When author and journalist Lori Gottlieb found herself single, 40, and a mom (she conceived through a sperm donor) after years spent in search of Mr. Right, she didn’t partake in a pity party over why she never met The One. Instead, she decided to write an essay in March 2008 for The Atlantic about what she thought other women could learn from her experience. Today, it’s the foundation for her new book “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough.” In it, Gottlieb shares her own desire for a husband and interviews experts as well as unmarried and married men and women about how single women might be jeopardizing their chances of long-term romantic happiness by hastily dismissing lessthan-perfect mates for the elusive Prince Charming. What she learned about what makes a successful relationship can be applied not just to singles, but to married moms and dads as well.
What made you decide to write a book helping single women examine why they weren’t meeting “Mr. Right”?
It was a question that I had in my own life. It seemed to me that when I talked to my married friends about what made them happy in their own marriages and what made them fall in love with their own husband, it had very little to do with what my friends and I who were still dating were looking for, and the things we would disqualify guys based on. I started to wonder, “Are we looking for the wrong things? And if so, what should we be looking for?”
Why do you think many women seem to have unrealistic expectations when it comes to finding their potential mate?
It’s a lot of things. There used to be a sense of community more so than there is today, and I think that the older generation would talk to the younger generation and give them important information about what actually makes people happy long-term in a relationship. Also, there’s always been fairytales, but I think what’s different is that a lot of women today have added the idea that they deserve something that is [in reality] so unrealistic. So there’s a sense of, “I want the best” and “I deserve the best and compromise is selling my soul.” But compromise is integral to any healthy long-term relationship. And they [unmarried women] forget that someone’s going to have to compromise to be with them as well.
You write that if single women intend to find someone to marry, they should “settle.” What do you really mean when you say that?
The word is really used in the title to get people to think about what that word [settling] means in our culture. I’m not talking about being with somebody that you’re not in love with. I’m saying open up your mind so that you can fall in love. There’s a survey in the book where
men and women were asked if you got 80 % of every ideal quality that
you wanted in a partner, would you be happy? And 93% of women said “80%?
No, that would be settling. I wouldn’t be happy with that.” And most of
the men said, “80%? That’s a catch. I’d be thrilled!” And so the
question that I ask in the book is can we be happy with less than
everything? The research shows that not only can we be happy but that
the people who realize that having less than everything in the fairytale
[is enough]—those people are not just happier in their relationships,
but also in life in general.
Still, why should
women look for Mr. Good Enough instead of Mr. Perfect?
If you’re seeking
perfection, you’re going to rule out a lot of people who can make you
really happy because they didn’t have one thing that you thought was so
important. It’s about letting go of the criteria that you have on your
list that maybe you need to be a little bit more flexible on. You need
to find the perfect partner, not the perfect person.
How might your concept
apply to people who are married or have been married and are looking to
start fresh within their current relationship?
Married women who have read
“Marry Him” have said, “This book has really made me appreciate all the
things that I love about my husband even more. I’m always thinking
about what’s missing or what could be done differently, and instead it
made me realize how lucky I am to be with this person.” I think we have
to really appreciate the people we are with, if we are indeed with the
might “settling” be helpful to a couple who might be contemplating
thing is, [divorce] depends on if you’re in the wrong marriage, in which
case it does make sense go out and find something else. You have to
determine if you’re in the right marriage and if you’re kind of
unrealistic on what marriage is. In the “Good Enough Marriage” chapter, it talks in
detail about women who thought “Oh well, I still love my husband but I
don’t know…I just want something more.” And they would leave [their
marriages] and thought they would be happier. This researcher named Paul
Amato looked at them over 20 years. Every 5 years, he tested them on
scale of depression and marital satisfaction and all these things, if
they were remarried. And he found that they were actually less happy
after they left their marriages, or as happy, but they were never
happier. If they got married again, they basically traded in one set of
problems for another. So there’s always going to be compromises to be
made and people have to remember that.