Single thirtysomethings may talk about settling down, but rarely will they admit they’re settling. Nonetheless, many are, says Lori Gottlieb—and those who aren’t, she advises, should.
Gottlieb’s piece, “Marry Him,” in the March Atlantic, makes the “case for settling for Mr. Good Enough.” Directing her message toward single women over the age of 30, she writes, “If you say you’re not worried, either you’re in denial or you’re lying.”
Gottlieb, who is 40 and single, regrets not having settled for a decent (albeit imperfect) guy years ago. But back then she subscribed to the “somebody isn’t always better than nobody” theory of marriage. In fact, in 2005 she wrote “The XY Files” for The Atlantic, explaining her decision to break up with her long-term boyfriend—someone with whom she felt she lacked a “core connection”—and have a baby with a sperm donor.
Now she realizes her mistake: by holding out for that magic spark, that blinding love, she may have missed out on her chance at happiness with a life partner. “Marriage isn’t a passion-fest,” she writes. “It’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business.” Plus, she says, couples with kids don’t spend that much time together anyway.
So if you rarely see your husband—but he’s a decent guy who takes out the trash and sets up the baby gear, and he provides a second income that allows you to spend time with your child instead of working 60 hours a week to support a family on your own—how much does it matter whether the guy you marry is The One?
Gottlieb expects to be told she’s been “co-opted by the cult of the feminist backlash,” but she insists that settling is a women’s game. Marriage, motherhood, and family life, she says, are the perpetual female dream. Even if post-millennial, self-empowered women won’t admit it, they still long to fall in love and live happily ever after. But even without the all-consuming love, she argues, the “ever after” can still be happy.