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4 mins

Eli Finkel on the Surprising Book that Solved His Writer’s Block

Eli Finkel, bestselling author of The All-or-Nothing Marriage, talks to Terence about marriage, existential philosophy, and everyday acts of self-creation.
by Carrie M. King | May 2 2019

Marriage just ain’t what it used to be. It’s evolved from a utilitarian arrangement ensuring survival and inheritance rights, to a gendered division between home and work, to a more modern agreement where people try, at least in theory, to help each other become their best selves. And for renowned marriage researcher, Eli Finkel, the idea of a best self and its place in marriage posed a bit of a conundrum that stalled his writing progress.

“One of the major challenges that I came to when I realized that many of us these days are expecting marriage to facilitate our voyage of self-discovery, our voyage of personal growth, is trying to figure out what is this thing? What is the self? What is the ideal self?”
Eli Finkel

Finkel picked up Sarah Bakewell’s book, At The Existentialist Café, because, after all, who better to help you understand the nature of selfhood than the existentialists? What he discovered completely changed his view of what it takes to be a person, how we decide who we are, and what that means for the institution of marriage as a whole.

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Who’s Eli Finkel?

Eli Finkel

Eli Finkel, bestselling author of The All-Or-Nothing Marriage, is a professor at Northwestern University, where he has appointments in the psychology department and the Kellogg School of Management and holds the Martin J. and Patricia Koldyke Outstanding Teaching Professorship. In his role as director of Northwestern’s Relationships and Motivation Lab (RAMLAB), he has published 130+ scientific papers and is a regular contributor to the Op-Ed page of The New York Times. The Economist has identified him as “one of the leading lights in the realm of relationship psychology.”

What is Self? Help!

Self? Help! is the podcast for anyone who’s thought: Who the hell am I? What in God’s name am I doing? And how did I get here of all places? Then, to figure it all out, you turned to a book—because you’re that kind of person, and so is your host, Moth Storyteller and creator of Memory Motel, Terence Mickey.

It doesn’t matter from where you seek your guidance—whether it’s Leo Tolstoy or Dr. Seuss. Terence believes that we cannot get enough help in this life and that books are, indeed, magic.

Self? Help! is made by the same people who make Blinkist, a learning app where you can read or listen to the key ideas from a nonfiction bestseller, in just about 15 minutes. You can try Blinkist for free for 14 days when you use the voucher code: finkel

It takes a village to raise a podcast

Self? Help! was created and produced by Terence Mickey, with audio engineering help from Dominick Egley, and production assistance from Nat Darozhkina. Additional audio engineering and ad music by Ben Jackson and Ody Constantinou. This show could not have happened without the help of Caitlin Schiller and Ben Schuman-Stoler, hosts of Blinkist’s other much-loved podcast, Simplify. Thanks also to Joshua Phelps, Lotta Kortekallio, Hugh Brace, Natalia Piana, Justyna Kusa, Sarolta Geréb, Kaleb Wentzel-Fisher, Sarah Moriarty, Sarah Kennedy, Yerang Choi, Clément Halloo, Gloria Ciceri, Emily Phillips, Robyn Kerkhof and Therese Sivertsson.

Say hi!

Tell us what you think of this episode by dropping a line to [email protected]. Send us feedback, questions, comments, or even a wish, if that’s what floats your boat. You can Tweet at Terence directly @terence_mickey or Blinkist @blinkist. More than anything, we want to hear about the books that made a deep impact on you, personally. So please tell us, because #booksaremagic and we want to hear all about them!

Link it all together

If you’re looking for some links to click, allow us to recommend these ones:

Eli Finkel’s website
The Relationships and Motivation Lab
TED: How to Build a Marriage That Truly Meets Your Needs by Eli Finkel

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