More And More Men Are Settling For Ms. Good Enough


This week, my friend Arielle Ford, author of The Soulmate Secret, sent me a link to a Daily Beast article. The author of the article interviewed anthropologist Helen Fisher, PhD, of Rutgers. (Fisher has written five books and conducted extensive research on the evolution and future of human sex, love, marriage, gender differences in the brain and how your personality type shapes who you are and who you love. Her latest is Why Him? Why Her?: How to Find and Keep Lasting Love.) Fisher’s latest study is of singles in America.

Fisher explains it this way. “We have a stereotype in this culture that it’s men who are the ones who don’t want to commit, who don’t want to settle down, who are the scarce resources. But in fact, it’s the opposite.”

There’s an old adage: a woman who can’t find a man is a spinster; a man who doesn’t want a wife is the envy of all his friends. Fisher says “We have a stereotype in this culture that it’s men who are the ones who don’t want to commit, who don’t want to settle down, who are the scarce resources. But in fact, it’s the opposite.”

There’s an old adage: a woman who can’t find a man is a spinster; a man who doesn’t want a wife is the envy of all his friends.

Rather than living up to the stereotype of commitment-phobic bachelors, modern men reported that they fell in love just as often as women, and were just as likely to believe that marriage is “forever.”

The study found that 31 percent of adult men said they’d commit to a person they were not in love with —- as long as as she had all the other attributes they were looking for in a mate –- and 21 percent said they’d commit under those same circumstances to somebody they weren’t sexually attracted to. The equivalent numbers for women were far lower.

“There’s this transformation going on,” says Tom Matlack, co-founder of The Good Men Project, which aims to discuss and debunk modern male stereotypes. “It’s kind of like feminism on its head: for years, women were trying to earn the right to get out of the house, and here are all these men dying to get back into [it].”

Said one study participant, “We all marry our second or third or fourth best choice. It’s just life.”

This article echoes Lori Gottlieb’s Atlantic article-turned-bestseller, Marry Him! The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. In it, Gottlieb counseled women to forget the search for a mythical soulmate and nab a good man who wants to be a husband and father (lest they end up, like Gottlieb herself, alone and regretful at 40).

Read the article here. As always, I’d like you know what you think.

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  1. 81

    I think there is a difference between men and women when it comes to how we rate each other. Us ‘men’ can look at a woman who may have a nice set of jugs and a nice rear end but an average face and we may rank her as ‘hot’.   But when women see a man who has a nice body but average face they me rank him as just average or even below average. Women seem to  critique  each other much harsher as well.   I see women all the time that I think are hot but other women  don’t  rank those women nearly as high. I do agree with many of the  comments  on here that women are pickier about looks then men are.   I have also found that, now I am in my mid 30’s, I appreciate more things about a woman which may make her more attractive to me. How she carries herself, her  attitude,  and her self  esteem  all effect how attractive I see her. I think that women who cant get past looks and to a certain extent “settle”,   will have a very hard time finding the ‘one’.

  2. 82

    Zaq wrote: “The results for women were highly skewed, with most men being scored less than a 5, which is ridiculous, but shows what powerful evolutionary forces are pushing women to accept only a minority of men.”
    Is it really “ridiculous”?  Let me throw this idea out there: that the reason men’s looks on average scored below 5 is because women are unconsciously comparing men not just among themselves, but also among women. And maybe women really are, on average, more attractive than men. I don’t mean biologically; I mean socially. We wear a lot more makeup, invest more in our clothes, and care more for our hair and bodies. In fact, if we WEREN’T more attractive than men after all our additional effforts, then we’d have to have been much uglier to begin with au naturel!

  3. 83
    Karl R

    Helen said: (#84)
    “Let me throw this idea out there: that the reason men’s looks on average scored below 5 is because women are unconsciously comparing men not just among themselves, but also among women.”
    Is a 5’7″ person tall or short?
    I don’t call a 5’7″ woman short, even if she’s several inches shorter than me. She’s clearly above average height. Similarly, a 5’7″ man is clearly below average height.
    Helen asked:  (#84)
    “Is it really ‘ridiculous’?”
    If someone is incapable of consciously avoiding the kind of comparison that you hypothesize…
    Yes. It’s ridiculous.

  4. 84

    @hespeler (81)…I’m a woman. Very much still learning about men in my older age. My husband has forced me to learn some hard lessons & sadly I am much less optimistic about men in general. But glad I was right on about men & settling, I think it happens all the time.  

  5. 85

    I have to cry foul here. Your trying to compare apples to oranges here. Comparing the sexiness of a man with the sexiness of a woman is like comparing dogs to cats. Men have  distinct  different traits that would make them attractive that are totally different with what makes a woman attractive.   Everyone has their own taste as to what is attractive and what is not, but most of the time women would consider masculine traits to be attractive in a man. (facial hair, hard muscles, etc). On a woman attraction would be more feminine traits, (curves, boobs etc).   I  don’t  know how you can compare the two.   I think the reason men rate women higher on the looks scale is because most men have the ability to rank a woman based on separate features. A woman with an average face but a very nice body would most likely be ranked as “hot” by men. A woman with a VERY pretty face and just above average body can still be ranked as ‘hot”. Where as a man with an average face and a very nice body may only get “above average” rank from women. When it comes to looks it seems most women are much pickier then they care to admit.

  6. 86

    The men described in the article are the ones who will divorce you 7 years later, saying “I love you but I’m not *in* love with you.” The cliche to end all cliches. I once worked with a guy who complained bitterly about his wife at the office, constantly. Apparently, she was his mom’s business partner, and his mom wanted them to get together, so he married her. Spineless!!!

  7. 87

    @Lynn #88
      I find it hard to believe that a man who is content to marry a woman he isn’t “in love with” but “had all the other attributes they were looking for in a mate”  is likely to be the one initiating a divorce (especially with women initiating most divorces by a significant margin today). Logic tells me that such men (31% – not a majority) are possibly less likely to “fade” when “that feeling” is gone…since “that feeling” isn’t what drove them to marry in the first place.These are the ones that are likely still married, assuming they chose a wife well (which I think is more likely because they’re not focusing on being “in love”).
    After all, it isn’t “being in love” that keeps people together, it’s  being committed to each other (you know – all those other attributes).
    These men sound more pragmatic about it (but they’re represent just 31% of men). I’d posit that the men you’re talking about are the ones who follow their passions instead, as those who “follow their passions” are often seen as more transient in their natures.
    Sorry to burst the fairy-tale bubble, but marrying for common values is a more successful strategy than marrying for “love”. We’ve had a pretty good experiment with marrying primarily for “love” over the last 100 years – how’s that been working for us?
    Aside – my guy friends never talk about “being in love with” their girlfriends or wives…when they praise them, it’s consistently in the form of how easy she is to get along with, how fun she is to be around, how  nice she is, how pleasant she is (attractive and sexy are mentioned too). Not how much money she makes, not how powerful she is at work, not how she gives him butterflies when they kiss, but in how she makes his life better, more enjoyable, less stressed.

    1. 87.1
      Geoff Gander


      Your last paragraph is spot-on.   When I talk to other men (who have partners), they rarely talk about the softer, emotional side of their attraction.   What I hear most often is something along the lines of, “[Partner] is awesome.   She’s [pick one or more] so laid back/doesn’t make a big deal about things/shares my favourite hobbies/is fun to be with/just takes me as I am.”

  8. 88

    Not suprising that a significant percentage of men will marry a woman they do not find sexually attractive. Many of them probably figure that once he marries her, within a few years (or once the kids arrive) she’ll stop having sex with him anyway. Might as well be turned down by someone you don’t find attractive! 😉 Like that old song “if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, never make a pretty woman your wife”.

    And do not kid yourself that men are universally unable to have sex with women they find physically unattractive. Sex with an unattractive woman is still sex with a woman! To most heterosexual men, sex with any woman beats not having sex.

  9. 89

    Didn’t read the accompanying article, just the blog post. However, if I discovered I married a man who didn’t find me attractive, but was merely “settling” I’d be heartbroken. Of course, I want him to be MORE than merely attracted to me, but if that element is missing, I just wouldn’t fell like I was truly loved.

  10. 90

    Really really sucks.   I am one of those men who “settled” for a woman who is not my type, I think most men commit WAY too soon in life.   We don’t hit our peak until late 30s to mid 40s due to the fact that confidence and success elude the younger male.
    I think midlife crisis is a phenomenon of mid-aged men who really should have held out for a younger attractive woman, but instead is faced with two facts: 1) They are peaking and able to upgrade in a big way; 2) They are in witness to their wife who is free falling in her sexual currency.    Put these two dynamics together, and you have a crisis.
    Men, DO NOT SETTLE!   Hold out until you have some currency to cash in on the woman who meets your expectations.   She will be happier, and so will you!

  11. 91

    hmmm… I suspect that “Helen” is THE HELEN & I 1st got into E.P. years ago & have been a big fan of yours, bought all your books…my question to Helen is: I posted my experience earlier in this thread…WHY? I understand that when a woman is above average in looks ESP in middle age, that female relational aggression comes into play BUT why would men,particularly on dating sites actively reject her EVEN AFTER they find her to be polite & kind, etc? I don’t think it is an evolutionary thing, but I could be wrong?

    1. 91.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      It’s not THE HELEN. And your question has nothing to do with evolutionary biology. Just because you’re pretty, polite and kind doesn’t mean men will enjoy your company.

      1. 91.1.1

        Ha ha Evan, talk to the men my & age & older who are single & looking…their #1 complaint is in older age, they cannot find a woman they’d even want to sit across from at a table on a dinner date ( I once went out w/ a psychiatrist who told me that early inn the evening plus plenty more- & many other men in my area have said the same) One man told me when he showed up for an internet date that 10 out of 11 looked nothing like their pic & that as soon as he saw them, he tuned them out & anything they said sounded like “Charlie Brown’s Teacher” (wah wah wah) & that he just wanted to get out of there asap!
          Then I heard a lot from men about women in my age category who look decent/pretty but seem very obviously “personality-disordered” & blast but not least, rude, mean, b1tchy &  /or entitled…

        in the 55+ community the pickins are slim, so sorry Evan, I disagree, men will enjoy my company or a woman like me, even if they feel like they live too far away, or do not feel a commonality, etc.
        I had one man reject me cause, as he said ” I fear too much competition”! Sometimes these older men think a woman is too good for them & will dump them sooner or later…Way too much baggage!        

  12. 92

    Hmm, I’ve been with someone since I was 18 and now at 59 am by myself after a divorce and  my husband’s passing.   I’ve been in an okay, love for a while and  tolerable relationship and  then a  fantastic relationship that was once in a lifetime.    At this point am not settling for anything less than fantastic again!!   I want to be with someone I’m clicking on all cylinders with.   I’m not needy, am self-sufficient and not looking for someone to take care of me.   I would rather be alone and happy than married and miserable or settling for less than what I want.   There are plenty of guys to date if I just want a friendship or companionship now and then.   Just my opinion.   There are people who will settle for just companionship but that’s not me.

  13. 93

    Men settle because they are weak….myself included. We (men) should not marry under any circumstance. The risks associated with marriage are far too high. The decks are stacked against you. As soon as you take the “I do”‘s you’re like a brand new car driving off the car lot…you’ve lost almost ALL of your value because it all belongs to her now. DONT DO IT!  

      1. 93.1.1

        But it forgot to mention that the wife was standing behind him, with a rolling pin when he answered the question. 😛

        1. Fromkin

          Sometimes it’s a great big knife.

        2. Steve in Big D

          And sometimes the wife is standing behind you with an attorney, threatening to take your children away and never let you see them again.  Aside from issues like this, marriage makes men happy.

      2. 93.1.2

        dude there’s studies showing everything on opposite ends of the spectrum. studies are bullshit in the end.

    1. 93.2

      Perhaps some of the younger men assess themselves or what they deserve way too “highly” LOL- a man who is a “5” ( I hate the number thing but for argument’s sake…) may lust after 8-9-10’s, thinking anyone less than an 8 is “settling” EVEN THOUGH HE IS A 5. After rejection by 8-10’s & even 7-6’s, he finally develops a serious relations ship with… a “5”, gets married & in his mind thinks he has settled. But the truth is, he is on equal footing now, but because previously thought he was going to get Barbie, Chatty Cathy is “settling” when in truth, she was his match all along.

      He is on the ladder as a 5, while he was perceiving himself to be an 8!  

      1. 93.2.1

        you’re actually describing women.

  14. 94

    Age and unrealistic expectations has ALOT to do with it. If you are a woman in your 20s your “expectations” are not so much “high” but rather “unrealistic” and even for “some” women in their 30s.  
    It goes something like this..”oh there is no way that i would end up with someone that makes less than at least 90K a year, is over 6 feet tall, dark and so handsome other women would salivate. He must also have X type(doctor, lawyer, judge etc) of career, buy me a big house and we’re going to have at least 2 kids, dog/cat white picket fence, he’ll be my knight in shining armor- a Prince…blah blah blah.
    Then when they find themselves still single by the time they enter their 30s (especially since most young men in their 20s are not set up career wise and don’t look like models or bodybuilders) and their biological clock is ticking hard, the ladies begin to descend from the fantasy cloud and begin to look at life & men in a more “realistic” way rather than something out of a Disney fairytale movie. Its as if the veil was lifted from their eyes and mind and they now find the more average male “attractive” “safe” “faithful/loyal” “husband material”. But in MOST cases this does not happen until a woman is in her 30s and beyond.
    My advice to men is this….Work on your Passions in life…your hobbies…your education….your career! Make friends, travel, explore, hunt, go fishing, diving etc. when you are in your 20s. NO MAN IN HIS 20s SHOULD BE GETTING MARRIED. Statistics show time and time again that those that marry under the age of 30 will be at least 85% more likely to divorce. Most men are simply not ready for marriage in their 20s!

    1. 94.1

      no men in their 30s should be getting married either. why would he want someone who wants him in his 30s but not his 20s?

  15. 95

    Speaking of good enough, there aren’t that many good enough women out there these days to settle down with.

    1. 95.1

      Not sure how this inspires women to understand men, grow, or change for the better.

  16. 96

    Some of the posts in this thread, I find a bit pathetic. Sorry to judge. A man who has confidence & a spiritual belief would KNOW that his God/Higher Power would put him in the path of the right woman.
    If someone “settles” then IMO they get exactly what they deserve…lukewarm, dull-as-dishwater relationships…
    And it’s not about physical chemistry either, it goes way deeper than that…I’m an old broad, I’ve seen a lot in my life   ;0)
    If a man was not absolutely crazy 4 me, I wouldn’t want him. And because I have that attitude, I’ve been lucky enough to have several long term relationships that were awesome…you get what you give…

  17. 98

    in my experience the girls who are at least an 8 9 or 10 either are slutty, like attention from other men, have multiple kids or have psychological issues.

  18. 99

    it’s one of those things where men are in a position where they realize that they don’t necessarily have the luxury of having a relationship with someone they love or are even attracted to. they want a family and realize that sacrifices have to be made.

  19. 100

    I am a 37 year old woman who is well liked by the opposite sex. The biggest problem I have found is I am looking for a partner and not a child. I am looking for someone that brings as much to the relationship as I do, puts in as much effort, understands the relationship needs to be fed, has relationship skills (communication, conflict resolution etc.) Immaturity is the downfall of your sex, we want evolved men.

    If not, we would rather be alone.

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