Why Eat, Pray, Love Can Be Harmful to Your (Emotional) Health

Why Eat, Pray, Love Can Be Harmful to Your (Emotional) Health
218 Shares

Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, felt trapped.

She left her husband, sold a book, and took her book advance to find herself (and transcendent love) in Italy, India and Indonesia.

You know the rest.

Oprah, 3 years on New York Times Best Seller list, and a few years ago, a movie starring Julia Roberts.

So it should be no surprise that Eat, Pray, Love has been on my mind recently. Not just because all of my clients feel inspired by it, but because of its billboard campaign for the movie, which reads:

“You Don’t Need a Man. You Need a Champion.”

You hold out for your hero. We’ll hold out for our Supermodel/Top Chef/Rhodes Scholar. And all of us will end up alone.

That’s what you’re holding out for in a man.

Fair enough.

So, for a moment, I’d like you to imagine a movie designed specifically for men.

Not an action movie, not a horror movie.

A movie about one man’s perfect love.

After years of being trapped in a sexless, emotionless marriage to a woman who didn’t want to have a baby, Alex leaves his wife to go find himself. Distraught, he decides to have an adventure.

He drives to Vegas.

He flies to Ibiza.

He journeys to Thailand.

Until finally, he discovers the woman who gives him everything he needs.

He writes a book: Drink, Play, F@#%.

Howard Stern and Maxim magazine promote the hell out of it, and Alex sells the movie rights. Soon, it’s in a theater near you.

You won’t see it, of course, but you can’t miss the ubiquitous billboards:

“You don’t need a woman. You need a pornstar who cooks.”

I said this to a private client the other day and she couldn’t suppress her cackle.

Because she knew it was true.

You hold out for your hero.

We’ll hold out for our Supermodel/Top Chef/Rhodes Scholar.

And all of us will end up alone because there’s nobody that fits the bill. The end!

Not a very happy ending, is it?

Yes, I’m teasing about the billboard, but although my example may be a bit hyperbolic, it’s not that far from the truth.

Men really DO want the Supermodel/Top Chef/Rhodes Scholar.

Women really DO want a hero and a champion.

And yet, in order to find happiness, we both must relax our fantasies a little bit.

Not because they don’t feel great. They do.

The reason to relax your fantasies is because they’re unrealistic, and they almost invariably lead to disappointment.

Take Bill, for example. Bill’s not a bad guy. He just wants his unrealistic male fantasy.

If Bill really expects you to have the same body at 50 as you did at 20, he’s going to be really disappointed.

If Bill really expects you to allow him an “open relationship,” he’s going to be really disappointed.

If Bill really expects you to feed him, while he doesn’t even have to listen to you talk about your day, he’s going to be really disappointed.

For Bill to be happy, we can all agree, he has to adjust to reality.

The message of this blog post isn’t about settling. It’s not about being with a man you can barely tolerate. It’s about the expectation of what a man is capable of delivering.

If you’re coaching Bill, you tell him that he should be thrilled that he has an active, healthy, sexual woman who knows her way around the kitchen at all.

You don’t encourage him to hold out for Angelina Jolie meets Rachael Ray.

Do you?

Yet you still feel entitled to hold out for your fantasy. The hero. The champion.

Listen, as a dating coach, my job is to help you find happiness in your love life.

Because of this role, I have a unique access to your inner world. You might even say that I often understand you better than your own boyfriend.

Which is why it’s very easy for me to observe that your expectations of men are RARELY met.

Sometimes, you’re 100% correct in your assessment.

If he doesn’t call you regularly…
If he doesn’t want to be your boyfriend…
If he doesn’t ever hint at a future…

Dump his ass NOW.

But these aren’t the only expectations that aren’t being met by men. I usually hear something like this:

“I don’t know, Evan. I just don’t feel INSPIRED by him.”

Come again?

“I want to feel that thing in the pit of my stomach. To get nervous when he calls. To admire him and think about him all the time when we’re not together.”

You realize that every time you’ve had that feeling, it’s never worked out, right?

“Yes, but I can’t help how I feel.”

Fair enough.

Just know that, percentage-wise, the number of men who are cute, smart, kind, tall, funny, generous, ambitious, successful, and family-oriented is miniscule.

Now you want to add in “inspirational?”

You know how many men are left?

That’s okay. Neither do I.

The message of this blog post isn’t about settling. It’s not about being with a man you can barely tolerate.

It’s about the expectation of what a man is capable of delivering.

There are millions upon millions of decent looking, thoughtful, bright, solid men who want to marry you, cherish you, build a family, and create a life together.

If only you would love them and accept them.

Believe me, nobody wants you to achieve your dreams more than I do.

But if you’re holding out for a hero, yet no guy ever fits the bill (and also sticks around!), it may be time to act like Bill, who finally gave up on his Angelina Jolie fantasy and is thrilled to have found YOU.

This is how a man finds love. By accepting all that you are, imperfections included.

You need to do the same with him.

Join our conversation (103 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 41
    Heather

    @ Hope #41,
      
    That’s a good point and I never realized how true that was, until you verbalized it.   Hollywood seems to make it sound like just as soon as you start finding yourself, Mr. Right will just show up.   That sure as hell is NOT how it works.   I used to feed into that nonsense and was getting so frustrated.   “I’ve done my homework, paid my dues, I’m finding myself, so where is MY Mr. Right???”
      
    Just one more reason why I can’t stand most romantic comedies or chick flicks in the first place.   Just a bunch of silly stuff fed to us that is unreal and even unhealthy for us to expect.

  2. 42
    NB

    Everyone, don’t forget that Eat, Pray, Love was an actual account of Liz’s experience (more or less), and not a fictional story. The movie made much more of the ‘love’ part and made the man she ends up with at the end more of a hollywood cliche than he was in the book (thank the marketers for that, they’re trying to sell a movie).  

    1. 42.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      All the people defending Eat, Pray, Love are missing the point of the post: you don’t need some transcendent ubermensch who inspires you and gives you butterflies every second of every day for the rest of your life. You need a good guy who treats you well. Read today’s blog post to learn what love, marriage and commitment are REALLY about.

  3. 43
    jbv

    @hope #39, I can’t say I agree with you on your last point.   If you marry someone I think you should try harder to find a solution to the issue before breaking up.   If you are dating someone and decide it is not worth the effort than so be it.   But, I would like to think that if I ever marry someone that she will fight for the relationship/try to solve issues instead of just deciding she needs a different lifestyle.   Now I haven’t read the book or seen the movie but I am basing my comments on what others have said above.   If there was no communication to the husband at the time she got up and left and no attempt to work things our while continuing to be married….. I feel bad for the husband.

      

  4. 44
    E.L.

    I did have a boyfriend that was inspirational.   He was my hero in a way.   Despite the harsh childhood he had, he made something of himself.   He was brilliant, funny, athletic, resilient, and has one heck of a personality.   He has swag and can mingle with street people from rough neighborhoods, but also quote scientific papers on clinical trials of some disease.   But he was also very vulnerable, and constantly stressed out of his mind about professional school and his family.
    But guess what, at the end, he never loved me and wouldn’t try to empathize with me.   So there ya go.   I’m now looking for someone who would be my partner.   I don’t need a hero to be my boyfriend because I’m no damned damsel.   I’m a successful modern woman.   However, we still do need heroes, but they belong in biographies and TV, or podiums, not necessarily next to us.  

    1. 44.1
      Caroline

      I thought I’d met a hero last year. A sexy, resilient, charming, outgoing, decisive, quick-thinking, athletic and handsome man. It seemed he’d overcome growing up with an abusive father, and being forced to live on the streets at 16. He’d found some mentors and worked hard, eventually done a master’s degree in business, and become a sales manager. He was accepting of me and told me “you aren’t your issues” which I found so refreshing (a change, since my own family could be judgmental of me, and I’d lost friends because of my life circumstances). He said he wanted to stay and work through our disagreements. No-one in my family could discuss anything respectfully. I found this refreshing too.

      He didn’t go to his dad’s funeral (understandably, I thought). He never said anything that sounded bitter about his parents, and I told him that I noticed that about him, and it was a very attractive quality. He was pleased to hear me say it. I told him he was a fine man.

      These two things comprised my list of desired attributes for a partner: 1) being able to discuss differences respectfully, not trying to control me with anger, and 2) the fact that he was working on his issues already (taking responsibility for his personal growth).

      He held me when I felt overwhelmed, and I thought “at last! I have someone on my side, and who’s for ME for a change”. I was so happy. I felt safe for the first time in my life. I didn’t realise I’d never felt safe, until I suddenly did that first day in his arms.

      It didn’t last. It was all manipulation, control and pretense on his side. He told me six months after we first met “I can’t say I love you, love takes time”. He said it smugly. It was a statement made redundant by his behaviour that preceded it. His violation of me and betrayal of my trust spoke volumes about him.

      I still do want a hero, a man of courage and substance (& is that person consistently), a man I am proud of, to stand on my side and face the world with me, so it doesn’t just feel like it’s me by myself all the time. My hero would create a safe place for me with him. I would create one for him with me. He would know it, and appreciate it.

      Damn! I feel like crying now. It’s 0300 hours in the morning, and nothing looks good this side of midnight. I would like someone to lean on a little, to give me a little break from having to be brave and strong all the time. I don’t sleep well when my oxytocin levels are below bare minimum.

  5. 45
    K

    @JBV 45, I read the book and I really felt bad for the husband too.   She didn’t fight for her marriage at all or even really let him know what was wrong (I guess her point was she didn’t know exactly at that time).   I read it a long time ago, but I did remember thinking I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be inspired by her and not feel bad for her husband, but I did anyhow.   I wish he would write his account.

  6. 46
    Katarina Phang

    K, he did and almost got published late 2010 but the publisher wanted him to perhaps do things he was uncomfortable with (seems that he has integrity).   He wanted it to be a book about his work, not a tit-for-tat to his ex’s bestseller.   So he decided not to go through with it.   He could have made millions.

    And I’d rather read his account on what happened than what she wrote.  

  7. 47
    Betsey

    EMK@44: But what those of us who have read the book/seen the flick are saying is that the book/film does not say you need a transcendant   ubermensch that is going to give you butterflies at every moment. It doesn’t talk about what you need in a man at all. That’s what the marketing sort of implies, but marketing is always shallow in this way.

  8. 48
    K

    @48 thanks was wondering about that!

  9. 49
    MH

    I actually thought this guy’s book was a joke/pun book; didn’t know it’s a memoir. Now i want to read it.
      
      

  10. 50
    Pineapple

    I read this book … I took away the impression that the author wasn’t making other people miserable by using them to prop up her own sense of self.   She was a flawed PERSON moreso than she was escaping a husband who wasn’t “whatever” enough.   She made the mistake of marrying him, not the mistake of divorcing him.   She was a  shitty wife and she realized it.  I don’t feel like that book had anything to do with chasing butterflies or this or that.   She had to face her own selfishness and chronic sense of emptiness on her own, not fill it through a man.

  11. 51
    Dating Blog

    I have read the book and it continues to be the foundation of my advice.
      
    Keep it up, evan!

  12. 52
    Ellen

    My Dad was my hero, and but for him I probably wouldn’t like men very much these days. Thanks to Chuck I  am drawn to  alpha men, though they are often so full of sh*t it’s not funny.

    My ex, an alpha said once “I like to win”. In everything apparently, including relationships. He was perhaps the most controlling man I’ve ever met.

    Feeling  FUNKY today, sorry! (  though  REALLY in a good mood. Have already moved onto two great  guys, one new, and both of whom want to be my boyfriend. That’s how I roll/win!

  13. 53
    AnnieC

    @44 You don’t get the point of the book. And you won’t, while you continually convince yourself you are correct.

  14. 54
    EBA

    Perhaps because I read the book, I’m reading into the tag line of the billboard, but by Champion I think they meant it in  the definition of “advocate,  support”  
    From reading the book, I felt Elizabeth set out to find a way to be the champion (best version of her self, and advocate) of her own life and on her way found people to champion her journey. Along the way she unexpectedly –and reluctantly at first– ended up falling in love with a man.   

  15. 55
    lfl

    As i stated earlier i think the whole point of evan’s article is that we hold men acccountable and  to the high standards that we might not bring to the table.

      I’m single and friends with 2 girls. One of my friends is gorgeous, a 9 by most guy standards, sweet and lots of fun to be around, always smiling(men love that).

    She has fair requirements, a decent job, in good shape and above 5-11(she’s 5-7). Needless to say, she has NO problems finding men to date, she’s in a serious relationship with a tall (6-3)40 year old guy(she’s 32), who is buff, but bald and not uber attractive. My other friend is a teacher, short, chubby, average looking ,nice but  sheltered and kind of  dull,  and always single. Her requirements, height, high income, full head of hair and within a couple of years of her age(she’s 32 and won’t date over 35). She’s always been single. And she always complains to me me about men…what can i tell her?   She told me to dump a guy i’m dating because he’s not ambitious enough, he has a good enough job, pays his way and mine for many dates and helps his family out, she thinks i could do better….
    She doesn’t know about my other friend but in her world(pampered gal  with high expectations) the guy needs to be major provider and still be tall, attractive, with a full head of hair. Her friends are also the same so they don’t help. Some have actually snagged guys like that on jdate so it fuels her fire…

    Basically some gals need to be realistic and no one in real life is going to tell you that, so please read Evan’s blog and Lauri Gottlieb’s book for help!

  16. 56
    Jennifer

    Just because most women are not supermodel/top chef/rhodes scholars does not stop many of us (dare I say “most”) from trying. What has been more than frustrating for me in the dating world -especially the online dating world – is that many men are simply fine with their complete lack of interest in continuous self-improvement, while expecting women to be/look 10 years younger with fabulous bodies and have high baby-making potential. Women over 38 feel overwhelming pressure to compete with the 20-something set or else have to “settle” for the dudes who can’t get a response from the younguns and are now “settling” for women more their age. Let me tell you, I have much more luck finding quality, responsive men in bars than online where my attractive picture and frisky profile sit right next to my age.

    So, while I hear the message of not having unrealistic expectations that men can’t possibly live up to, it shouldn’t give men an “out” to stop working on themselves to become more desirable to women. Women are faced with men’s unrealistic expectations all the time, yet we still universally attempt to meet the Angelina Jolie-meets-Rachel Ray standard the best we individually can. Men shouldn’t get a pass.

  17. 57
    Paragon

    @ Jennifer

    “Just because most women are not supermodel/top chef/rhodes scholars does not stop many of us (dare I say “most”) from trying. What has been more than frustrating for me in the dating world -especially the online dating world — is that many men are simply fine with their complete lack of interest in continuous self-improvement, while expecting women to be/look 10 years younger with fabulous bodies and have high baby-making potential.”

    And which men harbor such unrealistic expectations?

    The men *you* don’t want, or just the men *you* can’t get?

    “Women over 38 feel overwhelming pressure to compete with the 20-something set or else have to “settle” for the dudes who can’t get a response from the younguns and are now “settling” for women more their age.”

    In other words, they are feeling an overwhelming pressure towards discontentment given realistic options that clash with a nurtured sense of entitlement.

    “Let me tell you, I have much more luck finding quality, responsive men in bars”

    Quality men huh?

    And how’s that been working out for you?

    But I hear the same observation from men, discouraged with their online dating experience.

    “So, while I hear the message of not having unrealistic expectations that men can’t possibly live up to, it shouldn’t give men an “out” to stop working on themselves to become more desirable to women. ”

    It doesn’t, but how do you distinguish between this assumption and the soundness of your own expectations?

    How are men justifying this assumption from your perspective?

    “Women are faced with men’s unrealistic expectations all the time, yet we still universally attempt to meet the Angelina Jolie-meets-Rachel Ray standard the best we individually can.”

    I don’t believe that for a second – it is well established that men are more forgiving in their assessments of female attractiveness(than the other way around).

    And this has the predictable effect of relaxing pressures on female attractiveness – this is evident in any gym or health club I attend – where the differences in expended/invested effort between males and females is palpable(ie. men are working much harder to attract women than the reverse – which is a non-controversial assumption given any non trivial understanding of mating system dynamics).

    “Men shouldn’t get a pass.”

    They don’t – your sentiments are evidence of that.

  18. 58
    Karl R

    Jennifer said: (#58)
    “Just because most women are not supermodel/top chef/rhodes scholars does not stop many of us (dare I say “most”) from trying. What has been more than frustrating for me in the dating world -especially the online dating world — is that many men are simply fine with their complete lack of interest in continuous self-improvement,”

    I’ve frequently heard women on this blog claim that women keep themselves in better shape than men.

    The data, however, indicates the opposite. If you look at BMI statistics for women and men, the men (on average) have better BMI’s than women at every age over 20. (I didn’t look at the data for teenagers.)

    For example:
    32% of men aged 40-49 have an average BMI
    28% of women aged 40-49 have an average BMI

    This data doesn’t tell me whether women are trying harder than men to improve their physiques. It does tell me that men are succeeding more than the women.

  19. 59
    Helen

    Karl R 60: I don’t understand these statistics. What is meant by “average BMI”? If it really were a statistical average for each sex, plus-minus some factor of a s.d., then it would work out to be the same percentage for men and women.

    Do you mean “normal BMI”? And if so, is the range the same for men and women: e.g., 18.5-24.9?

  20. 60
    Ruby

    Karl #60

    Do your statistics take into account that there is a slight gap in body mass between men and women, or that women carry more body fat than men?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *