Seeking Happily Ever After

The editor of 614 shows women how to navigate the ups and downs of being single in a wedding-obsessed world.

by Rachel S. Cohen
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Three years ago, Michelle Cove noticed headlines claiming there were more single women than ever. The media blamed women: They were too career-obsessed and/or too picky. Was this true? Michelle wanted to find out, so she joined forces with award-winning producer Kerry David and they filmed women around the United States about why they were waiting longer to marry and whether they were redefining happily ever after. The result is their feature-length documentary Seeking Happily Ever After, currently playing at film festivals and earning nominations for “Best Documentary” and “Best Female Filmmaker.” From there, Michelle turned three years of research into the self-help book Seeking Happily Ever After: Navigating the Ups and Downs of Being Single Without Losing Your Mind (and Finding Lasting Love Along the Way) (Tarcher/Penguin, September 23, 2010). Below she discusses her unique findings.

I know that Seeking Happily Ever After started out as a documentary. Can you tell us how and why you translated it into a book?

It was important to me that the film ask questions about why there are more single women today so viewers come to their own conclusions. When the film was completed, I wanted to go a step further and try to answer some of the women’s pressing questions that came up during interviews, such as “How do you deal with the constant pressure to marry?” “How do I know what I want for myself when everyone says marriage is the answer?” and even practical questions like “I worry about being alone and getting sick. What can I do?” I wrote the book to answer these questions and help women feel more in charge of their feelings about being single.

What demographic is this book geared toward?

Primarily, the book is geared for single women (which I define as “unmarried”) looking for advice for whatever stage of singlehood they are in. The book is divided into 12 stages of singlehood, a few of which are: “The Organic,” who wants to meet a guy the old-fashioned way (by chance), but friends and family insist she’ll end up alone; “The Late Bloomer” is the single who refuses to live life to the fullest now, but rather is waiting because she wants to enjoy her dreams with a husband; and “The Trailblazer” has no interest in marriage and is sick of having to defend her decision. I think it’s crazy that most books for single women assume that singles all have the exact same needs and wants.

The book is also for family members—especially moms!—and married friends who want to better understand the issues concerning the single women in their lives. After reading this book, they will definitely have a better sense of what to say around single women.

Does this phenomenon of women waiting longer to marry impact Jewish women in any particular way?

Yes. I read an article called “Is e-Dating Good for Jewish Women?” in Lilith Magazine in which the author, Susan Schnur, stated that Jewish women “remain, of all Caucasian groups in America, the ones least likely to marry, and statistical trends suggest that these numbers are growing.” I’m not exactly sure why this is (maybe, in part, it’s because we place such an emphasis on higher education?), but I thought this was fascinating.

In the introduction of your book, you talk about how you experienced both sidesbeing single “late” in life and getting married and having a baby in your thirties. Did this help you better relate to all types of women during your interviews?

Yes, I could so relate to the pressure most single women still feel in our society to get married—whether they even want to or not. Too many people treated my single status as a puzzle to solve and offered constant advice on my love life without being asked. I often felt like I had to defend my actions to find Mr. Right so that other people could feel better.

Now that I’m married, I also know that marriage and a baby are not “happily ever after.” I love my husband and my daughter, but with my family came new concerns and issues. How do I balance my passion for my work with the time my family needs? How do I make sure I’m getting in enough time with my girlfriends? Are my husband and I planning enough date nights? I miss spontaneous travel. Marriage is not “the answer.” Learning how to tap into your own needs—which shift all the time—and figure out how to fulfill them is the answer.

In the introduction, you also discuss what, as a single woman, you didn’t want to hear. That said, what do single women want to hear?

Many of the women I interviewed would like to be asked questions that have nothing to do with their love lives. Why not ask them about their careers, their passions, their hobbies, their favorite restaurants… anything else! If they bring up the topic of being single, questions are usually good. Ask them how they feel about being single and what kind of relationships they’re interested in. Then listen, without judging them or telling them what they should do. Offer advice only if it’s sought.

By writing this book, what do you feel you have accomplished personally?

I’ve spent the last 20 years writing articles and books—and now a film—that encourage women to explore their own life choices. I feel incredibly fulfilled when I can show women how to block out the pressure from others so they can tune into what’s right for them. You can’t possibly fulfill yourself until you figure out your own individual needs, and I give readers concrete strategies to do that in the book.

So how do you find “happily ever after”?

I think you stop seeking it and focus instead on becoming resilient. There’s so much push in our culture to achieve happiness as if it’s a state of being. It’s not; it’s a fleeting emotion that comes and goes. I think it’s much more important to strive for resilience because every life stage is filled with ups and downs. Life is all about enjoying the up moments and knowing intrinsically that you can get back on your feet after the down moments.

Michelle Cove is the editor of 614. She is also the coauthor of the national bestseller I’m Not Mad, I Just Hate You!: A New Understanding of Mother-Daughter Conflict (Viking, 1999), which appeared on several national talk shows, including Oprah and The Today Show. She has been writing and editing for national magazines for the past 15 years, including Psychology Today, Mother Earth News, Girls’ Life, and Family Fun

About the Author

author_rachel_S_CohenRachel S. Cohen
Rachel S. Cohen, a Brandeis University graduate, previously worked for Revista Glamour (Glamour magazine) in Spain and wrote for in New York. She currently works at Massachusetts General Hospital and maintains a blog:

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