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Dr. Phil McGraw’s

Love Smart: Find the One You Want- Fix the One You Got
By Jennifer Oikle, PhD

Have you noticed that Dr. Phil is everywhere these days? He’s got his own talk show, graces more magazine covers than all the Desperate Housewives combined, espouses dating, relating, and dieting advice in every magazine known to man, and now he’s even offering relationship recommendations on! He’s a one man show, ready to rule the universe like Oprah, who introduced him. So when Dr. Phil’s new dating book came out, I wanted to see what the fuss was all about.

In Love Smart, Dr. Phil’s goal is to give single women a map to get from dateless to down the aisle. In his ever-confident Dr. Phil style, he makes it sound like if you just follow his perfect plan, you’ll soon be living happily ever after.

And it’s true, Dr. Phil provides a clear step-by-step plan with plenty of practical advice on how to find your mate. The trouble is, well, the “Dr. Phil” style itself. He speaks like a true man’s man, making everything sound black and white, which often underestimates the complexity of relating. The prevailing assumption is that every single woman is listening to her loudly ticking biological clock. As a result, she is either hopelessly parked out on the couch with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s or is spastically flailing about in search of a man, any man. Either way, he makes single women sound relatively pathetic and desperate. It’s a tad offensive really. And single men appear similarly one-dimensional, essentially being represented as emotionally challenged, Monday night football watching brutes, unconcerned with commitment. These stereotypes exist because there is a grain of truth to them, but to paint singles with such limited strokes is, at the very least, annoying. Coming from his simplified masculine viewpoint, it left me with the feeling that he just doesn’t get it.

But, if you can get past the preachy tone, Love Smart does indeed have some smart advice. The major premise, that you’ve got to fall in love with yourself first, while cliché, is in fact, true. He argues that without a clear sense of really knowing and digging who you are, you’re bound to put up with all sorts of bad behavior from men, something Dr. Phil wants you to be done with for good. Problem is, he doesn’t really delve deeply enough into the issue of self esteem to provide any truly powerful advice about how to go from glum to glam.

The chapter with the most meaningful instruction is the one on Infrared Dating, a guide to assessing a man’s true husband potential by asking subtle questions to uncover the personality traits, attitudes, and behaviors that really matter. He suggests putting a guy’s childhood under a microscope, since the family environment he grew up in plays a large role in forming the type of partner he will be. Kudos to Dr. Phil for including this oft overlooked topic in detail, because it’s critically important.

Perhaps the book’s greatest strength is it’s insistence on the details. Dr. Phil really wants you to think through who you are, what you want, and how you are going to make it happen. With lots of questions to increase your insight and plenty of strategic guidance, he stresses the underlying principle that finding a mate is a serious endeavor. And much like anything else worth pursuing in life, to be successful you’ve got to have a specific, well-laid out plan with the skills to match.

And if you’ve done your homework throughout the book, that is what you should have when you turn the final page: a clearer vision of yourself, your perfect partner, and a concrete plan of how to “Bag’em, Tag’em, and Take’em home,” as Dr. Phil puts it. So, if the book motivates you to take new action based on a richer understanding of yourself, then it’s served a useful purpose, even if Dr. Phil’s style makes you cringe along the way!

Quick Summary: Although Dr. Phil’s style isn’t for everyone and he really doesn’t have the answer for everything, this book has solid advice to jump start, tune-up, and sharpen your dating strategy.

Savvy Singles Grade: Coupling Connection - Dr. Jenn OikleCoupling Connection - Dr. Jenn OikleCoupling Connection - Dr. Jenn Oikle "Worth the effort"