Sunday, February 10, 2008

Why Settle?

I know I am not normally a positive person. I know I find a million things to complain about all the time--my neighbors, my neighbors, my neighbors and p.s. my neighbors--but today I am not complaining. Today, thanks to
this article
, I am unabashedly, insanely, ridiculously grateful.

In this piece, the writer (Lori Gottlieb), encourages women to settle for Mr. "good enough" rather than Mr. Right. And while I do think that there is a lot about marriage that is a compromise, overall, I think this is terrible advice. But as my friends have often told me, it is easy for me to think that. It is easy because I am so in love with my husband. Sure, I have accepted some really annoying habits of his. But is it settling that I did not choose to not marry him over poor housekeeping skills, an inability to cook and holes in his socks?

We all have to take the good with the bad and those who know us well know that R certainly brought (more than) his fair share of baggage to the table when we married. There were plenty of compromises that had to be made. But I never compromised the most important thing--the love. In this piece, Gottlieb advocates for forgoing the love in favor of other things: doing the laundry, holding the children, giving mom a break. All of these things are wonderful and I agree that marriage is not a "passion-fest." But is it really too much to ask that a husband be more than just a baby-raising partner?

Perhaps from her perspective as a single 40-something mom, looking in on marriage--any marriage--is preferable to her loneliness. But I can say, from my perspective, as a woman who married relatively young (25), I have seen dozens of marriages that should never have been. My friends often tells me that my ideals are not fair, that the standard I hold marriage to is not realistic and that I am deeply lucky to have found what I found. I agree. I am very lucky. I do not take credit for having found more than just a partnership with my husband. We met when I was 10, so I can hardly claim much more than fate. I know how lucky I am and I (try to) appreciate that everyday.

But the grass is always greener. And there are many times I envy my single friends' abilities to fly off to Brazil (hey K, are you back yet??) and their fun. And believe me, it is far, far preferable to the misery both R and I have seen in some of our friends' marriages. Settling, especially young, is dangerous. It has made for some of the most miserable marriages I know--marriages where insults abound and both partners are compulsive liars (and gamblers and alcoholics). I have seen the misery that comes from "settling."

Towards the end, Gottlieb also veers a bit off course when she implies that settling is not only letting go of some of our romantic visions of love, but also letting go of some of our ideas about what our husband would do career-wise. This is also something with which I take issue. Sure, I am grateful that I have a husband who values education. So do I. I grew up in a family that did. That was important to me. I am the first to admit that during my (very) brief forays into the dating world, not having a college degree--and preferably higher--was a dealbreaker for me with a man. And I did think about money, but not in an "I must catch an investment banker who makes seven figures" kind of way. It was more like: I want a man who is passionate about his career, values education, makes enough that we can live comfortably (in an expensive, cool city) without me having to work and with whom I am very much in love. I found all those things.

Sure, I am lucky. But I have to believe that I would not have it any other way. I was engaged twice before R, once to a crazy person, but once to a person who was so nice and sweet but would have undoubtedly been settling. I could not sleep at night as long as I had that ring. My entire body rejected the idea of marrying the wrong person. I practically broke out in hives, ala Carrie and Aidan in Sex and the City. Gottlieb advocates for Carrie and Aidan. But not me. Big was awful. I hated him. But that passion--and even some of the pain--is worth it.

Love is worth it. I can't imagine my life without it. And I cannot imagine ever telling Sam, well honey, maybe you should just settle for Mr. Good Enough. Hell no. She--and her love--are worth so, so much more than that.

1 comment:

Kristi said...

Great post. If you don't have passion in your marriage (even if it's not to the degree you had it when you were both in your 20s) then you risk losing the glue that holds the family unit together. I haven't yet read the article, but I think "settling" is a very dangerous message to send to women, because when the kids grow up and move away, it's just going to be two people in a very lonely and empty house if there isn't love and passion there.