Why (Some) Women Might Consider Settling

Why (Some) Women Might Consider Settling
I got an email from my sister the other day. She was forwarding an article written by Lori Gottlieb for The Atlantic, called “Marry Him – The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough”. Actually, that’s not quite right. In fact, she was forwarding me a link to a gossip site called Jezebel, which was ripping the author for even posing the notion that settling was a reasonable idea. So first I read the criticism, then I read the article, then I read a post-article interview with Gottlieb, and then I watched Gottlieb defend herself on The Today Show.

It was very clear that Gottlieb was onto a hot-button issue. But why was she getting attacked from all angles? Why the seething vitriol at a single mother who suggests that it might be wiser to compromise at age 34 than to continue searching through a thinning talent pool at age 40? It was clear to me that the messenger was being shot for carrying a controversial message. But it wasn’t fully clear why. So I started talking with the very people who were upset about this piece – single women, 35-45. My clients.

They told me that the piece was offensive.

They told me that it speaks more about the author than it does of them.

They told me they were very happy being single and would sooner die alone than settle.

They told me that it’s unfair to single out women for “settling”. What about men?

Now, to be clear, I am very sympathetic to the plight of women looking for love. No, I’m not a woman, which inherently limits my understanding, but I am a dating coach who listens to the fears and complaints of women every single day. You’d be hard pressed to find a man more attuned to the frustrations of single women than I am. Yet from a coldly logical standpoint, I found Gottlieb’s argument virtually unassailable.

She didn’t say settling was ideal. She wasn’t saying that you should “settle” to the point that you’re miserable. She wasn’t saying that you couldn’t possibly be happy alone. She even admits that “talking about settling in a positive light makes people profoundly uncomfortable”. So what was she saying? To paraphrase:

If you DO want that traditional American dream of husband + house + kids who look like you, then your odds of achieving it are greater if you “settle” in your early 30’s.

If you want to have your own biological children with a quality man, your options are considerably greater when you’re 32 than when you’re 42. And if that’s the case, it might behoove you to settle for a “good” guy when you’re younger, rather than hold out for an ideal guy when there are fewer quality options available.

I’m not sure what there is to argue with. I mean, you can make the argument that you’re perfectly happy being single. Great. Stay single. You can make the argument that you’d be suicidal if you were to marry the “wrong” guy. Certainly, you shouldn’t marry under those circumstances. But if you DO want that traditional American dream of husband + house + kids who look like you, then your odds of achieving it are greater if you “settle” in your early 30’s.

Here’s why:…

1) If a tall, dark and handsome 40-year-old man with a six-figure income and great family values is on the hunt for a wife, he is most likely is going to be attracted to someone younger. Wait, don’t shoot! I’ve got an older girlfriend, and have long advocated for the wisdom and experience of thirtysomethings over twentysomethings. But youth and beauty have always been coveted by men, and wishing it away doesn’t change a thing.

2) If a tall, dark and handsome 40-year-old man with a six-figure income and great family values wants to be the biological father to his own children, he is mostly likely going to be searching for someone younger. It makes perfect sense. He doesn’t want to have to rush the relationship, much less get engaged, married, and pregnant in a year. Thus, all things remaining equal, most 40-year-old men with a choice will choose to date a woman younger than 35. It buys them time. Time that 35-40 year-old women don’t have IF they want their own biological children.

If a tall, dark and handsome 40-year-old man with a six-figure income and great family values wants to be the biological father to his own children, he is mostly likely going to be searching for someone younger.

And that’s the caveat that I need to emphasize more than Gottlieb did in her article. If you don’t want children, you’ve got no reason to settle. If you already have children, you’ve got no reason to settle. If you’re fine adopting children, you’ve got no reason to settle. But if you want to have your own kids, you have a far better pool of male applicants at age 30 than you do at age 40. It’s not that it’s impossible. Women in their late 30’s and early 40’s fall in love, get married, and get pregnant all the time. It’s just more difficult, that’s all.

Which is why this should not be taken as a judgment against women over 35. It’s merely an observation about the dating preferences of men. It’s not like women don’t know this. If they weren’t fully aware that men discriminated by age, they wouldn’t be lowering their ages to 29, 34, and 39 on dating sites across America. And what these women have surely realized – what they voice to me on the phone daily – is that the quality of their suitors is abysmal.

Are all the good ones taken? Not quite. But here’s a lot of what you’re going to get as a 40-year-old woman on Match.com: Commitmentphobes. Players. Financially unstable guys. Unattractive guys. Socially awkward guys. Much younger guys. Much older guys. Look in your in-box. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know….

So where are the tall, dark and handsome 40-year-old men with six-figure incomes and great family values? Searching for women 25-35, that’s where. And while some of those 25-35 women are getting married to these guys, many others are holding out for better men –younger, richer, cuter, smarter. Are they wrong for doing so? Hell, no. They’re following their hearts. They know what they’re worth. They WILL. NOT. SETTLE. In the meantime, they focus on their careers, their friends, their travel, and their homes, because that’s more rewarding than the tedious, maddening process that is dating. But occasionally, as these women near 40, things begin to shift. They find themselves lonely at holidays, or fed up with weddings, or feeling a biological pull that can’t be ignored. So, once again, they decide to gamely search for Mr. Right. But who’s left to choose from? Mostly (not exclusively), a parade of the “wrong” men on Match.com.

Given all that, I find it hard to disagree with Gottlieb’s assertion that, for women who want their own kids, it may be a better long-term decision to snap up Mr. Good Enough at 32 than to hope for Mr. Perfect at 42.

It sure ain’t romantic, but it is practical. People hate practical.

It sure ain’t romantic, but it is practical. People hate practical.

You may be reading this and getting upset. Maybe you’re upset at me for my take on this. Maybe you’re upset with Gottlieb for perpetuating the myth that women need men. Maybe you’re upset with men for wanting younger women. But mostly, I think what is most upsetting is that the article challenges our worldview that we can have it all without having to compromise. And the fact that a few people seem to have it all makes it all the more tantalizing. But when the high wears off – and, oh, it does – what do those people have left? Ask any older married couple. They’ll tell you about the virtues that have kept them together for forty years. Friendship. Loyalty. Patience. Values. Compromise.

So why do we single people so arrogantly insist that our elders have got it wrong? And if you’d rather be alone than compromise, why get so upset that other people like Lori Gottlieb have a different point of view?




Click here to read more:

Lori Gottlieb’s Article in the Atlantic: “Marry Him”

Jezebel’s criticism of Gottlieb

Lori Gottlieb defending her article on The Today Show.


Join our conversation (291 Comments).
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  1. 211


    So…you like insecure women…I have a feeling you don’t speak for most intelligent (and secure) men 

  2. 212

    @ Sayanta

    I’m an intelligent and secure man and Gabe is definitely on the mark.  While I can understand your knee-jerk shaming reaction, but that doesn’t make it right.  Something that the women might not get is that we don’t perceive arrogance/confidence in you the same way you do to us.  Also, you are overly focusing in on one issue (confidence) and neglecting to consider how it meshes in with the big picture.  All things being equal, If I was looking to hire between two male candidates for a job, I would give more positive weight to the more confident one.  But with men and women in the dating arena things are NOT equal (see: thread were women refuse to ask men out, believing HE should ask HER out).  What you may see as “confidence” often comes across as “overly demanding” “princess mentality” “difficult” or “high maintenance”

  3. 213

    Evan, I respectfully disagree.  Some men (and women) like to complement their partners.  Where one has a weakness, another has a strength – sort of like yin and yang  Two type A personalities for instance don’t always make good partners. 

    I think you are painting men who who like more quiet reserved girls in an unfair broad brush.

  4. 214

    First of all, Evan- at 214. Amen!!! Love how you said that.
    Funny enough, I’m actually reserved and quiet with people. Described that way by myself, and pretty much everyone who’s met me. I would not say I lack confidence. According to the dictionary, confidence is, “full trust; belief in the powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing” or “belief in oneselfand one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.”

    ARROGANCE on the other hand, is the following:
    offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.

    Now, please enlighten me on the similarity between the above two definitions, because I certainly am not seeing it. Arrogance is based in insecurity, if you’ve ever taken Psych 101 in college, so ironically, these insecure girls you are attracted to are MORE likely to be arrogant.

    Now, my definitions of confidence and arrogance are pretty much in line with the above. As for you…I’m getting the feeling you’ve written your own dictionary. Congratulations- that’s an amazing feat, but you have a long road ahead if you want people to actually agree with your definitions.

    As for my “knee-jerk shaming reaction…” The ironic thing is, the fact that you chose those words, shows that you’re reacting in a knee-jerk shaming manner yourself (ie, by calling me out as ‘shaming,’ you intend to shame me…:-D). I admit, my reaction to Gabe was a bit snarky. But, if someone says something absolutely ridiculous, of course I’m going to call them on it.


  5. 215

    @ Sayanta

    Two big differences

    1) Mine comment was measured and calculated, your’s was emotional reaction
    2) Yours was unsubstantiated, you made a claim based off assumption.  Mine was supported, based off observation of what you actually said

    I did not mean to imply arrogance and confidence were the same thing.  I should have used a better seperator in that sentence.  What I was trying to get at is women will often see an arrogant bad boy type guy and assign postive triats ex. “he’s confident” “he’s a challange” etc.  While in the same situation, men will do a negative ex. “she’s a bitch”.

  6. 216


    -that’s the thing though- I didn’t base it off emotional reaction, but fact. Just like Evan said, insecure men want insecure women, and vice versa. That’s a fact. Like saying days are shorter in the winter. 

  7. 217

    @ Sayanta

    With all due respect to our host, things aren’t facts just b/c he says them.  Now maybe there is a disconnect between our definition of insecure.  I don’t think guys as a whole find complete emotional basketcases hot, but a little shyness and needing support from time to time is generally seen as much more attractive than brash, know-it-all type women who is constantly a pain in the rear.

  8. 218
    Gabe Asher

    @DMC You make good points. Not only am I attracted to shy, insecure women. I also like them to be of average intelligence. I am not attracted to confident, smart women. Is that wrong? Everyone has a type, no? Look, intelligence is generally genetic, and not a choice, just as looks are. Would you say ugly people don’t deserve to be loved? Well,, insecure, women of normal intellect deserve to be loved by someone also. I am here to love them. I actually find that noble, not a negative.
    Saying that only an insecure man would find an insecure woman attractive is just as silly as saying only hot-tempered man would find a hot tempered woman attractive. Or only a compasionate man would be attracted to a compassionate women, etc. It’s a baseless assumption and shouldn’t even be argued. But it does give single, 38 yo feminists a chance to high five each other and say “you go girl, tell him! He’s scared of us power houses. Hear us roar”.

    1. 218.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Gabe – please explain to me how insecurity is a GOOD thing? Insecurity leads to emotional neediness, jealousy, misunderstanding, infighting, and pretty much every other thing that can go wrong in a relationship. In fact, if there is ONE quality that I would say is the LEAST attractive (and least beneficial) quality in a potential mate (man or woman), it would be insecurity. Honestly, what exactly is attractive about a woman who doesn’t love herself and is constantly fearful of losing you?

  9. 219
    Gabe Asher

    I think being “smart, strong, and successful” IS the reason why women may need a dating coach. If I can suggest one thing to those women who are interested in meeting men, it would be….put the brakes on it. We. Get. It. Tone it down and you’ll have taken the first step in the right direction.
    #217 makes a good point that confidence comes across as bitchy in a woman, whereas it is an attractive quality in a man. If your group of girlfriends is approached by a man watch he will instinctively gravitate toward the coy one of the group. Those types also come across as more friendly and approachable, and the last thing a man wants when out meeting people and having fun, is resistence. 

  10. 220

    EMK #222

     <<Honestly, what exactly is attractive about a woman who doesn’t love herself and is constantly fearful of losing you?>>

    Hmmm, maybe it’s the power Gabe has over her?

  11. 221

    Gabe and DMC:

    I don’t find arrogant men are not all.  Nauseating and offputting, yes.  Atractive, NO.  I do like a confident man.  BTW, my definition is in line with Sayanta’s post. 

    I’m quiet, shy reserved.   I am not insecure.  I know I’m quiet, shy and reserved.  I don’t have to be right, I know how to say I’m sorry and apologize.  I’m not going to make demands.  I’m easy going and laid back.  Life is too short to be anything else.  Things don’t have to be my way.  These are qualities you ascribe to “insecure”.  I don’t think any of this makes me insecure.  To me, being insecure means I am not comfortable with who I am, I feel inadequate about myself.  

    One final note: The girl who is coy – the one that is attracting your attention, is usually the game player.  I am also not girl. 

  12. 222

    Okay, I’m getting out my handy dictionary again. 

    According to the dictionary, “insecure” means the following: subject to fears, doubts; anxious; uneasy. 

    Gabe, you want someone who’s uneasy and anxious? Okay…to each his own. 

    On the other hand, the following is the def of  vulnerable

    capable of being emotionally or physically wounded 

    In other words, vulnerability shows our humanness in both men and women. this part is my def, not the dictionary’s. 

    My question is, are the “confidence” haters really looking for insecurity or vulnerability? Because that changes things. Now, if Gabe really wants a woman who’s a basket case, well, that’s beyond the scope of this blog, I guess.


  13. 223
    Gabe Asher

    @222 Not sure if I used the word insecure in my previous posts. Maybe I am slightly misunderstood and explained myself incorrectly. In short, my friends and I all agree that we like the slightly unsure, shy, sweet, girl next door type instead of a confident, over-opinionated career woman. It’s not our fault, it’s hundreds of thousands of years of instinct. I mean a woman and man should have traditional roles for now. For 600,000 years men had a dominant role in a relationship and it was natural. The whole “hear me roar” thing came about recently. Maybe the last 50 years. We need about 30-40,000 more years to adjust to that kind of radical change. Thats why I preach to women to take on a slighlty submissive role in your relationship. Less conflict, and you’ll be happier living the role of a woman. Would be like trying to teach the canine species to choose salad over raw meat. Would probably take 200,000 years to feel natural to them. Maybe longer.
    This is why woman in traditional roles are surveyed as happier than those with careers. It’s because the career woman/dominant/confident/overbearing/over-opinionated is trying to take on an unnatural role. That of the man. To the men, I ask you to picture the two following scenarios.
    1. A woman at a power lunch in a suit/skirt surrounded by three male employees of hers, with a cell phone to her ear.
    2. A woman at an outdoor cafe, laughing and smiling while feeding her baby in a stroller.
    I see both frequently. The second one gives me a fuzzy, warm feeling inside, the first one, not so much.
    @224 Confidence is so impt to women in men that most women would prefer arrogance over zero confidence.
    @216 Poseur/show types are typically of low self esteem. The truly arrogant types I know/met in my life have had the goods to back themselves up. You can’t pull off true arrogance and be a poseur, or of low self-esteem. Doesn’t work. Fake arrogance is easy to see through. Real arrogance comes from real accomplishment combined with a strange personality!
    If you’re the Smart, Strong, Successful woman. Ask yourself why you’re here, and if projecting yourself that way to potential mates has been a winning program for you.
    “Do what you always do, get what you always got”

  14. 224


    Out of curiosity, did you grow up in a Western country? And are you an older gentleman?  

  15. 225
    Gabe Asher

    @227 Yes, I am from the States. I am 32, been traveling for the last 4 years. (I am an options trader, work online). Right now, I am in Central America. As you may guess, dating is fun/easy down here. I just love social dynamics, it is a hobby of mine. I just love going out and meeting women and watching interactions between the opposite sexes! My opinions can be strong, and I know I can come across as crass online, but I am a great guy. You can ask any of my 78 ex-girlfriends! (that was a joke).

  16. 226

    Gabe, another question for you… are you open to having a wife that is a full-time stay-at-home mother?

  17. 227

    @ Gabe,
    “1. A woman at a power lunch in a suit/skirt surrounded by three male employees of hers, with a cell phone to her ear.
    2. A woman at an outdoor cafe, laughing and smiling while feeding her baby in a stroller.”
    One — the same woman can easily be both. And two — even a full-time stay-at-home mother will need to get in touch with her confident, overbearing, and assertive side once those sweet cuddly babies become teenage boys — ask me how I know! A woman who manages to get through her whole life and remain shy, sweet, and slightly unsure of herself at all times, sounds like something out of a princess fairy-tale. Or like something some women were able to pull off way back in the day, because they had maids and servants for everything. All they had to do was sit around and look shy. 
    And yeah, you did write that you were “attracted to shy, insecure women” which, TBH, sounded creepy as all get out. Good to hear it doesn’t mean what I thought it meant!

  18. 228

    Goldie, 230-great points. Same thing went through my mind. 

    Ruby, 223- also a great point.

    GAbe, interesting that you didn’t respond to Ruby… 

  19. 229

    Gabe #226

    <<Not sure if I used the word insecure in my previous posts. >> 

    Actually, you used it 4 times. And then you used “slightly unsure”, to replace “insecure”, which basically means the same thing. After that you said, “Thats why I preach to women to take on a slighlty submissive role in your relationship.” Sorry you can”t entertain the notion that women are a little more complex than you would wish us to be.

  20. 230
    Gabe Asher

    @231 I will respond to 223. I do find slightly submissive women attractive. I see no harm in that. Just as I expect my gf/wife to find a male leader attractive. We all like what we like. I am traditional when it comes to relationships. I don’t want a woman competing like a man in our household. It;s not my kind of program. Traditional roles like they have been for 600.000 years. I’m not here to argue with mother nature. After all, she has 16billion years of experience. Me? 32.

  21. 231


    Ruby said that you like having power over women in 223 and that’s what you’re agreeing to. You can try to downplay this as “I like what I like” all you want- but if you really do like women  with no confidence, that points to deeper emotional issues in you. I also found it interesting how you want us (blog posters who’ve never met you)  to know that you’re a “great guy.” your post at 228. Why would you care if we think you’re great or not?. Almost as if you know that these opinions of yours are not what a man who wants a healthy relationship would hold, and are trying to defend yourself. 

  22. 232
    Gabe Asher

    I am not one of those people who says “I don’t care what anybody thinks about me”. I care very much what other people think of me. Some narcissist I would be if I didn’t care about other peoples opinions. I value others opinions which is why I expect mine to be valued.
    Why do say someone who likes women with low confidence/self-esteem has “deep issues?” I hope you’re not saying that women with low confidence don’t deserve to be loved by someone. Are you? They are people too, and deserve love like the rest of us.
    It seems that most of the women here are above my dating age range, and I am certainly below theirs. Most are probably looking for the opinion of a 40-60 yo male, and I am not yet in that mindset.
    Also seems that many women are here to argue their points rather than learn from the men and what they are looking for and expecting. Tell me what women want and I will listen and consider it for sure. After all, you are a woman. Boards like these give you the chance to get inside the male head without all the sugar coating and fluff. Take advantage of it. You want to know what men want? Listen to men. Don’t try to convince us that we should want something because YOU believe we should.
    I feel like I am beating a retard here. If a woman here says “I like shy guys”., I am going to say “cool, I am sure you would make a shy guy very happy”. Not…”shy guy? Hah, you have low confidence, low self-esteem, deep seeded issues etc”. Take it easy ladies. Shy guys are worthy of love just like the rest of us. Are you starting to ‘get it’?

  23. 233

    I had to smile when reading some of the posts about insecurity, and the ‘tells’ someone like Gabe looks for in women.

    This sounds more like a predator stalking prey behavior… not someone looking for a healthy relationship.  

    Secure men don’t need insecure women to feel secure and manly 🙂       

  24. 234


    No I don’t. You’ve lost me- it’s like I’ve entered a parallel very frightening universe. 

  25. 235

    [email protected],

    The question is… what ISN’T attractive about a woman who doesn’t love herself and is constantly fearful of losing her man? Think about it… sure, as long as she doesn’t destroy the house or show up all crazy at a man’s workplace, men like Gabe get constant ego stroking and the never-ending hurdle jumping and hoop jumping that insecure women provide.

    I think we’ve all done it at some point in our lives… before we realize how sick and one-sided it really is. We learn that people who enjoy that are really little more than parasites… not ‘leaders’ at all really. They seek out insecure people because it is easier to take from them. That’s why. Of course, provided there isn’t too much damage to the china or scene causing at parties.

    We both know that a real ‘leader’ nurtures the growth of the people who ‘follow’ him/her… and we also know that most women (and men) who start out ‘insecure’ eventually wise up… and there are unintended consequences for the ones who think they are one-up in those situations.

  26. 236

    Isn’t Gabe that dominant Alpha Male type that Evan is always warning us about?  

  27. 237

    Men are attracted to women who show a certain degree of vulnerability. Men are also attracted to women with large eyes, small chins, soft features, rosy cheeks, blonde hair (western countries). These are also features found in children. Researchers do not think that this is a coincidence. 

    Children are not insecure when they feel protected. Men are hard wired to protect.

    Change the word insecure to vulnerable and I think we do not have a problem. Aggressive women are not attractive to men. 

  28. 239

    “I hope you’re not saying that women with low confidence don’t deserve to be loved by someone. Are you? They are people too, and deserve love like the rest of us.”
    OK Gabe, you lost me too. Women with low confidence deserve a man who will support them, build them up, and help them gain confidence — not a man that will prey on their low-confidence issues. That’s emotional abuse, just so you know. Encouraging a woman to think low of herself so she would defer to her man in all things, and wouldn’t think of leaving him because in her mind nobody else will want her, that’s emotional abuse.
    Geez people. If you want someone submissive, for crying out loud, get a dog. Don’t go around traumatizing human beings.

  29. 240
    Saint Stephen

    Yeah, Zaq, you nailed it.

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