Please. Do not settle.

teenage bridesDear ss,

What is your impression of Lori Gottlieb’s controversial book, Marry Him? As a 49-year-old divorced male with no children who became single again one year ago, I found it extremely captivating. I have been somewhat shy about dating after being married for 18 years and sought her book out for insights before plunging back into the volatile dating world.

In some ways, her conclusions are a bit discouraging for me. Lori asserts that many American women, especially women in the 20s and 30s, are impossibly picky and are focused on finding a perfect 10 to marry (regardless of their own status as a 6, 7 or 8). This often leads to the tragic and unwanted outcome of either an extended sojourn into singlehood or a fruitless relationship with a superficially appealing guy who is exciting/glamorous on the surface (with plenty of physical/emotional chemistry), but who is also incompatible with the woman’s life goals or values and/or lacks the traits that make for a good husband and a good father. As a Jimmy Stewart-type guy who would not pass the Superman test, I’m not sure what to do with her conclusions.

Finding an intelligent, active, kind, respectful, responsible, and open-minded woman who is grounded in things beyond tall, dark, and handsome, would be a gold-mine for me, but apparently I think differently than my contemporaries from both genders. I would greatly appreciate your insights on Lori’s book and any advice you may have.

Jimmy Stewart in Arlington

Dear Jimmy Stewart,

I call complete and utter bullshit on the idea that anyone should settle for Good Enough. BULL. SHIT. (I’m feeling less diplomatic than the first time I blogged about Lori’s book that I still haven’t read.) However, I do somewhat agree with her assertion that many women adhere to a superficial checklist of an impossible ideal. I think men do that, too. I do not think chucking it all in and settling for any old schlub (or schlubette) who can split a mortgage and child-rearing duties is the answer.

Let’s be clear: Lori’s asserting that if an aging woman wants a family, then she should settle. From her article in The Atlantic Monthly: “Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go.” Her premise for this whole idea of settling came out of her own experience as a single mother, having decided to go to a sperm donor to have a kid because she hadn’t met Mr. Right.

“… while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you’re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be relatively content… Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business.”

Personally, I don’t want to be relatively content. I want to be absolutely content with all of my decisions. Do I need a perfect human specimen to feel this way? No. No, I don’t. Also, my friend Cathy brought up a very good point, and I’ll paraphrase her here: “If you’re looking for a relationship about business, you better be prepared to find the business elsewhere.”

So instead of advising that people should settle, how about the idea of people revising their checklist of priorities for a mate? Decide what’s truly important: Someone who is stable and caring and listens and wants to share their life with you in the way that you would like to share it and smells good and gives good hugs—or doesn’t hug much if that’s what you like. Fundamental things. It seems like you have that list for yourself already, Jimmy Stewart, and you deserve someone who has hers together, too.

What does all of this mean for you? Personally, I think you should date when you’re ready to date and only go out with women who are down to earth and who don’t have their heads stuck in a dusting of idealistic perfection. (You can sniff them out pretty quickly.) I am 100% positive there are women out there who are tired of dating guys who are mildly—if not utterly—clueless about nurturing a relationship. And this is where you sweep in with chivalry, consistency, attention and dates that are thoughtfully planned out. That stuff goes a long way. Maybe it doesn’t happen right away, but if you’re confident, grounded and clearheaded, the right women will notice. I’m a big fan of holding out for someone who can truly make you happy.

xo, ss

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