Nationally syndicated columnist Betsy Hart is being blunt with women: stop looking to the movies for love advice and stop sleeping with George Clooney, or men like him.
Hart is the author of the new book From the Hart and The Christian Post caught up with her to ask about this thing called love and marriage.
CP: You often say that when it comes to men and matters of the heart, too many women ask for too much and settle for too little. What do you mean by that?
Hart: Women tend to settle for live-in boyfriends when what they want are husbands. These same women are afraid to ask for marriage and commitment. That's the stuff that we as women are wired to want, and yet our culture says we can't ask for that, that we shouldn't expect that in a relationship. But women are sleeping with their live-in boyfriends and giving them the benefits of a sense of having a wife without having the commitment of marriage.
CP: In your book, you talk about George Clooney and why women everywhere should stop sleeping with him. Why pick on him?
Hart: He's a very high-profile confirmed bachelor, that's why. My theory is that women everywhere in the world should make a vow that they're not going to sleep with George Clooney – or men like him – outside of marriage. These guys go around breaking one heart after another because women don't believe the men when they say they do not want to ever get married. Every woman thinks she will be the one to change him and they don't. Meanwhile, they're living with him and giving him all the benefits of marriage. Of course he's not going to get married. I believe that if women everywhere stop sleeping with George Clooney, he would in fact get married.
CP: What do you think is the biggest mistake women make about love besides giving sex before marriage?
Hart: I think we as women too often misunderstand what love is. We're looking at this romantic, idolized version as shown in books and movies. We don't understand the sense that it's really a deeper, longer lasting commitment. Women have these crazy long checklists of what a man has to be, and they get disappointed when he doesn't match up. Men don't have those lists. I think we want only the high of romantic love, the dopamine, instead of understanding how that transforms into a much deeper attraction over time. We prefer to stay at that high instead of settling into what can be a long-term, lifelong commitment.
CP: What do you think is the biggest mistake men make about love?
Hart: I think maybe men probably buy into the feminist notion too much that women don't want or need men to slay dragons. But we do – we want to be pursued, we want to know that we're wanted, we want to feel secure in a man's intentions. I think women should call their boyfriends "suitors" because that has a definite connotation that he's pursuing them. We want men to be the male leader in our homes, and that's going to look different in different households.
CP: How is real-life love different from romantic comedies or dramas?
Hart: Let me use the movie "Titanic" as an example. Here the two leads have this two-day whirlwind romance and a sexual encounter. They're crazy about each other. But if the ship had docked safely in New York and they had stayed together, within a few months, it would have been fights about why he couldn't afford to buy her Monet paintings and why she forgot his birthday. Real life would set in, but that's not depicted in so many of these romantic comedies or these dramas. Real life is about the ups and downs of a relationship where you are figuring out you are a sinner in need of a Savior –and so is the person you're married to. Our calling as spouses is to love them as we walk with them in the midst of their sin, and they walk with us in the midst of our sin. That is so rarely portrayed on screen.
CP: Why does marriage matter?
Hart: Marriage matters for countless reasons. First and foremost, it's a reflection of the union of Christ and his church, and that needs to be reflected in the culture. Marriage is also profoundly important to be between a man and woman because it forces us to stretch to live with someone who is very different. If I married someone just like me, like my best girlfriend, loving that person would be pretty easy. Loving a man is hard because he's different, he wants different things and he's wired differently than I am. Those differences call me out of myself. That's just one of the beauties of marriage on a spiritual level.
On a practical level, marriage is by far the most protective place for women and children. The studies are overwhelmingly clear that when you have high marriage rates in a community, you have more stability, you have children who are less likely to be abused and you have women who are less likely to be abused. The data is also overwhelming in that people in marriages are much happier than people in cohabiting relationships.
CP: How does today's American culture impact how we think about love?
Hart: Our American culture has a very romanticized, transitory view of love, that love is very much about what makes me happy right now. Love in our culture is not about serving or giving or doing for someone else. Now happiness is part of real love, but it's happiness that is other-centered, not self-centered. Marriages break up, even in the Christian culture, because of a view that marriage is about how can I have my needs fulfilled. When my needs are not being fulfilled – if I can't get them fulfilled in my marriage – then maybe it's time to move on. German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that marriage is about holiness more than happiness. When you go into marriage from that view, it changes everything. But our culture doesn't do that because it romanticizes love and turns it into all about me.
CP: You've been very candid about your own divorce in 2004. How did you recover from that and still have a positive view of love?
Hart: In one sense, I'm not sure we ever really recover from a divorce. I was very shocked by the divorce – it was nothing I wanted. I think the way to look at it is that this is one of the marks I'm going to carry in this fallen world until the day I die. I think more about how can God use it, how can I be sanctified by my divorce, and how can I pray that my children be sanctified through it.
I've also eschewed a lot of what our divorce culture teaches, which is that not only will you get completely over it, but, particularly in a situation like mine where my husband left our family, that you're supposed to think about what you did to bring this about, what was your part in it. While it does take two to make a marriage, it only takes one to leave it. It's very possible to have one person unilaterally decide not to work on making this marriage better and leave. I think the person left behind can't feel responsible for that. I was not a perfect spouse and my husband was not a perfect spouse, but our calling was to faithfully help each other. Once I was able to say I don't have responsibility for him leaving, that it was his choice, that gave me a lot of freedom.
CP: Have you found love again?
Hart: I most definitely have. I have a wonderful suitor now who has made his intentions very clear. I've heard from other women who have said they don't know if the men they're dating are into them, so I decided to start taking more of my own advice and be with someone who very early on wanted me to be secure in his intentions.