Thursday, February 21, 2008

Is settling the way to go?

I read this article today by Lori Gottlieb, and I'm wondering what yall think of it. It's been stuck in my head all day. The gist of it is this quote, but of course it is better to read the whole thing:

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.)

I wonder. I got married when I was 30 and it sure felt like he was The One, which I interpreted to be so largely because he was the first person I ever wanted to have babies with. I can't deny that I had gotten "old" enough to face that I might be alone forever (honestly, the prospect was not that bad, after the initial anxiety passed) and might not have children (this was worse, but still okay). I loved some things about being single, but it sure was a club that anyone dropped out of as soon as they got the chance, and I didn't love that about it.

She's right I guess. We could approach marriage like the creation of a small corporation that provides "infrastructure" for family. We could have our parents or churches arrange it for us. And (she doesn't say this) look for passion outside the marriage or channel it into our children or work. But more of us would have babies, yall. Babies. It's what we all really want, anyway. (!)

I don't have anything intelligent to say about this, except that I feel very sad for all of us. Not lucky or superior that my situation is on the greener side of her fence. Just really? Is this really how it is?

If yall have any thoughts, you just think them out loud here. I'll go put the kettle on.


Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

"What I long for in a marriage is that sense of having a partner in crime. Someone who knows your day-to-day trivia. Someone who both calls you on your bullshit and puts up with your quirks."

This is the quote that stuck with me. Maybe because it is what I have, and what I treasure.

I met my husband when I was 16 and married him when I was 23 (20 years ago), so I can't really relate to the worries of the long-time, clock-ticking singles.

I do know I had very specific ideas about what I wanted out of life, and hence from a mate. I also knew what I didn't want. I don't feel I "settled," but I do think I had realistic expectations about what love is, and what a marriage needs to work.

I would never advocate "settling" for someone you don't love, but I have the sense that the author is realizing she might have been unrealistic in her ideas about what constitutes love.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it is settling as much as realism.

Bea said...

It depends entirely on the person. Two of my closest friends approached the decision to marry very analytically - they were emphatically NOT carried away by passion, and in fact it was very difficult for them to achieve peace of mind about their decision. I don't think that this had anything to do with the particular partner they chose: it's their personality to approach any major decision with their head instead of their heart.

After my first marriage collapsed, I believed for awhile that my problem had been that I did the opposite: I had been in love, and therefore I made faulty decisions. Then I got married again, this time happily and equally passionately. So I think that says more about me than it does about either of the men I married. (I did get advice from my more rational-minded friends the second time, though, recognizing that my own judgment was potentially impaired.)

Melissa said...

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

I find it interesting that the author goes to great lengths to give relationship advice about settling, but still has excuses about why she hasn't settled. She says it's because she should have settled when she was younger. Well... what do you think she'll be saying in 20 years? "I should have settled when I was in my 40s!"

I think the woman is full of %$#! ;) When she settles (which will likely be never) let me know!

As for what she says, I think it depends on what someone's goals are. If they really want to be married and really want to have children with someone, then I think settling is fine. If their priority is to live a traditional "family life" then I think they should do whatever they need to make that dream come true. I'd see it more as a job application to be filled than a romance requirement. Find the best person available for the job.

If someone isn't as hung up on the idea of family or kids and wants a relationship, then IMO, it'd depend on what kind of relationship they wanted. Do they want someone to live with and be with as they get older? A companion? Then, again I'd say, look at it as a job position that needs to be filled. Who fits it best? Get a companion. Marry or don't marry but get a companion.

If, however, what someone longs for is "true love" and a soulmate, they should never, absolutely, in no way whatsoever "settle." If that kind of love and connection is the goal, then I think there's no settling option. Better to be alone than stuck with the burdens of a relationship with someone who, for them, is not worth the effort. Relationships take a lot of effort and you give up a LOT when you enter a relationship/marriage. If you're getting something out of that sacrifice that's worth it (a family that you wanted, children that you wanted, companionship in your old age so you're not alone) then yeah, it's worth it. Compromise is part of life. But if none of those things are really important to someone and they'd only be willing to give up certain things for their "ideal love?" -And they don't have that because they settled? Then they're sacrificing for.... nothing!

Again, I think it depends on what someone's goals are and what they really want in their life.

(Geeze that could have been my post for today! Lol! I may come back at some point and use this! :D )

Mary Alice said...

Oh, I love a good thought provoking post. Here’s what I think:

Good chemistry is wonderful – that spark that lights inside you when you see the other person. So I’m not sure I would use the term “settle” – but I would say, that people need to be careful when looking for the “perfect” mate. There is no such thing as perfect. I certainly wouldn’t want someone measuring me up to some invented list of perfect attributes. Find someone who makes you smile, someone with whom you are happy when you are together, someone with whom you can be completely yourself, someone who you can talk to - and all those other silly little quirks that don’t match your “perfect attribute list” like leaving their closet door perpetually open - well, let those go…’re not perfect either.

MamaBird said...

Oh, nice *question* -- I have long thought that I was completely out of sync with the majority of women because I really never wanted to get married or have babies abstractly. Then Melissa (and you should totes make that a blogpost, I loved it!) nailed it. The whole passionate love thing? That's what I wanted, hook line and sinker, soulmatedom. And, like Jenn, I found it young (19) which was funny for me as I thought, feminist that I am, that I might never marry. And here I am a SAHM... Life is funny and I am sure it doesn't work out the way any of us think it will. I think instead of framing love as a dispiriting "Settle for it" equation, that we might think instead of love as life that it will not come in the forms we imagine, so it's best to let go trying to control everything. But hey, now that I *have* babies? I so totally get why my mom was constantly harping on the whole "Nothing in life is as magical as being a mom" kick which bugged the everlasting cr*p out of me as a teenager. What am I trying to say? That I understand the motivation for the author saying to people that they should settle. Cause kids *are* pretty freaking magical. But so is living a fulfilled life and it is a serious consideration to enter into a non-soulmatey partnership if that's what your desire was to begin with. Lovey as they are, kids pound the everliving sugar out of a relationship. I'll stop! Thanks Nora Bee for such thoughtful posting.

She She said...

I think settling is a poor choice of words. I think, at least for me, it was a shift in my criteria for what would make a good marriage. I certainly wouldn't want to be married to any of the passionate men I knew in my teens and early twenties!

HRH said...

That made me sad too. I agree with the destination, but I don't think settling is the best route.

Mac and Cheese said...

I think that "settling" to some may just mean giving up the "Hollywood" version of love/passion/marriage. In that context, by all means, settle.

Nora said...

Settling. Satisficing. I can't do it. I've tried, trust me. All my friends are getting married and i wonder when it's my turn but guess what? The fact that he doesn't thank waitresses, dislikes penguins, etc etc REALLY annoys me. Why would I want to spend half of my life being annoyed with my husband for something I knew about in advance? I'd rather find out I'm annoyed cause he leaves his wet socks on the bathroom floor and leaves his dirty dishes on the floor.

There's a reason I'm single. I have a list. I'm not compromising. And my friends told me they know I won't settle. I'll probably be the last person in my group to get married and I'm okay with that. Call me old-fashioned but I want to marry for the passion and everything that goes along with a close relationship: best friends, trust, etc etc. And if it doesn't work? Well, they tell you what doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

I think the divorce rate is so high BECAUSE people satisfice and settle.

That's just me. But thanks for the chance to voice my opinion and for getting my mind stimulated on this icy, Friday, work day!

lapoflux said...

Oh no - I have seen what can happen to a marriage once you start having kids... imagine if you didn't have memories of when he turned your knees to jello to see you through the days when you can't remember why you're doing all this anyways? And hope those moments will come back around?
I know I am lucky to not have settled, and am thankful I didn't have to.

Vanessa said...

I saw the article and it makes me seething mad! Why settle? We all deserve the best in our lives. We all deserve to be happy. Have you ever been to the site They just had a big QA party over on Bainbridge for Valentines Day otherwise known as International QuirkyAlone Day. I think the divorce rate is so high because so many people settle than realize they wish they had chosen differently later. Its like really wanting chocolate but then having a bite of broccoli instead and telling yourself over and over its ok, it's a good compromise. Its doesn't make you stop wanting that chocolate.

ellen said...

A whole banquet for thought! I had to print out the "article" and haven't yet read it, and it may not be read for days as I have family coming...but I do want to read it and reflect on it, and respond. I am, I would guess, in the minority when it comes to your readers...OLD.
It is GOOD to think and question why we take, or will take the paths we decide to walk, even for me who made that choice in 1962!
I hope it will be acceptable to be very late to the game.
This is good, thank you Nora.

JCK said...

I'm not exactly with her on this one. I came to marriage a little later - I was 34. My husband was 38. Neither of us had ever been married before. Marriage was something I always thought would come...eventually. I wasn't in a rush. Then I also assumed babies would come and know my story on that!

However, I do think that many times one's biological clock suddenly descends, seemingly out of nowhere..and that is bizarre at best. But, there are women who don't want to marry and who don't want children.

As for may be more practical, but I could never do it. Marriage is hard enough. I couldn't imagine trying to do it without the love factor - and if not passion regularly, at least a history of it.

Great topic!

As far as settling

Nora Bee said...

Wow, these comments have really made me think and given voice to a lot of my feelings on the subject. I think the way she frames it is doomed to make me sad. Like there is no personal soul-searching to be done on her part except to "settle" or not. I, too, am so happy not to have married any of the "passions" of my twenties, and honestly would rather be alone. And I'm thrilled that I find my man's family priorities pretty darn passionate. And yes, kids are a major strain, and if there isn't that foundation to look back on I don't know what I'd do. It's a pickle, isn't it? Thinking we have control over such a wild game as finding a mate. Thank you, all! (And Ellen, yes! Whenever you have time.)


married to bad mom said...

I would hate to think Stephanie "settled" for me. I'm not perfect but the list of positives was way longer than the negatives (for both of us).

I would rather have an arranged marriage (friends and family know you well) than a 'settled' marriage.


Tootsie Farklepants said...

Eh. Fooey. I agree with what Melissa said.

I also have a couple of girlfriends in their 30's and our conversations dont' resort to uncomfortable laughter about marriage and old eggs. Why? Because neither of them are interested in the traditional life. They're successful in their careers, have 401K's, travel extensively, and enjoy being single. Frankly I think they listen to our married with children gripes and think, WHEW! Bullet dodged.

Mrs. G. said...

I would rather be alone than settle. I'm not sure I could have sustained such a long marriage if I hadn't had the zing of that initial crazy love.

Michelle Hix said...

She lost me at halitosis! That just went too far!

Childlife said...

I think that like most good, believable lies, the article was filled with half-truths. She got a few things right: Marriage isn't a 24/7 passion-fest, absolute perfection really IS a myth, and if you are unwilling to overlook even the tiniest flaw, you might be passing on a great thing. That much was true.

But I think the whole concept of "just settle" condemns yourself and the person you "settled" for to a dissatisfied, frustrating life. Whether she wants to believe it or not, soul mates exist and they're worth waiting for.

I think it's worth clarifying though, that a man doesn't have to share your passion for shoe-shopping, the symphony, or English Literature in order to qualify as a soul mate. I don't need a clone of me and I don't expect my husband to share every single little passion of my heart. That's too much pressure... to much to expect. That's what friends outside a marriage are for. Spouses need to give each other breathing space to be different people.

And people have annoying quirks. EVERYONE does. My husband and I annoy the living daylights out of each other on a regular basis. But we're most definitely soul mates, best friends, a team, and very much in love after nearly 13 years of marriage. Still in love and 100% committed even after numerous years of extreme medical challenges capable of busting up even the happiest happy ever after.

Because of that, I can overlook the fact that after 13 years, I've never been able to convince him to stop slurping with a cupped palm from the bathroom sink when he brushes his teeth or to put away the newspaper when he's done with it. But putting up with quirks is not settling. Settling is something else entirely.

I was once given the following advice on choosing a husband... "Don't choose the face that you can look across the breakfast table and live with. Choose the one you can't live without." I chose the one I couldn't live without. My life is full and rich and filled to brimming with all sorts of marvelously annoying quirks because of that choice. Doing anything else would have been settling.

I don't usually leave such long comments, Nora Bee, but such a thoughtful post deserved a real answer.

Childlife said...

And I should add that while marriage isn't a 24/7 passion-fest, passion is still important. We still have passion in our marriage and couldn't imagine life without it. It's just not the all-consuming ever-present mythical Hollywood version of passion (which is really just a faded carbon copy of the real deal if you ask me). I think our society really mis-defines passion. In my world, passion is a kiss on the forehead and a whisper in the ear at the close of a long hard day telling me that I look gorgeous in a spit-up on T-shirt and yoga pants, a shared smile and a wink over the tops of our kiddos heads as we load them into car-seats, watching the man I married tenderly tuck his little girl back into bed for the fifth time in an evening. Real passion is so much more than the Hollywood myth.

Nora Bee said...

Childlife: thanks for this very thoughtful reply. I love your description of finding passion and intensity in the everyday details, and find it a much more comforting way to view the world. Thank you!

She She said...


Did you hear about this? Tobey Maguire is going to make a movie out of this article.

Alesia (SheShe)

Melissa said...

Oh, that's disappointing, seeing as I disagreed with her! (see above) Why didn't he make a movie based on our dicussion HERE! Lol!