Book Review: Love Rules by Joanna Coles


Like many single women in their late-30s, I have made more mistakes than good decisions in the realm of dating. Because of that, and because I would like to meet a life partner before I’m 80, I’ve decided to research romance, which led me to Love Rules: How to Find a Real Relationship in a Digital World by Joanna Coles. As a Project Runway fan and reader of Cosmopolitan, I recognized Coles and knew she was the sort of put-together, smart, successful woman after whom I would like to model myself.

I have mixed feelings about the book. While she writes that the book is geared towards those who want to “meet the person whom you’ll marry before you are thirty and have your first kid by thirty-one, or find a new partner in your fifties or sixties,” the tone and advice found in these pages would likely appeal more to a 28-year-old than a 38- (or 58-) year-old.

Let’s take the extended metaphor that one should treat dating as they would dieting (gag): “Most women I know have a giant invisible calorie counter hanging above their heads at every meal, and they apply their own set of accounting rules.” Whether or not this is true, it reinforces some of the more obnoxious stereotypes about what it means to be an attractive–dare I say loveable–woman. Also, shouldn’t women stop obsessing about their weight AND their relationships?

That being said, the young tone made it a quick read, and there was wisdom to be found. While I find it difficult to take Coles’s advice to “Write it down—every person you have hooked up with, spent hours obsessing over, or cheated on” a bit unrealistic for anyone over the age of, I don’t know, 20, I think much can be gained from examining what went well and what did not in our most important relationships. When offering up advice, my best friend Holly often urges me to take my left-sided math brain and “analyze the trends.” Holly and Coles both understand that the people to whom we are attracted may not be the people who can give us what we want in the long-term.

Since I’m paying a therapist A LOT of money to deal with this issue, I will save my personal anecdotes. Let’s just say I’ve uncovered a lot in my own life that would support Holly and Coles’s thesis.

Analyzing past relationships and treating dating as you would your career are not Coles’s only good points. She also writes about the link between alcohol abuse and sexual assault, criticizes our modern hook-up culture, urges the reader consider all of their relationships (including friends who may be holding you back), and tells us to fight the urge to overshare with friends and on social media. The latter transforms dating from finding who YOU like into the chorus of a Greek play (and most of those ended in tragedy).

I also wish I had read Rule 11 years ago, which explains how to identify men with narcissistic personality disorder (who are often abusers) BEFORE you get roped in.

Again–paying a therapist, so I’ll keep the focus off me.

I cannot say that Love Rules is the most helpful dating guide on earth or the funniest (for a good laugh, I recommend Betches I had a Nice Time and Other Lies… : How to Find Love & Sh*t Like That). However, I do think Coles does offer excellent advice and concrete action steps for those looking for love, especially for those under 30.

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