Ah, love—everyone wants it, but many feel unsure how to get it or keep it. These titles offer valuable, often entertaining insight on many facets of love. Personal stories, wit and wisdom abound. Go forth and be romantic!
FINDING A LATER SPARK
The New York Times “Modern Love” column has launched many memoirs, and Eve Pell’s popular 2013 essay has grown into Love, Again: The Wisdom of Unexpected Romance. “How do old people meet new loves?” Pell writes. “Here’s how it happened for me: I schemed.” She, 67 and twice-divorced, asked a mutual friend to invite Sam, a 77-year-old widower, to a party. Next came a movie date . . . and three years later, they married. Pell shares their stories, plus those of 14 more couples who found later-life love. Times are changing, Pell notes: “Old people who follow their own hearts are not considered exceptional or outlandish—less Auntie Mame and more Judi Dench.” She adds that, since there will likely be a caretaker (and grieving spouse) in every older couple, “old love” can feel risky, but some find the best way to face the truth of mortality is to seek happiness and enjoy each moment. Pell’s greatest lesson learned: “Trust yourself. Whatever your age, you have the right to live as fully as you can, as fully as you want to.” This lovely, poignant read will bring out the romantic in readers of any age.
DEVOTION’S DARK SIDE
Lisa A. Phillips tackles a timely, deeply personal topic in Unrequited: Women and Romantic Obsession. Phillips admits that, 20 years ago at age 29, she became obsessed with “B.” The two dated despite his long-distance girlfriend, but as Phillips (fresh off a breakup) fell in love, he pulled away. “For years after I stopped pursuing B.,” she writes, “I could not acknowledge that I’d gone too far.” Friends comforted her, but if she’d been a man, “They would have accused me of stalking.” Phillips acknowledges that, and uses it as a powerful jumping-off point for her far-ranging exploration of women’s obsessive love and its consequences. Unrequited features women’s personal stories and examines obsessive behavior through the lenses of psychology, literature and popular culture. Phillips herself eventually decided that unrequited love was not to be her fate. Meeting her now-husband and years of self-assessment got her there; for others, cognitive behavioral therapy helped with “disrupting the unsatisfying cycle.” Phillips also explores obsession’s impact on its objects, and cautions readers against the “gender pass” (downplaying women’s stalking behavior as somehow less dangerous than men’s). This is a compellingly written, eye-opening guide.
FUN AND MARRIAGE
Tim Dowling professes to be surprised at his evolution from Manhattan bachelor to London husband of 20 years and father of three boys. Of course, as the humor columnist for The Guardian reveals in How to Be a Husband, he’s not really surprised—but he does find it amazing he had the gumption. His relationship started with a meet-cheat: He decided he must be with his now-wife so he cheated on and dumped his long-term girlfriend to do so. It wasn’t characteristic of him, but with new love came more changes, like visits to her London home, immigration-related stress and finally, “We simply agreed —we’ll get married—with the resigned determination of two people plotting to bury a body in the woods.” Dowling admits this is far from a self-help book, as his “successful marriage is built of mistakes.” But he shares lessons despite himself, like the Twelve Labors of Marriage (“Housework,” “Finding Things,” “Nameless Dread”) along with the 40 Precepts of Gross Marital Happiness: “It’s okay to steal small amounts of money from each other” and “Go to bed angry if you want to.” With these clever lists and remembrances of joy, grief and hilarity, Dowling has crafted a heartfelt tale of his married life so far. He pokes fun at stereotypes and advises the hapless: “I’ve always felt that being a good husband and father is a simple matter of occasionally reminding one’s wife and children that they could do a whole lot worse.”
When you want to learn something, you look to the experts. It worked for Karl Pillemer’s 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans, and he knew it would work for 30 Lessons for Loving: Advice from the Wisest Americans on Love, Relationships, and Marriage. The seeds of Pillemer’s second book originated from the Marriage Advice Project: He and his team interviewed 700 older Americans in committed relationships lasting from 30 to 70 years, including cohabitants and widows/widowers. Pillemer writes, “For them, it’s no longer a mystery as to how everything will turn out —it’s already happened.”
According to stories the elders share, what we all hear about long-term love (don’t hold grudges; share the chores!) aren’t just empty phrases, but rather words to live by. Readers can start with one of the book’s five sections (“Lessons for Finding a Mate”; “Communication and Conflict”) or delve into 30 lessons on topics like manners, in-laws, work and children. Pillemer, married 36 years, shares his own perspective-shift: “I came to a revelation. They are talking about marriage as a discipline . . . a developmental path where you get better at something by mindfully attending to it and continual practice.” Also, seeing is believing: “Nothing convinces you of the value of making a lifelong commitment like being in the presence of couples who have done just that.” Long live love!