What’s the Difference Between Settling and Compromising?

Hi Evan,
I’ve been reading your blog for the last few months and enjoying it a lot. Unlike some other dating blogs, it’s very balanced and offers a guy’s perspective, which is in itself unique. I received your newsletter
today (“What you should be looking for in a partner,”) and I guess it does hit close to home since it inspired me to write back. Being one of those 90th percentile women, I do know firsthand how hard it is to find a quality man. What you say about a partner being a complement and not a clone does make sense technically, but therein lies the problem: a woman who is in the 90th percentile in looks, intelligence and income will have absolutely no problem finding a guy who is in the 60th percentile. These guys are neither hard to get or difficult to come by. The problem is not that we’re not looking for such guys, the problem is that most of us (even though there’re exceptions) are not attracted to them and we don’t want them, period. If I wanted to marry a guy who “brings 40% of income, charisma,” and so on, I would’ve had a harem by now. The question is: why would I want such a guy? On the emotional level, I’ve never felt attracted to guys who are “less man” than I, so to speak. I connect best with men who are leaders, like to be in charge, and I would very much like to relinquish control to such a guy rather than be a man in a relationship.

From the practical standpoint, a man who makes less than I do becomes a financial liability. After all, we women can have our own children, and push comes to shove, it would be much easier for me to just have my own kids and date whomever I want on the side without being financially responsible for them. So no matter how you look at it, I am better off alone than with a 60% guy. Personally, after struggling for some time with this issue and realizing that I need to start doing something differently if I am to succeed in my love quest, I have developed a new “multi-faceted strategy.”

I have undergone a rather dramatic makeover. I grew long hair and dyed it blond which gave me a softer, more feminine look. I gave all my trousers to charity and started wearing bright colored dresses and skirts and high heels. I began applying makeup routinely. I re-thought the way I speak and made an effort to not express any strong opinions. I stopped saying “I think” and started saying “I feel.” You get the idea. With respect to the type of men I am looking for – I still want those 95th percentile guys. Except they don’t have to be in that percentile in all aspects. I’d gladly date a 5’4’’ tall master of the universe who may lack external attributes of manliness but can make me feel special in so many different ways. Or, I’d date a law enforcement professional who may not make as much as a financial whiz, but is big, strong and can handle difficult situations and protect his family like no one else. Or, I could date a guy who is in a sense my “clone” but is substantially older than me (we’re talking 20+ years, considering I am in my late 20’s I have ample headroom there) and would therefore never feel competitive, but could rather be a mentor.

I am not in a steady relationship yet, but the quality of my dating life has improved dramatically, and I feel that I am a lot closer to finding that special guy than I was a year ago. So I guess the point I wanted to get across is that there’s compromise and there’s settling. And what you wrote about sounded awful lot like settling to me. I’d encourage other successful women to compromise instead, and on top of that to get in touch with their feminine sides and may be try to get a little less edgy. Hope this makes sense.
Sophie

Dear Sophie,

I rarely run such long comments, especially ones that don’t have a question, but I’m guessing that your sentiments are held by enough readers that this post will resonate.

Let’s first start on the areas where we agree…and then allow me to dissect the rest of your letter like the relationship neurosurgeon that I am.

We can both agree that:

A woman in the 90th percentile has absolutely no problem finding a man in the 60th percentile.

A woman in the 90th percentile certainly doesn’t want a man who brings only 40% of the charisma.

Your dramatic makeover to embrace your feminine side is a smart strategy, which seems to have had a positive effect.

Your willingness to date different kinds of alpha males can be considered positive.

Smart woman. Smart approach. But here’s where you’ve either misquoted me, misunderstood me, or are simply misguided in your thinking.

Mainly, you’re misrepresenting my use of numbers and percentages, which skews your entire argument. If I actually said that you should compromise on a man in the 60th percentile of everything, then, yes, you’re right: I would be suggesting that you “settle.”

But that’s not what I said.

While most women look for a relationship that is 50/50 in all areas, it’s actually okay to find partnerships that have a 60/40 blend.

I said that while most women are looking for a relationship that is 50/50 in all areas, it’s actually okay to find partnerships that have a 60/40 blend. That does NOT mean he’s in the 60th percentile of all men. It means that if you’re a 10 in looks, he can be an 8. If he’s the more emotionally stable person, you can act a little crazier, etc.

This changes things considerably. Because while you’re talking about being with a man whom you don’t respect, I’m talking about a balanced relationship with equals who are stronger in some areas and weaker in others.

If this was your main misconception, that would be the end of the blog post. But it’s not. It’s clear that you have a few blind spots that are worth discussing. In no particular order:

You say you’re not attracted to guys who are “less man” than you. That’s fine. But it doesn’t seem you’ve considered a couple of factors:

1) The men who are “more men than you” might not want to date you. You may be stubborn or arrogant or difficult or selfish or critical, which are qualities that often come with people who think they’re in the 90th percentile of everything.

2) A man who is in the 95% percentile of everything (the only man who is “better” than you) may not be a great bet as a husband. George Clooney? James Bond? Charming guys – not great husbands. Most women spend their whole lives overestimating men based on their credentials rather than their character.

3) A man who can handle you – and wants to commit to you – despite your flaws, is the ideal man for you. It may come in the form of a nice, easygoing guy who doesn’t meet your strict criteria, not the “master of the universe”.

But that’s not all, smart Sophie. Next, you trot out this gem of a line:

“From the practical standpoint, a man who makes less than I do becomes a financial liability. After all, we women can have our own children, and push comes to shove, it would be much easier for me to just have my own kids and date whomever I want on the side without being financially responsible for them.”

A few questions, before we proceed:

A) Are men and women truly equal?

B) If the answer is yes, then we can conclude that if we make the same money, we should be treated the same exact way. Right?

C) If the answer is yes, why is your husband who makes $60,000 a year a financial liability while my wife who makes $60,000 a year is my best friend, lover, and partner in crime?

If I make $300,000 a year and my wife makes $60,000, I would be expected to support her, pay for every meal and vacation, and allow her to save her money for clothes, trips, and maybe the kids’ college education.

Yet if you make $300,000 a year and your boyfriend makes $60,000, he’s a financial liability? Come again?

Are you saying that men can date women who have no money, but successful women with their own money can’t do the same? What does that say about equality?

One of the big points of having your own money – at least as a man – is that you don’t have to be with someone else who has money. This keeps our dating options extremely wide, because it allows us to look for women who are attractive, cool and nurturing – without having to restrict ourselves to the top 5% of earners like so many women appear to, in spite of the fact that they’re already in the top 5% themselves.

Most women spend their whole lives overestimating men based on their credentials rather than their character.

As a well-off woman who is equal to a man, you really need to start seeing yourself as equal. Which means recalibrating the kind of guy who fits for you, the same way that most men do. From your letter, you talk about your propensity for alpha males, who are often the worst candidates for long-term relationships because they tend to be egocentric hunters.

And until you start to appreciate the virtues of the nice, cute guy with a stable job, a ton of integrity, and the desire to be a great dad, you may find that dating is a rough road for you. This fictional guy, by the way, IS in the 90th percentile – not based on his paycheck or his washboard abs, but based on his ability to be your husband.

Overall, Sophie, you seem like you know yourself very well. The only thing I’m questioning here is whether you truly know what’s good for you.

Compromise is good. Settling is not.

And a sane, funny, loyal, attractive man who makes $60K and forgives all your faults should be in any woman’s 90th percentile.

Thanks for your thoughtful email. Good luck.

Evan

P.S. By the way, in regards to this line, “it would be much easier to just have your own kids and date whomever I want on the side.” Go read Lori Gottlieb’s “Marry Him: the Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough” for a glimpse into the dating life of a single mother. No time. No financial, emotional or physical support from a father. Not to mention that most thirtysomething guys want to date women unencumbered by responsibility. Hate to say it, but being a single mom is about the worst thing you can do for your love life. Sorry.

 

For a deeper understanding of what qualities you should be looking for in a man, I invite you to check out “Why He Disappeared – the Smart, Strong, Successful Woman’s Guide to Understanding Men and Keeping the Right One Hooked Forever”.

Join our conversation (201 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 21
    hunter

    Say, EMK,

    You defined settling, and compromise, tell us about, “acceptance,” ….. or have you already done
    that?…

  2. 22
    C.

    Steve said, “What happened to all of the men in between who work hard, have great careers, are good looking”
    I know you aren’t directing this question at me–I’m certainly not an alpha female, and I’m on the end thats always falling for the charismatic poor guys who don’t want kids–but in my experience the good ones that fit the description above are already married, and the ones that aren’t, well, there is just something lacking. I went on a few dates with guys like this when I first started online dating. The first guy was just sooooo boring. No charisma at all, even though he was good-looking. I need laughter on dates, and not only was this guy not funny, but didn’t even crack a smile at my attempts at jokes. I thought maybe I bombed the date somehow, but he ended up asking me out again. I went on the second date, and it was the same thing! He was sad that I turned down a third, but at that point I’d rather stay home and read. Another guy I tried was funny and all those other things and on our second date we kissed…and there was just no spark. It was just so, *polite* :/ I guess he felt the same way, because he didn’t call again. Anyway, I keep on keeping on.

  3. 23
    Tony G. Rocco

    Sophie might consider herself in the 90th percentile, but materialistic women who judge themselves and others based on their financial status are, ironically, a dime a dozen and rate in the bottom 10% as far as I am concerned. I would never want a woman with her distorted, greed-driven values. I didn’t hear a word about the importance of having a man who is warm, giving, compassionate, sensitive or intelligent, just more mindless alpha-male bullshit that sounds more like it comes from the mouth of some sleazy pickup artist than a high-quality female.
     

  4. 24
    Evan Marc Katz

    I’m wondering where all the regular women posters are. Lots of guys taking shots at Sophie for stating her mind. Any defenders?

  5. 25
    starthrower68

    Well Evan, I will defend her as far to say if she will accept nothing less than Mr. GQ earning 6 figures a year then it’s a free country and she is certainly within her rights to hold out or pursue that.  Maybe she’s not looking for a guy who will be available as opposed to being married to his work.  Maybe as long as the house, private school for the kids, vacations, and country club membership are there, that’s enough.  But, we can all point to a great many unhappy rich folks out there, no?

  6. 26
    Christie Hartman, PhD

    Well Evan, I’m a woman, but you won’t find me defending this one. I’m always very leery of people, male or female, who describe themselves in terms of percentiles – it smacks of narcissism. And I’ve found that those who put their fists in the air and say “I refuse to settle!” are often looking for a fantasy, not love. This woman, despite her lengthy email, never mentioned love.

    1. 26.1
      ann

      I agree with Christie.    I am also a woman and have not rated myself in terms of percentile and hence desirability-   people can smell narcissism.
       
      In my case I  happen to have 2 post grad degrees, and for 3 whole  yrs supported a BF ,  my same age who was a salesman who did not go to college , thru the ’08 economy downturn.   That what LOVE and real commitment does.   I never even thought of rating myself in percentile in anything, as that is really comparing.  Btw I am 51 yrs old and Asian so maybe I think differently?

  7. 27
    Helen

    Evan #24, why would any woman defend Sophie?  Responding to your exhortation, I read her letter again TRYING to look for the good in it… and again I got that feeling of complete ickiness. I want to sympathize – she’s a sister – but just can’t.

    There are so many awful things in this letter that others have already pointed out.  Calling herself 90th percentile.  Categorically putting down men whom she deems “below” her (in what, exactly?). Assigning numbers to men and judging them accordingly.  The silly cluelessness about what it takes to raise children, and downplaying the importance of a partner in that effort.  The gag-worthy line about wanting to relinquish her control to a man.  Her attempts to change herself to get guys, rather than being comfortable and happy in her own skin, which really is the most attractive trait of all.  Her “encouragement” to other successful women to behave as she does. 

    Add to this that it doesn’t seem a very coherent or rationally thought-out letter, but just relies on a string of cliches.  Just because someone is “stating her mind” doesn’t mean that it’s palatable or reasonable.  I don’t want to just leave her in a lurch, though, so would really suggest that she make girlfriends who are 10-20 years older than she is to give her some desperately needed clues about life.  And that she learn to be truly happy with herself, so that she can spread that happiness to others rather than critically assigning them percentiles far below herself.

  8. 28
    Ruby

    It’s ironic that someone who puts themselves in the “90th percentile in looks, intelligence and income” feels so insecure about herself that she has to re-think “the way I speak and (make) an effort to not express any strong opinions”, and is so desperate to find a guy that she can no longer even wear a pair of “trousers.” 

    As far as being a single mom, how is having to hire a nanny to take care of her kids less of a financial liability than having a “60% guy”? Not to mention the lack of support from a caring partner?

    It’s been my experience that the people who have the least humility, those who are quick to trumpet how stellar they are, quite often have an over-inflated sense of their own worth and abilities.

    1. 28.1
      ann

      how very well said Ruby!!!!      I like your wisdom and humility.

  9. 29
    Cat

    In defense of Sophie…. Well, I can’t seem to finish that sentence. I agree with Evan that she’ll have a terrible time trying to raise a kid on her own and date on the side. That would drop her out of her 90th percentile for most guys!

    I do understand her protectiveness towards towards her finances–I know a woman with that very high income who is losing most of it in her second divorce to a guy she financially supported. (And now she’s that single mom finding it nearly impossible to date on the side.) However, that’s where pre-nups could ease her mind. Or some sort of financial counseling before marriage. Just being in a relationship with someone who earns less is NOT a liability (if you’re paying attention to what else they offer!)

    As for wanting a guy who’s a leader, I suggest she find a partner and learn to tango. Seriously. Speaking as someone who’s her own boss and making creative decisions all day, it’s important to find time to throw on some heels and let someone else be the leader. She’ll feel protected and feminine and all of those things she’s talking about. But wanting a round-the-clock alpha male? Time to rethink that.

    I had a first (and last) blind date with a world traveling, multi-language speaking, fiscally-successful alpha male last week. He snatched the menu from my hands and ordered a salad for us to share for dinner (without asking) and then spent the rest of the evening complaining bitterly how he hated the city we lived in (which he’d never explored) and intended to return to Jersey. Oh, that’s when he wasn’t checking “work email” or texting, which was about 50% of the date.

    He was actually surprised I didn’t want to see him again or extend the date. You can bet he’s certain he’s in the 90th percentile of “looks, intelligence and income.” But my second date is going to the Asian guy with diabetes and three kids. Because he is much better “husband material,” as Evan put it. He was warm, interesting, attentive and showed great self-awareness and humor. That makes me feel much more “protected” and attracted than a big bank account!

    You should consider your big bank account that golden ticket that frees you up to select a guy on core values, rather than his income.

  10. 30
    Shay

    Wow….Helen (#27).

    I don’t think this letter is awful. Sure, there are some stuff people don’t agree. All the commenters made valid points.

    However, I do admire Sophie. She knows herself very well. Knows what it is about her that attracts the kind of guy she wants and what don’t. She made changes to herself which I only recently thought of. Sounds like she’s the same age as me, similar dating difficulties has already done a lot to improve her dating life.

    I must say, Wow, Sophie. Thanks for affirming my decision to makes changes to myself. It really takes humility to do that. I admire that. 🙂

    After consultation with a guy whom I went on 4 dates with (most number of dates as I begin my dating life, embarrass to say)….he has chosen another girl to be his gf. Which I am fine. I turned him and a couple of girl friends into my dating coaching group….he suggested I made changes to my dressing. I bring the girls shopping with me to see what clothes flatter me. That kick start my Project Feminity. 😀

    Great point to say “I feel” instead of “I think”. I’ll try that too!! I’ve incorporated more dresses into my work wardrobe. Time to buy some dresses for my casual wear. 😀

    Its great to see this letter and of course, I do learn from Evan’s feedback to Sophie as well. Thanks Sophie, for being brave enough to write in and state your mind.

  11. 31
    Shay

    Ruby (#28), I don’t think Sophie feels insecure. She just knows what she wants and how to get it. If you think about it, its only when one is secure in oneself and confident, then one can do as she does. 🙂

  12. 32
    Margaret

    It really concerns me how little regard Sophie has for her theoretical future children. Those children need a good, caring father and a good, caring mother. Until she’s reasonably sure that they’ll have both for the next 18+ years, she shouldn’t have them.

    1. 32.1
      Goldberry

      Yes. Children can tell whether they are truly loved or whether they were just on a list of “things to do before I get too old”. Fathers are not so optional as all that…

  13. 33
    Shay

    There are 2 types of female commenting on this blog.

    1. Those who think the world (or men) should change to fit them.
    2. Those who seek to understand the difficulties, learn to accept and take action to solve the problem.

    I want results, so I refuse to be in the first group.

    As Evan said in another blog post, why we remain single is because
    1. The men we want don’t want us.
    2. We don’t want the men who want us.

    As a girl who is a go-getter, I analyze the situation like this.
    1. Do something to be more attractive to the men whom I want but don’t want me.
    2. Re-evaluate what I want in men. I might start to appreciate the men who want me but I don’t want.

    Both are not easy to do. But taking dating as a learning process, I get nearer to what I want if I stand by my principles to be “comfortable in my own skin”. I think I’ll just be trapping myself between a wall and a hard place.

    I guess Sophie has done no. 1. Could be time to do no. 2. 😀

  14. 34
    Shay

    Opps. I mean RATHER than stand by my principles to be “comfortable in my own skin”.

  15. 35
    Mr_Right

    I would also like to note that her attitude of not needing a man for kids would be a turn off to many men.

    I’m not sure women realize this, but men DO look at a woman not only as a potential mate, but as a potential mother as well. A huge majority of single men do want to have kids someday, and if a woman is saying that she doesn’t need a man for kids (I suppose this means she can visit a sperm bank and have a kid on her own), many men would ask what the point would be in dating her in the first place.

  16. 36
    christina

    I don’t care if a man is at 90% or at 60%(but he should be at least financially successful that means he should not be below 40 or 35% that will be settling not compromising) So i want a man who can love share my bed give me beautiful kids and stay with me until my hair turns grey…But if you are able to find a guy who is at 90% and yet grounded,loving and caring that also be great. Here I want to say that I don’t think that every 90% man will be mean and full ego, he can also be a nice and cute guy, who know what love means..(they all cant be bad)

  17. 37
    Steve

    Thanks Christie!  This fits my feelings almost perfectly in regards to Evan’s comment in #24.   It isn’t about the battle of the sexes, at least not for me, but the honest impression I got about Sophie from her email to Evan.
    IMHO, they may not be pleasant to read, but many of the comments in this thread could be useful feedback for Sophie, even if the comments border on being negative.   Makeovers attract new people to you, but personality and behavior makes them stay.
    Sophie is still young and willing to work on herself, so she has a chance of changing and not ending up being a female version of the type person on that cable show about hooking up millionaire bachelors.
    Sophie,  I already wrote this, but no insult was intended from me.  In addition to the other things I wrote you can start by just focusing on whether or not you enjoy the company of the person you are dating and worrying about his portfolio later.

    Christie Hartman, PhD 26

    Well Evan, I’m a woman, but you won’t find me defending this one. I’m always very leery of people, male or female, who describe themselves in terms of percentiles – it smacks of narcissism. And I’ve found that those who put their fists in the air and say “I refuse to settle!” are often looking for a fantasy, not love. This woman, despite her lengthy email, never mentioned love.

  18. 38
    Helen

    Shay, when it comes to attracting good-quality guys, how far does it get women to give up their principles and to NOT be comfortable in their own skin?  Not far, sorry to say.  It reeks of desperation, and desperation is unattractive.

    Standing by principles and being comfortable with yourself are two of the most important personal convictions you can have in life. They work for everything, your job and your relationships included.

    Take this from someone who still gets hit on nearly every day despite being an ardent feminist and married 10 years with kids.  The secret is to love men for who they are, and to love yourself for who you are.  Not a gimmick, not an item of clothing.

  19. 39
    Goldie

    @ Christie #26: Love, you mean that warm and fuzzy feeling that tends to wear out 2-3 years into the marriage? In my layman’s opinion, love is great, but you’ve got to have something that will keep both of you happy together after it’s gone. Mutual respect and support would be a good place to start. Being interesting to each other and knowing how to have fun together could be another thing. I’m still working on the complete list.
     
    I am still not sure what to say about Sophie’s letter, though. Looks like she wants completely different things out of a relationship than I would. She appears to be looking for a man with credentials. When I start looking seriously, I’ll probably be looking for someone I could be happy living with, and he with me. Any requirements (intelligence, attitude, professionalism etc) would be the means to that end. Also, what Sophie says about being a single parent is just silly. Why wouldn’t a woman in the proverbial 90th percentile at least try to give her future children a happy two-parent family, since she has the means to attract the right guy for that, you know, being in the 90th percentile and all? I’d say she probably haven’t given the subject of parenting any serious thought yet. That part of her letter wasn’t well thought out at all, IMO.
     
    In Sophie’s defense, I see percentiles and scores being used all the time on this site, in comments as well as in Evan’s posts. Maybe that’s where she picked that stuff up 😉 Personally I am not a huge fan of scoring/categorizing people.

  20. 40
    Steve

    Ruby #28 wrote:
    It’s ironic that someone who puts themselves in the “90th percentile in looks, intelligence and income” feels so insecure about herself that she has to re-think ”the way I speak and (make) an effort to not express any strong opinions”, and is so desperate to find a guy that she can no longer even wear a pair of “trousers.”

    I think it takes confidence to be willing to reinvent yourself like that.  Few people are willing to make the behavior changes it takes to get what they want.  I think that is a good quality Sophie has.

    As far as being a single mom, how is having to hire a nanny to take care of her kids less of a financial liability than having a “60% guy”? Not to mention the lack of support from a caring partner?

    Excellent point. Not to mention the cost of the psychiatrist and other related issues that are likely to result from a child’s upbringing being outsourced.
    I think Sophie’s concern might be more about losing money in a divorce, a partner emptying out a joint bank account or getting a slacker boyfriend who lays around her house all day.  Then again, if her judgment is as good as
    her confidence, she will not get involved with those men.


    It’s been my experience that the people who have the least humility, those who are quick to trumpet how stellar they are, quite often have an over-inflated sense of their own worth and abilities.

    I completely agree.
     
    There is always someone “better” than you are.  I’m sure there men who look at Sophie’s income, looks or personality as a joke writing her off as a second choice not  befitting a person of *their* percentile

    In her defense, she is young.  She doesn’t know what she doesn’t know and she may develop more peronal insight as she ages.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *