Saturday, March 15, 2008

Settling for Mr. Good Enough

Comediene Lori Gottlieb makes the case for "Settling" for Mr. Good Enough, rather than holding out for Mr. Right. Gottlieb is a 40 year old single mother, who is candid enough to admit that she really did, and still does, want to be married. Some of her article is sad, other parts are wise.
Now, though, I realize that if I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, I’m at the age where I’ll likely need to settle for someone who is settling for me. What I and many women who hold out for true love forget is that we won’t always have the same appeal that we may have had in our 20s and early 30s. Having turned 40, I now have wrinkles, bags under my eyes, and hair in places I didn’t know hair could grow on women. With my nonworking life consumed by thoughts of potty training and playdates, I’ve become a far less interesting person than the one who went on hiking adventures and performed at comedy clubs. But when I chose to have a baby on my own, the plan was that I would continue to search for true connection afterward; it certainly wasn’t that I would have a baby alone only to settle later. After all, wouldn’t it have been wiser to settle for a higher caliber of “not Mr. Right” while my marital value was at its peak?

Those of us who choose not to settle in hopes of finding a soul mate later are almost like teenagers who believe they’re invulnerable to dying in a drunk-driving accident. We lose sight of our mortality. We forget that we, too, will age and become less alluring. And even if some men do find us engaging, and they’re ready to have a family, they’ll likely decide to marry someone younger with whom they can have their own biological children. Which is all the more reason to settle before settling is no longer an option.

For really outstanding commentary on this article, check out my friends at
This article has a deeper and more sophisticated view of love.
Love is a single reality with different dimensions that are needed or emerge at different times. One dimension is necessary to attract a person to another, but this becomes less necessary over time and especially as one matures. This is eros, or the "madness" that intoxicates, displaces reason and drives a person powerfully toward another. It is the central theme for movie romances and modern sitcoms.

But for all its thrills, this dimension is not enough. In fact, on its own it becomes an obstacle to the maturing of the relationship. We see this played out all the time. Love is reduced to its caricature, to the amount of gratification that each can take from it. Bartering begins: "I'll do this if you do that." "I will stay with you as long as the sparks last." "If you love me you will let me do what I want." "I won't have children with you until I have had my career and spent my youth." "You can have children but I am not going to let this cramp my style". "I will absorb all you can give to me, your good humour, good looks, money, sensuality but I am not prepared to give you anything back." It destroys the relationship or at worst leaves spouses in a permanent adolescent-style union.

The other dimension is the reaching out of one person to the other. It is a love that is, indeed, ecstasy -- not a momentary sensual intoxication but an exodus out of oneself, seeking liberation through giving oneself to the other. It is a journey toward authentic self discovery and happiness. This is played out in different ways: the sharing of hopes, dreams, values, desires, sorrows and disappointments, successes and failures, laughter and tears, and of our sexuality by pleasure giving and childbearing.

The overly-romanticized view of love is actually a rather self-centered view of love. I devote several chapters of Love and Economics to love. To love is to will and to do the good of the other. Love is a decision.

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