5 Reasons Popular Dating Books Are Doing More Harm Than Good

Photo: WeHeartIt
girl reading

Before we begin, I should acknowledge a conflict of interest. My own dating advice book, Your Ex-Boyfriend Will Hate This, was published just three months ago. Despite outward appearances, however, cynical self-promotion was not the reason for this article. What prompted it was the same feeling which encouraged me to begin writing my book three years ago: outrage.

Re-examine the four most successful dating books of the last 20 years, namely: Think Like A Man, He’s Just Not That Into You, The Game and The Rules. Scrutinized closely, these works are more than just “harmless dating advice.” They are book-shaped delivery systems for toxic ideologies turned weapons-grade by their massive success!

Here are five ways the aforementioned books, and most dating books like them, fall short of being "helpful."

1. Generally, dating books focus on all the wrong things.

Dating books typically deflect the blame for our romantic failures away from the one area entirely within our control: ourselves. 

Now, this doesn’t mean that we’re solely to blame for our passionate mishaps. It just means that, if the goal is truly “self-help” (as the parent genre would have us believe), we have to be willing to sift through the wreckage of our past disasters.

2. At their core, most dating books are jaded.

Their portrayal of dating and relationships tends to be incredibly pessimistic. In just the four titles I listed above, the message is that we're just not that desirable, that we must think like one gender exclusively to avoid being alone, and that we're mere pawns in a “game” with its own austere set of “rules”. 

Doesn’t exactly sound like the ingredients of love everlasting, does it?

3. Dating books usually feel ... dated.

Can you believe that 42 years after Roe v. Wade, the most successful dating advice "expert" sounds like he could be talking about dating during the Eisenhower administration? If you think I'm engaging in hyperbole, go ask your oldest living relative who Steve Harvey is. They'll know his name and likely relate to what he has to say, because, he is that progressive and controversial.

4. Dating books are the only "self-help" subgenre with open contempt for its own readers.

Unless you're talking about reading materials explicitly prohibited by federal law, nobody should be shamed for their reading interests. Particularly by the very book you're reading. So why do dating books generally openly and proudly broadcast scorn for their reader?

5. Dating books have a really weird conception of “tolerance.”

Where the rest of the world may only see a terrifying loner with borderline personality disorder and an uncanny ability to show up at crime scenes, the self-help industry sees the untapped earning potential of a self-help "badboy" with a "nose for news!"

Take Neil Strauss’ unexpectedly huge 1995 best-seller, The Game: Penetrating The Secret Society Of Pickup Artists, for instance. In lesser hands, it might’ve been discarded as a reprehensible endorsement of the misogynistic delusions of a subset of marginalized, potentially dangerous sociopaths.  But where others shuddered, ReganBooks shook up the paradigm, crafting a sexy, feel-good story of a bunch of lovable misfits rebelling against the tyrannical specter of political correctness gone amuck.

This would've been a heart-warming story of underdog triumph had its subjects actually been the "lovable misfits" described above. Unfortunately, triumph is a lot less heartwarming when it happens to venal man-children united by a pathological hostility toward the fairer sex. 

OK, my symphony of self-righteousness is over. Want a dating book that might offer a bit more joy than most? Check out the below link:

Blue Sullivan is the author of the recently-released dating advice book, Your Ex-Boyfriend Will Hate This, available here via Amazon.

YourTango may earn an affiliate commission if you buy something through links featured in this article.