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Love and Marriage

By Laura Hine

Photography by Katrina Wittkamp

12.21.17

Northwestern University’s Eli J. Finkel brings passion to the study of relationships and expectations.

IT'S AMAZING TO me that anyone wants to do anything else,” says Eli J. Finkel, author of the new book The All-or-Nothing Marriage: How the Best Marriages Work ($28, Dutton). We’re talking about his book, but more broadly his field of relationship studies. “My job is to ask questions about how humans relate, how intimacy works, how passion works... and then I need to figure out novel ways to study those things scientifically.” The director of Northwestern University’s Relationships and Motivation Lab launched his latest line of inquiry with a 2014 article in The New York Times that stated the central argument of what would become his book: Average marriages are weaker than they were in the past, but the best marriages are stronger and more satisfying. The book—an obvious follow-up after the article’s splash—fleshes out that idea, plus adds some tips, “lovehacks,” all backed by academic research. Finkel took a quarter off of teaching for the book tour—Chicago Ideas Week, NPR, PopTech—but he’s already working with Kellogg School of Management on his next line of research: work motivation. “Our expectations of marriage have changed,” Finkel says. “And we’re seeing the same things at work, especially among the college-educated. Because people are pushing and ambitious, they’ll continue to look around until they find a job or career that is more fulfilling.” Love and work: If you get those two figured out, a lot of the rest falls into place. That paraphrased prescription is often credited to Sigmund Freud, but give Finkel his due. He’s helping us balance our high expectations for career and marriage with strategies to make the magic happen. Book signing and lecture, Feb. 5, noon, tickets $25, University Club of Chicago