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How I fell into a romantic recession

Lori Gottlieb is the author of the book "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough."

TEXT OF COMMENTARY

Lori Gottlieb: As we examine the causes of the economic downfall -- denial, pie-in-the-sky idealism, greed -- it might be a good time to look at how these mistakes apply to our love lives.

TESS VIGELAND: Just in time for Valentine's Day, commentator Lori Gottlieb looks at how she got herself into a romantic recession.


Gottlieb: Back in my twenties, there seemed to be a huge supply of single men out there -- men my age, divorced men twice my age, widowers three times my age. I mean, who doesn't want to date a 25-year-old? And with all this supply of interested men, I thought, "Why should I date the guy in the next cubicle at work? Why not hold out for my version of George Clooney?"

Then, as I entered my thirties, the supply and demand curve shifted. My value went down, while the value of guys my age went up. But I didn't adjust. I didn't realize that setting my price point too high would create a dating bubble that, like the housing market, was bound to pop. There was no Fed Chairman overseeing romance to come in and say, "You've got to tighten up your credit here. You're inflating your value, and besides Prince Charming doesn't exist." Well, OK, my mother said that, but I didn't listen. Which is exactly how I ended up in a romantic recession.

Left to my own unregulated devices, I ignored the costs of pursuing some unrealistic romantic payday. First, there were the sunk costs -- all the time, money, and emotional reserves invested in a series of super exciting guys with more style than substance. I'd share the details of my childhood, spend weeks making cheesy mix tapes and live through the holidays with his parents -- only to realize these guys were, well, overrated. They had charm, but they lacked longevity.

Then there were the opportunity costs -- the price I paid for not being available to meet more appropriate men, because I stayed too long with the cool musician who never called when he said he would.

Other times I sold too early: I broke up with guys who turned out to be fabulous husbands to other women, but they hadn't reached their peak market value when I was dating them. Back then, stability was as sexy as shares of IBM. And like every sucker in an economic boom time, I invested heavily in risky, volatile stocks even though those rarely turn out to be good long-term investments.

Of course, all the signs indicated that things weren't going well, but I chose to look the other way. Nearing forty and still single, I didn't want to admit that I was on the verge of romantic collapse.

In reality, I completely lost sight of what actually would have made me happy: I should have slowly built up equity with one really good, but imperfect, partner over the years. I was just like those folks at Goldman Sachs who got carried away with dreams of bigger dollar signs and didn't appreciate what they had until it was too late.

So all I'm saying is, invest responsibly in your love life. Because you won't get a $700 billion bailout to compensate for your dopey mistakes. You'll just get another night of eating takeout in front of the TiVo with your cats. And that's no way to spend Valentine's Day, is it?

Vigeland: Lori Gottlieb's new book is "Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough."

Featured in: Marketplace Money

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