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.

 

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Comments:

  1. 241
    Katarina Phang

    I get what Gabe is trying to convey and I understand the resistance from the women camp too.  It boils down to this: men find women who trigger their male instincts to provide and protect very attractive.  Because that makes them feel like a man.

    When polarity is alive, attraction thrives.

    Any woman who understands this will have her man wrapped around her fingers.  However, I also think vulnerable is a better word than insecure.  Insecure women get old very quickly.  They might be charming in the beginning but this kind of woman is a handful.

  2. 242
    SS

    Gabe, in post 235, you said this…

    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.


    I asked earlier if you were interested in a woman who would be a full-time, stay-at-home mother, and I didn’t see an answer. I’m asking because I’m wondering if there are men who are still looking for that these days.
    I am married, so the information is not for me, in case you’re wondering. But for a little background on me… I was (still am) a career woman, pretty well-educated (although my husband has a higher degree than me) and also very family/marriage/children-oriented.
    You are certainly entitled to have the desires you want in a woman, but I find the extremes that you state to be a bit interesting — there’s a huge range of women between the supposedly ball-busting loud CEO type and the non-career oriented, quiet type.
    All that being said, if you are a man who is seeking a wife/mother type, more power to you. But I’ve noticed more men these days who say they want a traditional woman, but they expect her to work outside the home and think she’s greedy and lazy and a gold-digger if she wants to stay at home with the children and keep house… I was just wondering your take on that.

  3. 243
    DMC

    Katrina makes a very good point about triggering male instincts.  I know there is some deep seated misandry among several of the women on here and many modern women who have been poisioned by feminism, but it’s really not that hard as you gals make it.  Most men want to make their woman happy, but after constant resistance and pushback, this urge in them tends to die.  Sort of how like you guys have killed chivalry.

    I applaud Evan for trying to wake you gals up and own up to your own shortcomings when it comes to dating.  If anything, I think he’s too easy on you sometimes.

  4. 244
    Gabe Asher

    Wow, what’s with all the “low confidence women” bashing here? All of a sudden it’s wrong for someone to pursue a relationship with them.
    Maybe all ladies are not as confident as you. Or secure as you. Or as smart as you. Does that make them bad women, and undeserving of a man? They want to date/marry and be loved just like you do. 
    .
    Typically these traits are not learned. Most people are born smart, witty, funny, confident, secure. Or they are not. It’s not their fault. Please stop making fun of them, and the people that find them attractive. I think you’re showing your own insecurites by doing so.
    .
    I am waiting for women here to tell me I shouldn’t date women with cancer or cerebral palsy. Sigh.
    .

  5. 245
    Saint Stephen

    My little pennyworth to gabe’s 221 comment: I’d say that the reason why men will naturally gravitate towards the sweet and coy, girl next door type of girl is because; 
    (1) He feels he’s chances of success will be much more higher with her.
    (2) He knows he wouldn’t get shot down in a harsh manner – and boy… that stings a lot.
    (3) He perceives her as being more relationship oriented and possessing good long term relationship potentials.  

  6. 246
    Gabe Asher

    @242  Women deserve a man who will love them the way they are. Not “love” that comes with conditions. Not a man who is going to try to change them and make them into something they aren’t. If a man likes a confident woman, he she go find one. But he shouldn’t take one of lesser confidence then try to change her. Thats selfish and just wrong. And possibly insecure on the part of the man as he doesn’t feel he has the traits to be a leader.
    .
    In short, pursue what you like and what feels natural to you. Lots of judging on this board. We shouldn’t tell others they are wrong for liking a certain kind of person. It’s just wrong.
    .
    Like 238, this guy is assuming that every partner of an insecure woman is somehow taking advantage of her. We weren’t thinking that, but apparently he was. Very suspicous to say the least. Is he speaking from personal experience? Probably.
    .
    How about we just cast all women who are not as confident as YOU onto an island somewhere so you don’t have compete with them?

  7. 247
    Ruby

    The words we choose to use are what we mean. Vulnerable might be a better descriptor than insecure, but “insecure” and “submissive” are the words that Gabe used to describe what he is looking for. However, a woman can be confident in business and vulnerable in her her personal life – they are not mutually exclusive.

    There is also a long tradition and history of slavery in many cultures that pre-dates written records. That was considered “natural” too. I don’t think that blind obedience to outmoded or opprressive traditions serves any of us well.

    Gabe said:
    <<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. >>

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound like you want to love the “insecure, low confidence” woman in order to build up her self-esteem, it sounds more like you want her to stay just the way she is: submissive to you. 

  8. 248
    Gabe Asher

    @240 Well said Zac. The women here are 30, 40 and 50something singles. Most posters come across as feminists, and they wonder why they are single. They continually argue their points and don’t try to learn. They point fingers but aren’t willing to change or think differently themselves.
    .

  9. 249
    Gabe Asher

    @245 Missed the question earlier. The stay at home mom is fine. What I envision in my future, if I marry and have a child, would be to buy/start a business that we can run together. She would be flexible in coming and going, bringing the baby to the place of work. Balancing between home and work life. But, only if thats the lifestyle she wants. I think its ideal. Not a 9 to 5, nor a complete home life.

  10. 250
    Goldie

    Are we talking about the sweet and coy, or about “women with low confidence/self-esteem”? Because that’s two completely different kinds of people. The sweet and coy girl is able to act sweet and coy because she has a healthy self-esteem. It’s hard to be sweet and playful when you’re in constant fear of embarrassing yourself, because you think you’re ugly/stupid/not funny/etc.
     
    “I am waiting for women here to tell me I shouldn’t date women with cancer…”
     
    Weird analogy, but I’ll play along. If someone had cancer, what would be a better reaction of that person’s loved ones: to support the person through their treatments, or to tell them to abandon all treatments, because “we love you just the way you are”?

  11. 251
    Gabe Asher

    I am not attracted to confident women. And thats all Folks! LOL.

  12. 252
    Ileana

    @Gabe: you said in #247: ‘Typically these traits are not learned. Most people are born smart, witty, funny, confident, secure. Or they are not. It’s not their fault. Please stop making fun of them, and the people that find them attractive.’ And somewhere else I believe it was you who asked why insecure women don’t deserve love.
     
    Now I don’t have any scientfic back-up for this, but I am pretty sure that people are born confident and then they lose it as they grow up, as a result of all the external factors surrounding them. Think about it – many people look at their baby-pictures, pre-school pictures and think: ‘Oh my God, I used to be / look like a (fill in negative trait here)’ and then feel ashamed. At that early stage in life, these things don’t really matter, because you are happy with yourself.
     
    Now that brings me to my personal definition of confidence: the state of being at ease with yourself and acceptiong yourself the way you are… being able to reach an internal spiritual equilibrium. You don’t have to be bitchy, or feel supperior to others, or not acknowledging your weeknesses. This affects the way you interract with others as well. For instance, I know that if I’m happy and balanced, I can make everybody else happy without resenting them if they don’t do the same for me. All this, without even actually TRYING…it all comes so naturally. Oh, and what does this have to do with being shy or vulnerable?
     
    Furthermore, nobody is saying insecure women don’t deserve love. Nobody is making fun of these women or of the people who find them attractive (well, unless their names are Edward and Bella… )
     
    What you fail to acknoledge is the fact that the love these women deserve most can only be offered by themselves to themselves (not in a narcissistic way).  And this can’t be compensated by anything else. Only then will they be capable of truly receiving the love given by others… Until that moment, they will mostly question it, because of their insecurities, they will always need reassurence (assuming we are talking here about insecurities related to who they are as a person, not about their driving, professional skills etc).
     
    At least that’s how I see this whole story…

  13. 253
    Sayanta

    Well- i brought up the whole vulnerability issue with my dictionary comment a few posts ago! (see 225) Gabe ignored that but not the rest of my comment- so, I do not think he wants vulnerable. I think we should finally just take him at his word when he says he likes women with no self esteem and be glad that we’re not dating men with those kind of issues. Lol

  14. 254
    Sayanta

    Gabe- 

    Are you sure you want your woman to run a business with you? That might make her confident ;-p 

  15. 255
    Katarina Phang

    Gabe, this is what insecure women do: they ask you all the time if they’re pretty, if you find them attractive, if there are certain body parts of theirs you like best, if you love them, if you are seeing someone else on the side, if when you don’t answer the phone you’re with someone else, they will throw tantrum at the slightest perception that they are being ignored, they will accuse you of cheating even when you are not and have been doing everything to show your love, they will call you 50 times a day and bombard you with text messages that if you don’t respond right away will set off their panic alarm, they will want to see you everyday and spend every weekend, they won’t understand that you want to spend time with your buddies and not with them, or that you need your cave time once in a while.

    Are you sure this is the kind of woman you want?  Somehow, I doubt it.  No man finds this kind of woman attractive after a few weeks/months. 

  16. 256
    Katarina Phang

    However, a woman can be secure and very feminine, soft, coy, sweet, shy and showing all the feminine traits that trigger attraction in men.  I consider myself that type of woman.

    Insecure?  No.  Sweet, soft, girlie and feminine?  Yes.

  17. 257
    john

    i wouldnt say that it is a matter of matter refusing to settle, rather women over-valuing their true market value.  A man that is a 10 may actually have sex with an average woman just for the hell of it, while a woman that is a 10 would never be with an average man unless he had money or some sort of high social status.  So you have cases of a woman that is a 5 getting a taste of a 10, and then believing that a 10 is what she deserves, when that 10 never took her serious to begin with.  So now u have an unremarkable woman expecting to have a remarkable man.

  18. 258
    Lele

    Women seem unable to grasp this: men don’t like confident challenging women, because – unlike women – they don’t like trouble and drama. Men don’t want to compete in their relationships, because for them to compete with you, they have to see you as an enemy, which they don’t want.

    In my experience, *every* woman who qualified herself as confident, I saw her as nothing more than a ball-buster. Next, please.

    OTOH, I have known a few women who were confident, yet not challenging.

    So, it’s not about women being insecure and coy. It’s about them not starting to throw shit at you as soon as you approach them.

  19. 259
    Rochelle

    I’m agreeing with Justme and Sayanata here. Being quiet, vulnerable, reserved, etc is not the same as low self esteem, low confidence, insecurity etc. I think the two concepts  are being mixed up in Gabe’s posts.  I  also agree with Katarina, EMK and others in that emotionally healthy masculine men are attracted to a woman’s vulnerability but emotionally healthy men are not attracted to women who are insecure unless they have issues themselves. And I mean generally insecure because *everyone* has moments of insecurity.

     It’s pretty appalling how a lot of people in our society assume you are insecure, a doormat etc if you are quiet or show vulnerability.  And then it surprises them when you do assert yourself over something that happens. Some people are naturally more reserved and quiet.  I’m more leaning to that side as well as many women I know in relationships with wonderful men. And I do have a high education and good career, not requiring a man who makes more than me. It is an information services support role that is full time, yet it allows me enough time for dating and other areas  outside work.     Not everything is so black and white.  

     Self esteem and confidence are related to each other. But being talkative and outgoing doesn’t necessarily mean you have high self esteem and confidence.  Sure it can go hand in hand but there’s the saying “The empty vessels make the loudest sound”    Some  people are also naturally more extroverted than others and thrive on being around several people often.  Some are naturally more introverted and need more time alone to decompress after being around too many people. There isn’t anything wrong with either, it’s just who they are and often unrelated to their esteem or confidence. And I am really starting to see in my life that these factors do tend to determine who a good mate would be. i.e. someone who is more of a complement in these areas to you than too similar.

  20. 260
    Lorna

    I am so unsure about what I want to do with my future that settling down with the first dude I meet at this time would be a mistake.  

    I turned 32 two weeks ago and have been thinking about a lot of things…

    I had to put my life on hold for several years to take care of my dad, mom, and grandmother.  I’ve learned through this experience that having children is not a guarantee that you will be taken care of later in life.  If that were true my aunt and uncle would be caring for their mother…not me.  I love her dearly though, and have been lucky to spend all this time with her.  

    So I feel like I want to take the rest of my 30s for me.  i want to travel, progress in my career, buy my home, do more volunteer work etc.  I KNOW that if I marry right now I’d be sad because I steered off course from the things that I’m wanting to do.  Marriage means I have to consider his wants/needs, so if he doesn’t want to travel like I do, volunteer where I want then that would stink. But I’d have to let go of my dreams to accommodate his because in marriage you have to compromise.  I’d be wondering ‘what if’ the entire time…I’d be miserable.

    I’ve considered the possibility of simply staying single, I LOVE my freedom.  But I don’t know if I’ll feel the same when i’m 40 or 50 or beyond……  So then…. marriage.  Do I want it enough?  Not right now no.  Do I want to rush it to have kids? Not really.  Do I want kids?  I’m not sure.  I plan on freezing my eggs in the next few months just in case I decide later on that I do want a baby.  However I’m not opposed to adopting if it doesn’t work out. 

    You see?  I’m a mess in terms of what to do so marrying now? No way!

  21. 261
    Baseball11

     
    Maybe settling is a new phenomenon.
    I think that television, magazines, advertizements, etc. make people (women and men) think that anyone that has anything less than what the advertizements say is perfect are settling. I say this because I was looking through old pictures of my grandparents and relatives and all I could think about was this: how did my grandma land my grandpa! I love my grandma (and her sisters to death) BUT they were so fat I couldn’t believe it (and they all got married). I don’t think guys now-a-days would have looked twice at the Stanton sisters. Then again, my grandpa (and the men of his generation) really didn’t have anything to compare my grandmother and her sisters too as they did not see models/actresses on TV and; therefore, were not programmed like I am to think she was heavy (my grandparents couldn’t afford a TV set until the 60’s according to my dad) and he didn’t pick my grandmother out of a bunch of women on a computer screen either, he actually met her in real life and thought she was pretty and fun and fell in love with her.
    My whole life my grandfather has been telling me I’m too skinny, I’ve heard it so many times that I now eat two plates of food when every I visit him just so he’ll cut me some slack. Maybe my grandfather wonders if my husband “settled” for me because I’m “obviously underweight and not healthy” which is my his own description of me at thanksgiving this year, while I keep telling him that at 5ft 7inch and 130lbs I’m within the normal weight range. Or maybe “settling” isn’t even in my grandfather’s vocabulary. Maybe he thinks my husband just likes “obviously underweight” girls.
    My point is maybe people like heavy, bald, glasses whatever and have been convinced by modern media that they do not like these things and should view them in a negative light and therefore now people think they are settling. My grandfather sure doesn’t think he settled for my grandmother, maybe settling is a new phenomenon.

  22. 262
    Aisling

    @ Baseball, #264:  You are so right.  This is all an unfortunate new phenomenon.

  23. 263
    TheThinker

    @Lorna #263.
    So, why can’t you marry a guy who loves to travel, buy a home together with him, travel the world, and progress in your career at the same time?
    Or, you’d prefer to be on this site 10 years later, asking Evan for advice on how to get a man?

  24. 264
    judy

    Verbosity 7 – Wow! So the guy gets to give the woman a great lifestyle? While she spends her time drinking coffee latte, and going to the hairdresser? Maybe somewhere in this ideal world of hers, she gets to do the cooking (or at least, orders some ready made food?), pick up and look after the children and maybe, just maybe, make life a little bit pleasant for her husband?
    I know that some men get ripped off in divorce and that’s a shame. 
    Although, if a woman starts out well qualified and gives up her career to be a full-time mother and maybe wife and supports HIM in some emotional way, she does have a point, doesn’t she?

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