Over a year ago an article appeared in The Atlantic by a very brave woman named Lori Gottlieb around the very controversial topic of “settling.” Her advice – settle. Stop being picky. Realize good men aren’t easy to come by, and marry the one you’ve got so long as he’s good enough.
Her words: “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. (It’s hard to maintain that level of zing when the conversation morphs into discussions about who’s changing the diapers or balancing the checkbook.)”
Two of her supporting thoughts:
- When we’re holding out for deep romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier. But marrying Mr. Good Enough might be an equally viable option, especially if you’re looking for a stable, reliable life companion.
- I don’t mean to say that settling is ideal. I’m simply saying that it might have gotten an undeservedly bad rap. As the only single woman in my son’s mommy-and-me group, I used to listen each week to a litany of unrelenting complaints about people’s husbands and feel pretty good about my decision to hold out for the right guy, only to realize that these women wouldn’t trade places with me for a second, no matter how dull their marriages might be or how desperately they might long for a different husband.
If you kept reading you’re now either enraged, enlightened or in total agreement. I – and if you know me this comes as no surprise – was all three after I first read the piece.
Since then I’ve read it at least five times trying to make a judgement one way or another on how I would feel if I were this woman and how I personally feel now. Thanks to Em and a recent BC girls gmail chain, I’ve finally come to some conclusions. Here goes:
There is a distinct difference between “settling” and “choosing a life you know you don’t want.”
Settling is knowing your man is probably not THE best looking man you could find, but he’s X,Y,Z other things you want and need; realizing the guy you marry doesn’t have the exact job you evisioned telling co-workers at holiday parties (“my husband, the MTV executive”) but that he has a solid, stable income; understanding that the fact that he is probably going to watch football every single Sunday even though you hate football with all your might will just have to stay because he’ll make a really amazing Dad. Not loving his mother but dealing. Not loving the fact that he wants to raise a family on Long Island not Manhattan, but swallowing your pride (read: my pride). To me those details (plus…) are settling. Saying yes to marrying a man you know you do not then and probably will not ever love is a very different thing. That thing, I cannot support. The former, I get.
There is probably some truth in the fact that you may end up happier, in the long-run, with someone you’re technically settling for.
I think there is very strong validity to the fact that you may be happier in the long run marrying the guy you’re “settling” for versus marrying your Mr. Big. I firmly believe that Carrie would have been happier with Aiden after 10,20,30 years than she will be with Big, if it lasts even that long. Yes, I know these are not real people (most of the time), but that idea of a crazy, passionate, cannot live without each other love and our search for that love is very real. Sometimes people get both that passion and the happiness/stability of a life with a guy that – as Abby likes to say – “looks like a husband” (read: not like a Brad Pitt) – but I think this case for growing into love being potentially more successful is an interesting and maybe true one. I said maybe.
Most of the problem is in the word “settling”
And finally – I think if this writer hadn’t used the word “settling” once in her entire piece but – as she even admits other self-help books do – had changed her message to “don’t be so picky” or “see the beauty in men you might not otherwise choose” or “at 35, start to think about stability and not sweep-you-off-your-feet” people wouldn’t take NEARLY as much issue with this article. We cringe at the word settling. We never, ever want to admit we’re even emphathetic to it because it means we’ve given up on having everything we want…and deserve. So this article – though attempting to be about logic and sense – can never really be read in that context, even by the most sensible of women, because it pulls to hard at those damn heartstrings of hope.
So will I someday settle? Maaaaybe. But will I ever, ever admit that I did? Nope.
Now, let the arguments begin.