Editor’s note: We’re happy to debut a monthly blog review exclusively for single Catholics written by our very own Catherine Perry. It will be published on the first Tuesday of each month. Leave your responses to her first review and suggestions for other relevant titles in the comments below.
If there’s someone giving out relationship advice, I’m likely to listen. And if that someone is a nice Jewish girl, I’m all ears. So when I picked up Janice Lieberman’s book, “How To Shop For A Husband,” I was eager to see what she had to say.
I bought the book after I had first joined CatholicMatch and experienced one dating disaster after another. I thought, “I must be doing something wrong.” This happened to coincide with the launch of Lieberman’s book. So I thought, why not?
I will start by saying I take serious issue with a lot of things about this book. First, the conflation of shopping with looking for a relationship just rubs me the wrong way. She really capitalizes on all the worst cliches about women: we’re born to shop, just shoe-obsessed, label-crazy, shallow gold diggers who watch “Sex and the City” religiously. It’s offensive to say the least.
The other thing is that once Lieberman establishes this shopping/dating parallel, she doesn’t let it go. She beats the metaphor into dead horse territory, revives the horse and then beats it to death again. Her chapter titles are just laughable: “Can you go with ready-to-wear?”, “Don’t get stuck in the dressing room of dating”, “Check the expiration date”, and, my personal favorite, “Remember to read the labels before you put him in the wash.”
I don’t even have words for this kind of writing.
Where were the editors?
And the offenses don’t stop there. She encourages women to get makeovers, including plastic surgery, or as she called it, “injectables.” According to her, an afternoon at a make-up counter is better than the therapist’s couch. And, in her words, “Absolutely no gray hair is allowed!” So, the lesson here is that you haven’t found love because you don’t wear enough makeup, haven’t gotten injected with botulism and have gray hair. Nothing like encouraging self-hatred in singles looking for love!
So out of respect for the intelligence of CatholicMatch members, I’ll refrain from inflicting the bad writing on you and get to my point, which is that among all the dross, she actually does deliver some really solid, useful advice. In fact, I re-read the book this summer and clearly see how much it helped me over the years.
The first bit of wisdom I found helpful was to not confuse compromising with settling. Of course, we all have non-negotiables, and she encourages readers to re-evaluate theirs. According to polls, the most successful marriages are those in which partners agree on children, living arrangements, and income. In other words, find someone who wants to live where you live, has a stable income, and agrees with you regarding children. If you concede on those three, you are settling. If you deal with any minor details beyond these, you are wisely compromising.
Laws of compatibility
This all sounds pretty obvious. But when she goes deeper, interesting points are revealed. Other factors that determine the success of a marriage: looks, education, housework, communication and compromise. Here’s what experts say: great partnerships are those in which the woman is the more attractive one. Couples with similar or equivalent education levels are most compatible. Happy homes are those in which housework duties are amicably divided. And finally, it seems obvious, but learning how to resolve conflicts results in long, stable marriages. Interestingly, she points out that the happiest marriages are the ones in which the men concede to the women’s positions. I’m sure many women are happy at that bit of information!
I have the sense that her last point comes from a specifically Jewish perspective. In fact, this is where her most valuable advice comes in. According to Jewish law, a good husband is one who obeys his mother first and then his wife. He also does not steal or cheat others, never uses hurtful speech, remains faithful, and respects his teachers (and not just school teachers or rabbis; his wife may be among them).
She then goes on to outline the seven holy virtues of Christianity: chastity, temperance, charity, diligence, kindness, patience, and humility. Of course, this is very likely already on the radar for many CatholicMatch members, but it does give one pause as to what profiles are saying. Are any of these virtues extolled in your profile? If not, perhaps a bit of perspective is needed here. In other words, If all you want is a good-looking man who makes a solid living, likes travel and dresses well, that will be all you get. But you are on CatholicMatch: leave those guys to the “Sex and the City” crowd. If you want more, closely examine those seven holy virtues. They would never steer you wrong.
Lieberman goes on to dispense further advice, but many of it is nothing more than what you’d find on the front page of a gossip website: pat answers to simplistic problems. So, despite its many flaws, I’d say “How To Shop For A Husband” has some redeeming qualities, but I do think there are better advice books out there. I will be exploring some of those books over the coming months.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Tune in Tuesday, Sept. 4 for my next review. Until then, happy husband hunting!