Tag Archives: high standards for mate

Is There a Case for Settling in Marriage?

Single women say finding a man with 80% of what they want would be “settling,” but single men say finding a woman with 80% of what they seek would be “a catch.” I’ve heard these statements before, but author Lori Gottlieb backed them up with a scientific survey. Her controversial book, Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough is not really about settling at all. It’s about women needing to have more realistic expectations of Mr. Right.

Gottlieb was a woman with ultra-high standards. She thought women should have it all and shouldn’t settle for anything less; compromise was not a part of her vocabulary. She had many prospects in her 20s and 30s, but none was good enough. Then, she found herself single and 40, the mother of a donor-conceived baby, when she realized she would have made very different choices about marriage and family if she had know what truly would make her happy. She realized the loneliness she felt was not assuaged with a child. “It was different and perhaps even compounded. It’s both single-person loneliness and the loneliness of not sharing the little moments of my son’s life with someone who cares about him as profoundly as I do.”

She realizes she hadn’t been picky about the important stuff, but rather about the trivial stuff that doesn’t matter a decade or two into marriage “when you’re more concerned about child care and contented companionship than you are about height or hairlines.”

For those of us who are married, Gottlieb seems to make a lot of sense. But when you see her interviewed on national TV, they always pair her with a young professional woman who still believes there is one perfect man out there who will make her every dream come true, or with a woman who believes a marital partner is not necessary to make a woman happy. They get hung up on the word “settle” and feel doing so would be compromising their integrity. Gottlieb has been called “an affront to the entire woman’s movement.” She’s been called desperate, but she says she is only wiser. She has a better picture of who Mr. Right is, and his name is Mr. Good Enough.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not as perfect a wife as I thought I’d be, and my dear husband has one or two flaws as well. If we looked for perfection, we wouldn’t find it. I agreed with the wife in a Washington Post article about Gottlieb’s book who said “if I had made a list of what I wanted in a husband, I would not have had the wisdom, creativity and self-awareness to create a husband as wonderfully quirky and perfect for me as my husband is.”

Still, one can argue that a woman should know what she wants in a husband. I’ve known several women who have listed out their priorities and found great men to match them. The key is to know what your deal breakers are, and to know that they are not superficial. Physical attributes can’t be counted on. Job status is not permanent. However, certain character traits, common values and goals, and similarities in faith may be important to your long-term happiness.

Gottlieb says that recognizing both she and a potential Mr. Good Enough have less-than-ideal qualities is not settling—it’s maturity. It’s the kind of maturity that admits companionship and compatibility are as important as passion. “Nothing about good enough implies that you haven’t found a true love—or in fact, a much deeper kind of love.”

If you’re married, did you have a list of must-haves before you wed? If so, were they met? Do you think women are too picky in dating? Or do you think women shouldn’t feel pressure to “settle” in such an important relationship?