal?” will hang in the air.
What if your only “issue” is the belief that you have them and that they’re keeping you from a relationship? What if you stopped defining yourself as someone who is afraid of intimacy or attracted to the wrong kind of man? What if you instead saw yourself as a flawed but basically lovable human being? What if the only reason you’re alone is you just haven’t met your partner yet?
What People are Saying About This
Praise for It’s Not You
"In this comforting love letter to single women, journalist Eckel tackles 27 common criticisms trotted out to unmarried ladies of a certain age—and sets each of those chestnuts on its ear. Advocating for the women who want to marry but haven’t yet found their match, the author picks apart clichéd observations such as “you’re too picky,” “you should have married that guy,” “you have low self-esteem,” and “you’re too desperate,” offering sensible responses for when these questions inevitably come up. Eckel sagely points out that “when you stop picking apart your personality and endlessly replaying the game tapes of your previous relationships, you clear a lot of mental space,” and she rationally discusses why each of these “truisms” are utterly wrong, funneling many through a Buddhist viewpoint while sharing her adventures with meditation and her own stories about dates gone wrong. Eckel also encourages women to examine what’s right with their lives, rather than what’s wrong—something very difficult to do when society is passing judgment, she acknowledges, but a necessary step nonetheless. A must for any single woman’s personal library, this book will lend hope to the millions of unattached women who want to believe love is on the horizon." Publishers Weekly
"What makes It’s Not You stand out amid myriad dating guides is Eckel’s tone: devoid of sass for sass’s sake, calm without preaching." –Elle
“It’s Not You provides a cheering reminder that life is complicated, and so are people. Instead of torturing yourself with a self-improvement checklist, she asks, why not see yourself 'as a flawed but basically lovable human being?'” The Boston Globe
“It’s Not You masquerades as self-help, but it’s really a manifesto, a radical declaration of truths that shouldn’t be all that radical but somehow are nonetheless. Sara Eckel does what no one writing about singleness has yet had the guts to do. She points out that coupling up is often nothing more than a matter of luck and that conventional wisdom about love is no substitute for real wisdom about life—something she has in spades.”
—Meghan Daum, author of My Misspent Youth
“Finally! Someone said it: Being single does not mean you’re broken. Thank you, Sara Eckel, for speaking up and turning the tables on anyone who dared point their needling finger at poor old singletons negotiating the process of looking for love. It’s Not You is a smart and sane respite from the incessant chatter of relationship self-help that places the single person in the middle of a perpetual makeover project. Eckel deftly argues why you don’t need any of it, and she’ll make you think about dating in an entirely new light. Her book is fresh, relatable, funny, and empowering, and I’m only one percent mad at her for not writing it sooner. Mostly, I just want to hug her and so will you.”
—Rachel Machacek, author of The Science of Single
“Debunking the myths and well-meaning advice lobbed onto single women today, Sara Eckel’s It’s Not You is like soothing guidance from a best friend in book form. Fearless, funny, and wise, it’s a reminder to single women everywhere that the best antidote to the overwhelmingly negative dating feedback that prevails is self-compassion.”
—Ava Chin, “Urban Forager” columnist and author of Eating Wildly
“Sara Eckel has composed an electrically charged response to a world still eager to tie a woman’s value to her marital status. It’s Not You is a thorough and thoughtful debunking of the myths of blame routinely foisted on women who have not (yet or ever) found mates. Eckel is funny, compassionate, and righteously resistant to the lies women are told about how personal shortcomings have damned them to singlehood, while smartly standing up to assumptions that there’s anything wrong with unmarried life to begin with.”
—Rebecca Traister, author of Big Girls Don’t Cry
“It’s Not You is a funny, thoughtful, and long-overdue response to every well-intentioned tool who insists single women are single because they’re ‘too’ something: picky, available, desperate, intimidating, nice, negative, attractive, or, I don’t know, averse to clog dancing. Instead, she assures us we’re fine. The only problem? We simply haven’t met the guy of our dreams yet.”
—Diane Mapes, author of How to Date in a Post-Dating World
“Sara Eckel counters prevailing myths about dating and marriage, and offers solace and very helpful advice to those who feel pained by prolonged singlehood. Above all, this book will resonate with readers because of the way she shares her own struggling, vulnerable heart.”
—Gabriel Cohen, author of Storms Can’t Hurt the Sky
“Part Buddhist teacher and part social critic, Sara Eckel tells single women what we older-to-marry folks wish we could go back to say to our own younger self-doubting unmarried selves.. . . This book is a refreshing study of women realizing the best potential of feminism: to realistically accept both the challenges, and the triumphs, of living life on one’s own terms.”
—Paula Kamen, author of Her Way, All in My Head, and Finding Iris Chang
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Just finished reading this lovely book. It took me less then 3 days which is very fast for me, the reason is its just enjoyable. I could easily relate to what she was saying. It also helped me feel better about being single and not give a damn cause honestly, i was one of those who started to kinda think "What's wrong with me?" and im only 27. Life's weird, theres a lot of things you cant explain no matter how hard you'd try. And thats that. She breaks all the myths about the big question: 'Why?". Great book.
A great addition to all those self help books on finding relationship that you know all us single women of a certain age have purchased in the search for 'what is wrong with me'? Except this book shows you that there is nothing wrong with you. Well written, humorous and clever without being cliched or patronizing. My one concern with the premise of the book is that she lives in a big city and many of the things she mentions as ways to keep busy (she mentions, this is not a book telling you what to do), don't apply to those of use living in non-urban areas where we don't have access to such things. Yes, being single anywhere can be difficult at times, but try it in a small town and it's worse. I would have liked to have seen this addressed a bit, but overall this is the author's story on how to accept being single and know that there is nothing wrong with you, it's just that luck of meeting someone right for you just hasn't played out (yet or maybe never)