When I recently read an article by Lori Gottlieb for the Atlantic magazine, written in 2008, Marry Him! The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough, I was initially saddened by what she had to say: that once a woman is over 30 and is single, she obviously wants to get married and have children. Thus, she should start being less picky because once she gets to 40, the dating pool reduces considerably and she only has the dregs to choose from. Whether you should hold out for the love of your life or settle, Gottlieb is clear:
“My advice is this: Settle! That’s right. Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. 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.”
Following the success – or the controversy – surrounding this article, Gottlieb wrote a book (under the same title) to delve deeper into the issue. She appears to say that the person of our dreams does not exist; that we should give people a chance rather than simply dismiss them because there was no instant chemistry. Go for the ‘8’, she says, instead of holding out for the ‘10’, because you’ll be waiting a long time.
There is the romantic notion that one person can provide us with everything. The Ancient Greeks believed that we received different types of love from different people, with obsession and sexual passion (when combined) being the most troublesome, fleeting and the least important.
We may feel that we are meant to be with our partner, when in reality they may be very wrong for us. But this feeling brings about a sense of familiarity – whether consciously or not – of past relationships. We don’t know what a good relationship is because it is possible that we were never surrounded by one.
So what does it actually mean ‘to settle’? The reason it seems hard for some to find lasting love could be due to the failure of balancing instinct with rationale and charm with character.
To save ourselves from the terrible relationships, we need to think maturely and critically about what we want in a partner and from a relationship. This means accepting the likelihood that the person may not tick all the boxes; but, they must tick those that really matter.
Common dating advice yells at us not to settle. I agree, don’t settle. But before you take this advice to heart, I challenge you to fully understand what settling means. And I challenge you, above all, to date yourself.