Patricia Leavy is an acclaimed pop-feminist author and expert commentator as well as a leading qualitative and arts-based researcher with a dozen books to her credit. She is the author of the novel Low-Fat Love (Sense Publishers, 2011) as well as non-fiction books including: Essentials of Transdisciplinary Research: Using Problem-Centered Methodologies (Left Coast Press, 2011), Oral History: Understanding Qualitative Research (Oxford University Press, 2011), Method Meets Art: Arts-Based Research Practice (Guilford Press, 2009) and Iconic Events: Media, Politics and Power in Retelling History (Lexington Press, 2007). Dr. Leavy is currently serving as the editor for two book series: Social Fictions (Sense Publishers) and Understanding Qualitative Research (Oxford University Press). Dr. Leavy is Associate Professor of Sociology and served as the Founding Director of the Gender Studies Program at Stonehill College in Easton, MA. She has appeared on national and local television including Glenn Beck and Lou Dobbs Tonight. She is regularly quoted in such international, national and local print news as The New York Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, and The LA Times and has published op-ed and by-lined articles in various outlets including The Huffington Post. In recognition of her extraordinary contributions to the discipline of sociology, The New England Sociological Association named Dr. Leavy the 2010 “New England Sociologist of the Year.” For more information please visit www.patricialeavy.com.
Alinka: You survived a series of destructive relationships. When did you first recognize that you were in a destructive relationship and what was your initial reaction?
Patricia: There came a point in a past relationship in which I realized that the relationship was psychologically damaging and bringing out insecurities and other negative feelings. It had nothing to do with fault or blame or even a lack of feelings: I had to come to terms with the fact that the relationship was unhealthy and would never work. After some long-term reflection I came to realize that I had settled for less than I really wanted. I had been attracted to someone who withheld their support and thus could never really give me what I wanted. I had to work on myself in order to make sure I would make better choices in the future.
Alinka: How did you manage to change the negative pattern of unfruitful relationships you were in?
Patricia: After my relationship ended I knew I needed to take some time to think about and come to terms with my own role in what was a destructive relationship. I decided that I would no longer settle for less than I really wanted. I realized that I was not unlucky but rather was making my own luck. While humbling at first, this was a very liberating realization because it put my present and future into my own hands. I realized that all I needed to do was change my mindset. Happiness is a choice. Healthy relationships are based on the principles of partnership, not power, and they require two people who have self-respect so that they are able to respect and support another.
Alinka: What does it mean that you changed your mindset? Do you think this is something one could do overnight or does it require more effort?
Patricia: I think you can change your mindset in a moment; however, then it takes a concerted effort to live up to your new way of looking at and approaching life. I made a decision to choose happiness and participate only in healthy relationships. The decision was simple but then putting it into practice takes effort. In the beginning I had to remind myself at every turn that I was committed to my own best interests. Eventually this became habit and the choice to change my mindset just became my way of being in the world.
Alinka: You are now happily married (Congratulations!). How did you meet your husband and would it have been possible to meet him if you hadn’t changed your mindset?
Patricia: Thank you! I met my husband, Mark, doing online dating. I would never have been able to form a partnership with Mark had I not totally changed the way I think about love, relationships and myself. My husband is a truly wonderful man who was open, honest and up to the task of building a partnership from the moment I met him. I needed to be up to the task too. Had I met him earlier in my life I wouldn’t have know what to do with such a giving person. While I am very grateful everyday for finding my husband I wouldn’t classify it as being “lucky” like some might. I think we create our own luck. I became someone open to a real partnership and so I found someone up to building one with me.
Alinka: You just published a novel Low-Fat Love. Could you please tell us about it?
Patricia: Low-Fat Love has been a real labor of love for me and I’m very proud of it. I have taken what I have learned over the years about self-esteem, relationships, communication and love and put it into a fun, chick-lit novel. Low-Fat Love unfolds over three seasons as Prilly Greene and Janice Goldwyn, adversarial editors at a New York press, experience personal change relating to the men (and absence of women) in their lives. Ultimately, each woman is pushed to confront her own image of herself, exploring insecurities, stagnation in life, attraction to men who withhold their support and their reasons for having settled for low-fat love. Along with Prilly and Janice who traipse around New York, tripping over their insecurities, a cast of characters’ stories are interwoven throughout the book. Low-Fat Love is underscored with a commentary about female identity-building and self-acceptance and how, too often, women become trapped in limited visions of themselves. It is my hope that readers will be able to identify with the characters and will come away thinking about their own lives. In short, I hope the book is both fun and empowering.
Alinka: If our readers were to remember just one thing from this interview – what should this be?
Patricia: You make your own luck. It is never too late to become a better version of yourself.