A good love relationship isn’t really that important. In fact, it uses up a lot of time you could spend thinking about yourself and doing things all alone or with your drunken, loser friends. That’s why Ben Stein has written “How to Ruin Your Love Life,” 35 easy-to-follow-steps to definitively and absolutely ruin your love life. Here's an excerpt:
“Man is born free, but everywhere is in chains.” So said the great philosopher Rousseau more than 200 years ago. He was referring to a political situation in which almost all of the people in the world lived under monarchic despots.
My experience of life compels me to make a similar observation, or series of observations. Man and woman would be happiest in a lasting, loving relationship, but everywhere they’re alone and miserable.
Or, perhaps I can break this down into a series of premises.
Premise #1: Being in a lasting, loving, sharing, caring relationship would seem to be a superb way to live life, as the poets and novelists and psychiatrists all agree. Being in love and being able to share love with someone else is one of the keystones of the structure of a fulfilled life-perhaps it’s the definitive foundation of a fulfilled life. The only possible competitor for such a basic building block of life would be being happy in one’s work, and love is usually considered even more important than that. It really is impossible to be happy and alone on a long-term basis.
Premise #2: A lot of people are unhappy, alone, and loveless, despite a world that offers a cornucopia of opportunities for love. A vast and unhappy army of men and women marches in solitary lockstep through daily life, wondering why they’re unhappy... and yet they remain alone.
Premise #3: In this life, we generally make our own experience. What happens to us in a free society is, within large limits, almost completely made up of what we do to ourselves. Or, as a fan of my previous book How to Ruin Your Life told me in an e-mail: “I have begun to realize that I have some part in what happens to me.” Some part indeed. Except for cases of accidental death or injury, or chronic and/or disabling illness, man and woman in a free, prosperous society like ours generally create their own reality.
This reality can be filled with love and caring, or it can be filled with... well, emptiness, anger, and frustration. It’s largely up to the individual man or woman to make that reality incredibly good or preposterously bad. And please don’t say that your reality is shaped by beauty or lack of beauty resulting from birth or height or accent or place of birth. The most cursory nod at engagement columns and at couples at Disneyland tells us that there’s a lid for every pot if only the lid and the pot will consent to make themselves fit. The same is true about wealth and poverty, education and lack thereof. Persons from every background can find love-or they can find loneliness. It’s very largely up to the individual.
This book is a humorous way for you, the reader, to realize how to make yourself fit into loving relationships, by telling you how not to fit into a lonely, rage-filled life. It is, if you will, a road map in reverse, as I said about my first How to Ruin book, with sure guides to getting where you want to go-by simply not going where you do not want to go.
How did I come to write this book? In my life, I am cursed-as my mother, father, and sister were and are-by a habit of categorization. I see some examples, make a hypothesis based upon them, test that hypothesis, and if it works, I adopt it as a predictor and explainer of the human condition. For example, many decades ago, my sister ventured the following brilliant hypo about mankind: “Your basic human,” she said, “is not such a hot item.”
How true that has turned out to be.
I especially look for examples, observations, generalizations, and then rules about love, since love is the ruling passion in my life. And I particularly try to determine why so many men and women I know go without love in their lives on an ongoing basis. In my own little circle here in glorious Los Angeles, I have women friends who are stunningly beautiful yet who are alone and miserable most of the time. I’ve watched them carefully to see what they do each day in their social and love relationships (such as they are), and what specifically they do that keeps them alone. I’ve been blessed in knowing some women who are so spectacularly good at warding off love that they’ve inspired me to want to write down what they’re doing. (In fact, just observing what some of these women are up to and writing it down has provided me with much of the material for this book.)
I’ve also seen many men-handsome, well-off, sharply dressed men-who are pitifully alone. I was moved to sit down at my word processor by the catalog of what they’re doing wrong in their love relationships. They, too helped me write much of this book.
As I gathered material on these lost souls, I realized that they had given me not just random axioms, but a thorough, complete, and effective set of rules on how to ruin a love relationship-or how to never have one at all. And even better, they’d given me a set of rules on how to have a decent love relationship-if only one followed these steps in reverse. That is, if you can learn the rules of how to ruin your love life and then do the opposite, you are on your way to having a good, lasting love relationship.
Easier said than done, since people operate largely out of compulsion, but then here comes a key part: You must, if you wish to have any success at love, take responsibility for your own life and for what happens to you . . . and then overcome these compulsions. If you’re going to say that you act out of deep-seated compulsion and you’ll never get any better-and if you truly believe that-you really will get to spend your whole life alone and miserable. If you realize that successful men and women can and do overcome their compulsions little by little, you can and will triumph.
I’ve tried to make it easy for you in this book-at least I hope I have. Since these rules tend to be humorous, perhaps they’ll go down easier than if they were laid down as some sort of Prussian marching manual-humorless, strict, and unforgiving. That was, at least, my thought. Follow these rules and you have loneliness. Do the opposite, and you have love in your life. It’s that simple.
I want to note that I also had some other sources of inspiration, though, besides the people who did it all wrong. Specifically, I had some ideas on how to do it all right.
By pure luck and God’s grace, I’m married to a woman of almost preternatural saintliness and lovability, if that is a word. She makes absolutely none of the mistakes that I lay out here as ways to ruin your love life. I must confess that some of these rules are derived simply by noting what my wife does and recommending that you do the opposite in order to ruin your love life. That is, my wife has been so amazingly good at preserving her love life with her difficult husband that I can fairly recommend that you do the opposite of what she does if you want to wreck your love life. I tested this plan or approach and found that it worked well. The people who were alone really did do the opposite of what my wife does, and so the rules work out from that origin as well. My wife’s name is Alexandra Denman, and I thank her profusely.
Also, I have some friends who are brilliant at understanding the dynamics of relationships. They’ve supplied me with examples of how to wreck love lives based on their own experience and observations. I specifically thank super-smart Philip DeMuth, Ph.D., in psychology; dear friend, Paul Hyman, M.D., psychoanalyst and genius; Al Burton, best friend and shrewd observer; Tetyana Terasova-Abel, medical student; and Mike Long, brilliant young writer. Their contributions were invaluable.
I’m sure that I’ve missed some vital rules here, and for that I apologize. But as you read these rules, please remember that beginning and ending each and every one of them are two Super Rules for ruining your love life, which should be integrated into every other rule here. In fact, if you just follow these two rules, I assure you that you’ll be far down the road to loneliness and despair:
One: YOU ARE BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE.
And two: NEVER FORGIVE AND NEVER FORGET.
With that, happy reading, and happy trails.
Excerpted from “How to Ruin Your Love Life” by Ben Stein. Copyright © 2003 by Ben Stein. Published by Hay House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt can be used without permission of the publisher.