The new book that tells women to settle for Mr. Good Enough
When the controversial article Marry Him! by Lori Gottlieb appeared in The Atlantic in 2008, it made a lot of folks mad. The piece encouraged women to settle for a good-enough man instead of searching for their soul mate. Gottlieb said that a woman’s desirability in the dating market will decline with age, and that if she’s in her thirties and finds a guy who’s an “8”, she shouldn’t hold out for a “10”. <!–more–> She even asserted that women who settle are happier in the long run, because their marriages are based on a practical set of shared values, rather than on unpredictable and often fleeting feelings of romantic love.
The book that Gottlieb wrote based on that article, Marry Him – The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, hits bookshelves today. And predictably, the backlash has already begun. One Jezebel blogger called the book “solidly the most unpleasant reading experience I’ve had in the last five years”, and an article on the Huff Post says that Gottlieb’s message is “dark ages nonsense in a modern disguise”.
But here’s the thing: What Gottlieb tries to convey to women sounds to me like honest, practical advice. It’s her use of the word “settle” that gets people all riled up and indignant. And yes, it’s a crappy word; sensational and likely chosen because it stirs up controversy, which sells books. But the message that I hear from Gottlieb is this: “You’ve been sold a bill of goods; a story about great romance and burning desire that only exists in Hollywood movies and in your twenties with handsome strangers. Marriage can have some of that, but it’s also about balancing checkbooks and changing poop diapers. So if you want to have a family, stop looking for a fairy tale, and open your eyes to the flawed but stable and lovely men you’ve been passing over.”
Gottleib ended several solid relationships that could have led to marriage to wait for her soul mate. But when she turned 40 and he hadn’t yet arrived, she got pregnant via a sperm donor and became a single mom. Gottlieb sees herself as a “dating casualty”, and is now sure that a boring but stable marriage is preferable to going it alone:
“My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling ‘Bravo!’ in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.”
What do you think? Did you, or would you, settle for Mr. Good Enough? Is Gottlieb bravely speaking the truth, or does her message insult single women and encourage them to compromise too much?