In 2004, a little dating world game-changer came on the scene called He’s Just Not That Into You: The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? Though the Sex and the City-flavored advice that was popular at the beginning of millennium likely helped many women bypass disinterested guys more quickly in its heyday, now — many years later — single ladies (and gents) are ready for a new, equally honest approach that helps them rebuff the bad eggs while still being able to recognize and connect with the good ones. Enter New York Times best-selling author and advice columnist Harlan Cohen, whose latest book, Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed & Totally Sober) addresses these issues. Using a playful, comedic approach, his book offers a process for getting past you emotional baggage and finding a mate. Here, Cohen shares his thoughts on life, love and finding your soul mate.
Q: If you had to synthesize your new book down to one simple message, what would it be?
A: We live in a world of endless options, and we need to stop kidding ourselves and go after what we want! I think the book will change millions of lives.
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Q: Where did all of this dating insight come from?
A: I’ve been writing a syndicated advice column for the past 17 or 18 years, and during that time, people have shared their deepest, darkest secrets with me. This is my fifth book, and I’m a voracious researcher. At my [motivational] speaking engagements, I’ve interviewed thousands of people — from dating-world professionals to those who need help — and it’s helped me spot some trends. Also, women didn’t love me as much as I loved them, so I wanted to figure out: Why is it that some women want me, and some don’t? I wanted to help other people get comfortable with [things that made them feel] uncomfortable. Now, I think I’ve formed a really compelling answer to the dating question.
Q: What is the answer? Why don’t all women want you?
A: (Laughs) I feel like I have the world’s greatest secret. In the book, I’ve described this principle called the “Universal Rejection Truth,” which is that thousands of people out there will love us (and millions won’t) — and we need to accept this before we can move forward. There’s an epidemic out there, and it is a fear of following our hearts and finding passion. At their core, people are so afraid of rejection that they won’t take risks.
Q: Why are we like this, and how do we get past it?
A: There are five major things that screw us up:
1. We’re taught that sharing feelings is stupid because we risk being devastated by it.
2. We believe that we’re defective.
3. Hooking up seems easier than dating, so we get physically naked before we get emotionally naked [or vulnerable].
4. We’re taught that dating isn’t about exploring our options, but about happy accidents.
5. We act like haters by making generalizations about people.
There are five things we can do:
1. Embrace the Universal Rejection Truth.
2. Train in your thong underwear. (There’s nothing more uncomfortable than that, so physically, emotionally and spiritually, I’m asking you to put one on, look in the mirror, and acknowledge the ugly truth. Otherwise, you’re not going to be able to navigate the highs and lows of a healthy relationship.)
3. Surround yourself with great people who remind you to keep your pants on, not drink too much, and tell you how great you are [while you’re dating].
4. No excuses! We’re great at talking ourselves out of taking risks. Try your own “Naked Dating Experiment.” Regardless of the outcome, trying is still a success.
5. Celebrate that you’ve done something, reflect — and if that attempt doesn’t work out, ask yourself: “Is it me, is it something beyond me, or is it the Universal Rejection Truth?” Repeat steps 1-4 until you find what you want.
Q: Do we each have one soul mate?
A: No! There are endless options, and some soul mates are better than others. You should be with someone who wants you to be comfortable in all of your “thongs.” That’s a partnership that will grow until the end of time, but it takes two people who are really able to be vulnerable first. You go through this process to find someone, but also so that you don’t doubt the one you’re with after you’ve found each other. People get so caught up in the minutiae [of dating], asking things like: “How long should I wait to text after a date?” If you have to ask that question, don’t text at all. You’re in no position to date this person. You need to shift your perspective from whether your date likes you to whether you like this person. That’s empowering.
Q: And this system works?
A: Yes! Tons of people have already followed this process. It’s called “The Naked Movement.” I’ve been spreading this information for years, and now, the book is like a manual to go along with it. (There are also love stories throughout the book about how people met their significant others.) Using this process myself enabled me to find the love of my life. I did my own “Getting Naked Experiment.” I met my wife at Mailboxes, Etc. Years earlier, she would have seemed out of my league, or I would have been too afraid to talk to her. Most of our worlds are so small. We go to work and hang out with the same people on weekends, and then we wonder why we aren’t meeting new people.
Q: How do you feel about online dating?
A: I’m a huge fan. There are millions of people looking for love who aren’t connecting [with each other]. I see it everywhere. This way, you’re giving someone the opportunity to meet you. And what’s great about online dating is that when people meet, they know it’s a date. There’s no confusion. At any given time, you should have at least three different places where you’re looking for people — like an online dating platform, a new social club and being set up by friends.
Q: What’s your stance on alcohol consumption while dating?
A: Alcohol is a buffer. It’s the same as in junior high when we have a friend tell someone that we like him/her so that we can protect ourselves — and the next day, we deny what happened. Sure, you can drink within the legal driving limits. But when you can only talk to someone you like at the Christmas party while you’re wasted instead of during the day, then you shouldn’t be sleeping with that person the same night. Daylight is the best “jerk detector” in the world.
Q: What about sex?
A: You should do what’s in alignment with your values. But you need to know the first and last name of anyone you’re sleeping with, and you also need to talk about what happens afterwards, so that no one is misled. And you need to figure out how it happened.
Q: If people use this program and meet someone, how do they know if they’re on the right track?
A: You know [you’re on the right track] if you’d still want to date this person even though you had 100 other people standing in line to date you. It’s when somebody is always encouraging you to be your best physically, emotionally and spiritually, and isn’t threatened by you having people in your corner to help you (friends, family, a psychologist) accomplish that. (An ex can sometimes be a complicated person to have in your corner, though, so there are no black-and-white answers.)
Q: Are you a dating optimist?
A: As a realist, I’m very optimistic, because I know there are so many single people out there — and I have with 100% certainty come across something that will work for them, too. Maybe not overnight, but when it does work, life will be so good and so much bigger [than it was before], and you’ll be so much happier. I am the deliverer of love!
Nora Zelevansky’s first novel,Semi-Charmed Life(published by St. Martin’s Press), is available now. Throughout her career, she has been a journalist and essayist for such publications as ELLE, SELF, Town & Country, The Los Angeles Times, Cosmopolitan, Salon.com and many more.