Ellen Gootblatt gave no-nonsense advice about how to find a mate for life.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Ellen Gootblatt knew she was in a bad relationship when her boyfriend, a priest in training, gave her up for Lent.
"You don't give up a person. You give up chocolate," she said to the laughter of the 200 or so students who gathered recently for a candid, occasionally confrontational talk on dating, relationships and sex.
Gootblatt, an author, former radio talk-show host, lecturer and self-described relationship expert, shared advice based on her own experiences -- good, bad and Lent-related.
Her duty, she said, was to help people of all ages and romantic states navigate the tricky relationship waters, "from the first hello to till death do you part."
Many times, the students attending the event in the Chestnut Room of Youngstown State University's Kilcawley Center appeared to be taken aback by Gootblatt's demanding speaking style. An energetic 58 years old, she patrolled the audience and called for the students' complete attention, stopping her talk to single out those who had drifted into daydream or conversation.
This is, after all, serious business, and no one is more serious about it than Gootblatt.
"I'm very good," she said. "I'm so proud of what I do. I'm the best speaker I know."
With that, she launched into a nearly two-hour lesson on the finer points of "Meeting, Dating and Mating," one of three topics she addressed, along with "Sex, Passion and Intimacy" and "Men AREN'T Women: Understanding and appreciating the inherent differences between the sexes."
As for her attitude toward sex, she preached liberalism for the old and conservatism for the young, which ruffled a few feathers in the mostly college-aged audience. On "Meeting, Dating and Mating," for example, Gootblatt insisted that the process must proceed in exactly that order.
Though her advice came too late to help wayward singles avoid another lonely Valentine's Day, she offered some handy pointers for the year ahead:
Be talkative. "Open your mouth and say something. You don't have to be brilliant. You just have to talk. Ask questions. It's more important to be interested than interesting."
Narrow your focus. "Get rid of the riff-raff. Get rid of the acquaintances. I have maybe 10 or 11 people in my life who matter to me and whom I matter to."
Don't try to change people. "Take what you can get from your loved ones willingly and lovingly, not what you want to choreograph them into doing."
Think friendship. "Ask yourself: If my romance were to end tomorrow, would I still want this person in my life as a friend forever?"
Be realistic. "Two terrific people may not be terrific to, with and for each other. In some cases, the love of your life might not be the right person for you."
Re-think your expectations. "It is more important to know what you don't want in a relationship than what you do want. What I wanted when I was 18 seemed hysterical when I was 30."
Don't have sex till you're ready... "Great sex is being able to completely surrender yourself to another human being. Take your sweet time. It's not a race. If you're healthy, you'll be making love when you're 80. A little bit more slowly, but, God willing, you will be."
... Or till you're with the right person. "If you are with the right person, sex is magnificent. If whether you sleep with somebody or not is the barometer of whether they stay with you or not, you've chosen an idiot."
Be confident. "Ask yourself: Does this person deserve me? Don't audition for anybody. Don't sell yourself to anybody. If you are not good enough for another person, that's their problem."
Trust is key. "Without trust, you have nothing. Jealousy is a waste of your time and energy. Your partner could be swimming naked with five beautiful women, and nothing will happen, because you trust him."
Put yourself first. "Make yourself fabulous before you think of reaching out to another human being. Don't you dare reach for someone else to complete you. You were not put on this earth to be rescued."
If it's bad, walk away. "The wrong relationship will kill you. You cannot manufacture something good from something rotten. So many people choose wrong because they're terrified of being alone."