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Relationships, science and self-help: A Q&A with Paul C. Brunson

You know the old Facebook line:  relationships are complicated.  Paul C. Brunson, the Modern Day Matchmaker, knows that better than anyone else.  And his new book, IT'S COMPLICATED (BUT IT DOESN'T HAVE TO BE): A MODERN GUIDE TO FINDING AND KEEPING LOVE, approaches self-help with a new angle:  by mixing experience, science and plain old common sense.  Here, Brunson talks about relationship "rules," the tools of a modern day matchmaker, science and self-help, and the concept of soul mates.

Q:  What inspired you to write IT'S COMPLICATED?

BRUNSON:  There were a couple reasons. The kind of big, overwhelming reason was that I am a big reader. On my desk I always have a stack of books from a variety of genres about relationships. I might have a pickup artist book, a Neil Strauss type thing. It could be more like anthropology, you know Helen Fisher type deal, or some modern marriage stuff like Lori Gottlieb. I’d always have like six, seven books and I’d use them as a reference whether I was working with a client or going out to a seminar. It just hit me that I have not yet been able to find one book that synthesized all of these various genres and breaks it out in a very simplistic way for those that are seeking to be in a relationship or maintain their relationship. I thought, wow, if I can grab part of the best concepts from these books as well as the experience I've had with my clients and my own personal relationship with my wife and I could really create something fresh and unique.

Q:  Do you really think that there is a specific set of "rules" that works for every relationship?

BRUNSON:  That’s a great question. Yeah, I definitely do. I think that if you distill it down to the basics then absolutely. I think if we get super nuanced, then no, you can’t universally apply it.  But when you think about something really simple like you have to truly love yourself before you can go about loving someone else, then, yes, absolutely. If you think about needing to have a strong communication skills and actually understand what that means. Yeah, absolutely. You have to be able to resolve problems and conflict resolution--it's the kind of the underpinning of any successful relationship whether it's love or business. So I definitely think that there are some rules that universally apply and then there are others that definitely do not.

Q:  As the Modern Day Matchmaker, what kind of tools are in your toolkit to help bring the right people together?

BRUNSON:  Lots of things.  But it's the science piece of the puzzle that I’m actually most jazzed about.  For so long it’s been poets and artists and authors writing about this thing called love and it's all been about what's derived from our hearts. The science community is now telling us that love is directed from other places, mainly our brain. That is a concept that in 2012 is still not grasped by the mainstream. I believe that once we start to grasp that concept and understand that we actually have a lot more control over love and over our relationships than we previously thought, that translates into creating hope. And so when we get down to what’s in my toolbox is, it's really about dispelling all those myths out there about relationships.

Q:  One of the things I love about the book is that you say that love doesn't have to last forever.  That challenges what everyone is looking for--doesn't it go against the fairy tale?

BRUNSON:  To make that statement is controversial.  The big question I always get is how do you know if someone is the one, my soul mate?  And I believe that you don’t know that person is the one until it’s done, until love has met its end. In my opinion, soul mates are made, not found. But, the more important thing, is the fact that we lose love and then we gain love and we lose love again.  I really think that’s a cornerstone of humanity, and it’s something that once we accept it becomes very empowering because we realize that if we have lost love in our lives that we can gain it back again.

Q:  What kind of person should use a matchmaker?

BRUNSON:  First, there are all kind of matchmakers out there.  I wish we were a more regulated industry.  But from my perspective, you have to be willing to work as hard as we do.  Our clients have reached the extent of trying what they feel to be everything, they feel like they've exhausted all of their options.  They've tried new things, gone out with friends, gone online, tried to do everything they could to find someone.  They haven't lost hope--but they feel like they need more assistance.  That's the right time to come to a matchmaker like me. 

Q:  Given the changing nature of marriage, does it make sense anymore?

BRUNSON:  Marriage makes sense for certain people and not for others. Marriage is not for everyone. I believe that society has kind of told us, and still, to a certain extent, is saying that everyone at some point everyone should be married and if you don’t get married you’re a failure. But marriage is not for everyone. That being said, there are many, many, many benefits to marriage. Benefits as it relates to the individual but also benefits as it relates to community and society. 

Q:  So given all the science that's out there about relationships, what should people interested in finding and keeping a mate be paying attention to? 

BRUNSON:  I believe that there are variables that can be controlled, that can allow us to love better, if you will. Love in a stronger way, communicate in a healthier way, bond in a stronger way. But we have to understand the science of it.  It's very powerful.  If more people inquired about the science of love there could be a much stronger connection.  And it's going to play an increasingly larger role in shaping how we date, why we do it, how we do it in the future.  And that's a very cool thing. 


Photo Credit:  Jeff Davies/

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