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Should Women Settle for Mr. Good Enough?

Should Women Settle for Mr. Good Enough?

Recently, a male friend who has asked me out several times sent me a Facebook message about psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb’s best-selling book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. He thought I might find it interesting, and whether or not this was a ploy to make me regret shooting him down remains unknown. But Gottlieb’s argument that it is better for single women to settle than be alone was indeed interesting.

Gottlieb is by no means a bastion of traditional lifestyle. Her publications are a long list of progressive, liberal, and mainstream outlets, and she’s a columnist at The Atlantic. However, this book did get me thinking about the state of marriage and dating.

American adults are currently delaying marriage more and more and are not having enough babies to replace our current population. And it’s no secret that in 2022, women (especially religious women) who want kids are not served by our promiscuous, broken culture.

In her book, Gottlieb says that being unmarried at 30 brings panic and desperation, especially for women who believe the prevailing notion that the man of their dreams is coming. She is absolutely right on this point. But she not so gently points out that the dream man does not exist, “precisely because you dreamed him up,” and therefore, in a sense, every woman who is married “settled.”

Before the 20th century, marriage was not viewed as a Disney movie ending personally tailored to you. It had religious significance and economic necessity. On the religious side, Catholics believe that marriage is a vocation and that your spouse is literally your vehicle to get to heaven as you grow and sharpen each other. And women had few financial options prior to the middle of the 20th century to support themselves, much less a family. Gottlieb recognizes that we idealize marriage, and she believes that if we understood its benefits (like generations before did), we might do things differently.

In her book, she shares some stories of breakups for reasons that seem comical and ridiculous: One woman broke up with a guy because he did not like to read; another told Gottlieb that she could not spend her life with someone who’s allergic to dogs; yet another did not want to move downtown; and one woman dumped her boyfriend because he was not “curious.”

With these examples, Gottlieb encourages women to not weigh worldly characteristics too heavily—weight, age, looks, height, vacation preferences, and “cosmic connection”—and instead consider who would be a “stable, reliable life companion,” a partner, a teammate, good at running a household, or a great dad. And even without any religious perspective, Gottlieb makes a good point about hobbies and looks changing over time. After all, wouldn’t the divorce rate be lower if women married the man who shared their values instead of the best Instagram-able pet parent?

If a modern single woman’s goal is to marry, have children, and stay married, she’d be smart to start with Gottlieb’s advice: find a man who would be a reliable partner and a great dad, and give men who may not be perfect in every arbitrary way a chance. That cosmic connection may very well develop over time, and priorities will change. At the end of the day, everyone compromises in some way. And if you do marry a man who shares your values, works to build a life with you, and loves your kids, no one in their right mind—including you—is going to say you settled.

Image credit: HippoPx, CC0 1.0



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  • Avatar
    January 30, 2023, 11:39 pm

    Women who are looking for the perfect man need to realize that they are not the perfect woman. None of us are. The women who broke up with men for such shallow reasons as him being allergic to dogs or not being curious deserve the lonely lives they end up with. My husband and I both thought each other was perfect when we got married right out of high school. We soon learned that neither of us was perfect, but 55 years, 3 kids, 8 grandkids and 4 great grandkids later, we are both perfect to each other.

  • Avatar
    January 31, 2023, 1:07 am

    this: is news to me and I grew up roman catholic since the mass was in latin. I never herad this nonsense. Even today I still know a few still in that denomination, nd none hve ever mentioned this idea.
    That said, it IS true that the working of two into one does indeed sharpen, refine, improve, etc. So I suppose there is an hint of practical truth to that.

    Remember the earliest known account of courtship and marriage? Look back to Genesis and find/read the story of Isaac and how he was brought together with his Wife Rebeccah. The account tells how, when she first arrived at Isaac's home "ranch" she jumped off her camel when she sw him and asked "what's he LIKE?" Next thing we readi Isaac thought she was "fair of form and pleasant to look upon". This is followed very sloewly in by "and he took her into his tent and made her hisWife".
    That's their courthip, all the details we have.
    A few years bck Iwas visitong a family I spent a fair bit of tme with, Mum, Dad, six hids fromabout 13 down to 2. Grandma (her Mum) happened to be visiting, I knew NOTHING about er prior to this meeting. After breakfast Mum was busy with the littles, and it being yet cold outside, Grandma and I sat down near the warm woodstove and just began to chat. I asked where she was from, early life etc. She was a surprise baby, next oldest sibling was eight years older than she. Fine. At nine, Mum caught some infectious disease and died. Her next older brother was 17 and left home within a year for work elsewhere. So it was Dad and ten year old daughter. He was well out of his element a hard working farmer type. SHE tells it this way: "at fourteen my Dad traded me off to the neighbour, who had eight kids all grown and gone, and had been widowed several years earlier. Her Dad got a tractor he needed cause his was worn out. They had six children together, all of her stepchildren were older than she, they had 35 years of a wonderful marriage, every one of their children went on tol live normal and productive lives, every one of them servng the Lord. I asked if she had any regrets. She looked at me rather strangely and said why NO, not at all. I'd do it all again in a heartbeat if I could.I've had a wonderful life and its far from over. SHe was 82 at that time. . I have other similar stories of two people coming together in very "strange' circumstances and agreeing to marry and work things out. Not one worked out badly.
    On the other hand I also have LOTS of stories of folks ho got married for all the 'right' reasons everyhing "lining up perfectly" and divorced or abandoned within two years.

  • Avatar
    Tom Fitzpatrick
    January 31, 2023, 2:59 am

    No one should settle, until they make a commitment and get married. Then, it's settled.

    Otherwise, you are a cheat, to your spouse, and your children, and your family and yourself.

  • Avatar
    January 31, 2023, 4:06 am

    Thanks for the beautiful message. I think we've all gotten it backward. We're not supposed to find a perfect mate, we're supposed to love an imperfect one and let perfection grow up between us.

    • Avatar
      Tom Fitzpatrick@Kenneth
      January 31, 2023, 5:41 am

      It's about love, not a spreadsheet.

      And I'm an accountant!

  • Avatar
    J pair
    January 31, 2023, 4:30 pm

    What about men? What should they settle for? This sounds like women are observing men in a shelter, trying to pick out the best one to bring home. Your morals as a woman certainly fit into this relationship. What baggage are you dragging around?


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