About six months after my son was born, he and I were sitting on a blanket at the park with a close friend and her daughter. It was a sunny summer weekend, and other parents and their kids picnicked nearby—mothers munching berries and lounging on the grass, fathers tossing balls with their giddy toddlers. Right yet, surveyed the idyllic scene. But it was also decidedly not the dream.
The dream, like that of our mothers and their mothers from time immemorial, was to fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after.
And despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra to get married young was finally and, it seemed, refreshingly replaced by encouragement to postpone that milestone in pursuit of high ideals education! At their core, they pose one of the most complicated, painful, and pervasive dilemmas many single women are forced to grapple with nowadays: Is it better to be alone, or to settle? My advice is this: Settle! 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.
In fact, it took not settling to make me realize that settling is the better option, and even though settling is a rampant phenomenon, talking about it in a positive light makes people profoundly uncomfortable. Our culture tells us to keep our eyes on the prize while our mothers, who know better, tell us not to be so pickyand the theme of holding out for true love whatever that is—look at the divorce rate permeates our collective mentality. But either way, in episode after episode, as both women continue to be unlucky in love, settling starts to look pretty darn appealing. Mary is supposed to be contentedly independent and fulfilled by her newsroom family, but in fact her life seems lonely.
Are we to assume that at the end of the series, Mary, by then in her late 30s, found her soul mate after the lights in the newsroom went out and her work family was disbanded? She and Ross have passion but have never had long-term stability, and the fireworks she experiences with him but not with Barry might actually turn out to be a liability, given how many times their relationship has already gone up in flames.
Big, will be better off in the framework of marriage and family. Can anyone imagine Mr. But marrying Mr. And I mean this in a good way. The couples my friend and I saw at the park that summer were enviable but not because they seemed so in love—they were enviable because the husbands played with the kids for 20 minutes so their wives could eat lunch.
But when I think about marriage nowadays, my role models are the television characters Will and Grace, who, though Will was gay and his relationship with Grace was platonic, were one of the most romantic couples I can think of. 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.
How many long- married couples are having much sex anyway? Instead, we grew up thinking that marriage meant feeling some kind of divine spark, and so we walked away from uninspiring relationships that might have made us happy in the context of a family. Take the date I went on last night. The guy was substantially older. He was rude to the waiter.
But he very much wanted a family, and he was successful, handsome, and smart. Maybe I can settle for that. But my very next thought was, Maybe I can settle for better. I thought that the person I married would have to have a sense of wonderment about the world, would be both spontaneous and grounded, and would acknowledge that life is hard but also be able to navigate its ups and downs with humor. Others were sweet but so boring that I preferred reading during dinner to sitting through another tedious conversation.
I also dated someone who appeared to be highly compatible with me—we had much in common, and strong physical chemistry—but while our sensibilities were similar, they proved to be a half-note off, so we never quite felt in harmony, or never viewed the world through quite the same lens. We lose sight of our mortality. We forget that we, too, will age and become less alluring.
Which is all the more reason to settle before settling is no longer an option. The actual man in question, though, seems so irrelevant that, to my mind, these women might as well grab a well-dressed guy off the street, drag him into the nearest bar, buy him a drink, and ask him to marry her. The approaches in these books may differ, but the message is the same: more important than love is marriage.
The author then trots out tales of professional, accomplished women happily dating a plumber, a park ranger, and an Army helicopter nurse. He wanted to pursue acting.
Be who god wants you to be
But for everyone else, [his lack of education] is what they see. In my case, though, the flattery backfired. He and my daughter were in the delivery room when my son was born in January Wrong and hiring a divorce lawyer, I felt all jazzed and ready to go.
They also gloss over the cost of dating as a single mom: the time and money spent on online dating because there are no single men at toddler birthday parties ; the babysitter tab for all those boring blind dates; and, most frustrating, hours spent away from your beloved .
At the end of the evening, we rush home to pay the babysitter, make any houseguest tiptoe around and speak in a hushed voice, then wake up at 6 a. But I spend more time with people at my office than I do with my spouse. I know she wants to have. I get to marry the woman of my dreams. Single women are painfully aware of this.
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I hear far more women than men talk about getting married as a goal to be met by a certain deadline. He has no regrets. Now I know better. Either way, I was screwed. The paradox, of course, is that the more it behooves a woman to settle, the less willing she is to settle; a woman in her mid- to late 30s is more discriminating than one in her 20s. She has friends who have known her since childhood, friends who will know her more intimately and understand her more viscerally than any man she meets in midlife.
Her tastes and sense of self are more solidly formed. But the only choices on the table, it sometimes seems, are settle or risk being alone forever.
Before looking for who god wants you to be with
Remember the movie Broadcast News? Meanwhile, her emotional soul mate, the Albert Brooks character, gets married of course and has children. You might as well settle pragmatically. No, the problem is that the very nature of dating leaves women my age to wrestle with a completely different level of settling.
And while I have a much higher tolerance for settling than I did back then, now I have my son to consider. Instead, it supports my argument to do it young, when settling involves constructing a family environment with a perfectly acceptable man who may not trip your romantic trigger—as opposed to doing it older, when settling involves selling your very soul in exchange for damaged goods.
Although, had I had children with a Mr. I also acknowledge the power of the grass-is-always-greener phenomenon, and allow for the possibility that my life alone is better if far more difficult than the life I would have in a comfortable but tepid marriage.
In fact, send him over here! Popular Latest. The Atlantic Crossword. Also see: Interview: "The Case for Mr. Not-Quite Right" Lori Gottlieb talks about soul mates, all-consuming love, and why it makes sense to compromise those ideals.
Video: Lori Gottlieb explains why women should stop holding out for Mr.