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”.

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Comments:

  1. 41
    Ruby

    Shay #31
     
    Nothing wrong with being feminine on dates, but not expressing “any strong opinions” and throwing out all your pants is a sign of deep-rooted insecurity by someone by someone who may think she knows how to get what she wants, but actually doesn’t. Smart, good men who want more than a trophy wife are not put off by women who have opinions. They don’t need a woman to be in a dress and heels all the time, either. Where is it written that being feminine means taking a back seat and being weaker? I think you can be feminine and both feel AND think. 

  2. 42
    sayanta

    Shay-

    But what if the men who want us are really sketchy? lol

  3. 43
    Karl R

    Shay said: (#28)
    “[Sophie] just knows what she wants and how to get it.”

    Does she?

    Does Sophie know what she wants? She wants a husband who will be the father of her future children, but she only seems interested in the traits that man a man attractive to date. She wants a man she can look up to, but seems uninterested in whether he respects her or sees her as an equal partner.
    Does Sophie know how to get what she wants? The changes she’s making to herself amount to an image makeover. That will get her foot in the door. (If she’s in the top 10% in looks, that should get her foot in the door without the makeover.) If that’s all it takes for her to get what she wants, how successful has she been?
    Obviously, you can be on the right track for a while before you see results, but you should see some indication that your dating strategy is working. I got back into the dating scene 4 years ago. During the first three years, I dated four women whom I considered amazing. The relationships lasted from 6 weeks to 8 1/2 months. Each of these women thinks highly of me as a boyfriend, even after we stopped dating. About a year ago I started dating my current girlfriend, and that’s the relationship where everything has worked out.

    Sophie said: (original post)
    “I am not in a steady relationship yet, but the quality of my dating life has improved dramatically,”

    She’s apparently adopted a strategy which is better than her previous one, but souds like it hasn’t passed the real test of whether it can get her what she wants. If she even understands what she wants.

    Sophie definitely has her wish list of what she wants in a man. But I’m reminded of the saying: “Be careful what you wish for. You may get it.”

  4. 44
    Lance

    F***, this is a great letter and a great post. I was JUST reading about this topic in Way of the Superior Man.
    My guess is Sophie was a masculine high performer in a male environments, with a masculine polarity prior to her switch. After the switch, she moved towards a more feminine polarity, at least on the surface, which is a good strategy. She’ll attract more dudes that way.
    The rub here is that if she’s a competitive, top earning, ball busting chick, she will highly repel the alpha dog guys. Alpha dog guys look for the most feminine, most polarity opposite woman. No matter what their job or income. In fact, our dirty secret is we prefer women who aren’t top earners because those won’t have to exist in depolarizing environments.
    So, not only does she have to adjust her appearance and her external behavior, she has to change her attitude and her mental/emotional game. She not only needs to act feminine, but she needs to *be* feminine and truly appreciate men for what they are and not what they make. Then she’ll really attract the top 10%.
    Just from reading her letter, I suspect I would be physically attracted to her but find her emotional/mental core depolarizing.
    For Sophie, I recommend being less analytical and more emotional and chick-like. Then she can have anything she wants.

  5. 45
    Diana

    Well, Evan [#24], my horoscope told me yesterday to refrain from allowing my emotions to get the better of me. 😉
     
    My thoughts are very similar to many of our other posters. To be honest, I didn’t know exactly how to say what I was thinking [or feeling] without sounding like I was jumping on Sophie’s case. I still don’t.
     
    I’m curious. What is Sophie’s definition of a “quality guy?” If her definition is that he’s not as good looking, intelligent and successful as she is, therefore, his quality is inferior to her, she is being short-sighted, shallow, and condescending. His looks will fade, as will hers. His intelligence may be reflected in a manner that’s different from hers, yet just as powerful and useful. His high-earning salary can easily be stripped away by the pitfalls of every day life: a life altering accident or health crisis, a company that files for bankruptcy, downsizes or outsources, an investment that crashes his life savings.
     
    Sophie basically asks herself, “Why would I want a guy who earns far less and isn’t so charismatic?” There’s a simple answer. Because of how he makes you feel. Being charismatic is a trait that men sometimes possess that lures a woman in, especially a woman with a fantasy living in her mind, but they often learn later on that he’s actually not so charismatic. And sometimes, the guy who doesn’t seem quite so charismatic in the beginning opens up to reveal just how charismatic he can be when he’s with the right woman. It sounds like Sophie is casting aside hordes of guys by making quick and unfair judgments about them rather than giving them the opportunity to make themselves known. IMHO, this is her biggest mistake.
     
    She states that she connects best with a leader because she wants to relinquish control. Is she wanting to be dominated? Her references to the “master of the universe,” the “big and strong” law enforcement professional, and the older guy who could be her mentor feels like this to me … someone who can push and challenge her own sense of control and power. It kind of feels like a fantasy. But I digress.
     
    Her thought that a man who earns less than her will be a financial liability is simply not true, and shows where her mixed up priorities are. This is assuming he’s not a deadbeat, makes a good living, and is financially responsible. Maybe she doesn’t want to feel as if she’s helping him to live a lifestyle he otherwise could not afford. Sounds rather selfish. If she’s concerned about protecting her assets should she divorce, she could consider preparing a pre-nup.
     
    And she has a very misguided view of what it means to be a single mom, even more so when trying to date. This is assuming she doesn’t intend to have nannies raising her children. She also terribly underestimates the important and valuable role a good father makes in a child’s life. I honestly found her comment to be cavalier, naive, and ignorant.
     
    As for her makeover, I can appreciate her desire to be more desiring toward the kind of man she’s hoping to attract, but can a zebra lose its spots? Can we truly become someone we are not? It’s fake beauty, and sooner or later, her true self, like her strong opinions will surface. If you are changing your appearance to feel better about yourself, that’s one thing. If you are changing your appearance solely to win a man, this will lead to feeling empty.
     
    It doesn’t sound to me as if Sophie has compromised at all in terms of what she’s looking for in a guy or what she values most. She mentions nothing of love, honesty, integrity, respect, faithfulness, communication, morals, loyalty, etc.
     
    One thing everyone needs to learn is that real love is not wounded-self, ego love. It’s not about the love you feel you deserve because of your wounds. It’s about loving yourself for all and everything that you are, and then sharing this love with others. This will lead you to those who will love you in return.

  6. 46
    No Crap

    Prance around in heels, short skirts and makeup Every. Damn. Day. ? (Because men need eye candy, I guess.  Oh, and podiatrists LOVE heels.  My feet, on the other hand, do not.  My feet trump the preferences of any man, sorry.  If men love heels so much, they can wear them.)
     
    Say “I feel” instead of “I think”? (To protect a man’s fragile masculine ego, dontcha know?)
     
    And still SETTLE for whatever prize package deigns to go out with me?  (Dress it up any way you want, but if it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.)
     
    I THINK I am with the poster who would rather stay home and read a book because I FEEL this is complete crap.
     
    If this is what I have to do to “have a man” I’ll spend the rest of my life alone, thanks.

  7. 47
    Michelle

    Hi All,

    This was just a GREAT discussion.  After dating for a few years I became very picky and began a list of traits.  The list grew and grew until it was impossible to find this made up man.  I deleted the list and started to have a much more open mind.  I’m now engaged and so happy he doesn’t meet all of my original criteria.

    Michelle ; )

  8. 48
    C.

    Shay, as someone who seconds the notion of the dramatic make-over, are you saying its better to act and dress ‘feminine’ rather be comfortable in your own skin? I’m not saying this is a bad thing, I’m just curious since this is a big issue for me. I gotta admit I cringed when I read the last part of the letter. I AM trying to be more girly but I fear that when I dress up I look like Kristen Stewart on the red carpet: all awkward and fidgety.
    And besides, the super girly girls I associate with in real life, actually like sex the LEAST! Tomboys and “edgy” girls are the ones who love sex..think about it, they want to be around guys and act like guys BECAUSE THEY LOVE GUYS!! Ever see “some like it hot”? You know how giddy the male characters get when they are included in the group of girls? Thats how I feel when I’m “one of the guys”, like a kid in a candy store. Of course they lust over the busty, foxy girls and once they land one, then they come crying to me complaining that she never wants sex and just reads trashy magazines and has her nails done all the time. She rather do that then hang with her sexy boyfriend!!  And for the guys who are looking for a mother for their children, who do you think would be better, a Victoria “posh spice” Beckham wannabe, or a woman who like to play in the mud and ride bikes and go fishing and camping…..
    Ugg, ok, sorry for hijacking the thread. Rant over, carry on 🙂

  9. 49
    hunter

    I have heard women say, they could get married right now, if they drop most of their criteria. 

     

  10. 50
    starthrower68

    @No Crap #45,

    She who keeps saying she’d rather opt out (me, namely) keeps opting back in.  In spite of my best attempts, something funny happens and my heart keeps softening up.  I end up swallowing my pride and getting back in, even when I think I don’t want to.

    Interestingly enough, I got a flirt on Singlesnet from a guy saying that a highly educated woman was a plus.  What? Howabout warmth, openness, and character?  No, nothing about that.  Since I could only flirt back rather than e-mail, I didn’t get to question him on it.  But it does seem that women might have to re-examine what is really important in a mate.  Meanwhile, I’m talking to guy who wants to have deep discussions about fishing.  Not my cup of tea, but I don’t know that it’s a reason to dismiss him.  I’m picking up on some other things in our conversations that indicate it might be worth getting to know him a bit more. 

    And I’m trying to learn something here; I’m trying to learn how to meet men without expectations of how it’s going to turn out.  I’m trying to keep my goals in front of me.  I’m not failing to live up to my potential.  I’m trying to continue growing into it.

  11. 51
    Goldie

    <offtopic>
     
    @ C #47 –
     
    ” And for the guys who are looking for a mother for their children, who do you think would be better, a Victoria “posh spice” Beckham wannabe, or a woman who like to play in the mud and ride bikes and go fishing and camping…..”
     
    But, but, the Victoria “posh spice” wannabe will do much better at suburban PTA meetings!… 😛
     
    </offtopic>
     
    Seriously though, I find that a lot of people confuse two things: one is trying to look or act like something you’re not in order to get accepted, the other one is personal growth and development. You don’t have to be stuck in the same image all your life — you can change — as long as you feel happy and natural doing it, and as long as people you like find the new you fun to be with, it is perfectly all right to change!

  12. 52
    Steve

    @Ruby #41
    I love feminine women, heels, shirts, etc.   I also love to talk.  A woman without opinions will bore the hell out of me.   It isn’t about having opinions, it is about how they are expressed, but that is sometimes a problem for both men and women.

  13. 53
    Cat

    #46,- Michelle, I love to see comments like yours! Congratulations.

    And #45, no one said you have to dress a certain way all the time or you won’t get a man! And the “I feel” instead of “I think” might be appropriate for a top-earning professional woman like Sophie because she probably has trouble leaving her work at work, so to speak. Perhaps she’s a Vice President or a lawyer used to winning every debate. What she does at work obviously makes her successful: at work. She has to act a certain way to successfully compete and lead in a male dominated industry, no doubt. But acting like she’s at work isn’t the way to find a suitable mate/husband/father-material. So if she needs to wear some dresses and say “I feel” to break out of ball-buster mode and not be a Master of the Universe on a date, that’s a good move for her!

    And #45, there’s nothing wrong with living alone reading your books… IF it makes you happy. If you’re looking for a boyfriend, you might want to start looking at men as companions rather than consolation prizes or adversaries…

    #50, starthrower68, what a great last paragraph, especially this sentence: “And I’m trying to learn something here; I’m trying to learn how to meet men without expectations of how it’s going to turn out.” Sounds like you are really applying what you learn here!

  14. 54
    Steve

    @C #47
    Clothes are just clothes.
    I lost a ton of weight a few years ago.   I got a new haircut and had a female friend pick a new wardrobe for me.    I was Mr. Jeans and sweat pants before that.
    I felt like an imposter at first, but I got used to the look and I did get extra attention from women.
    Years later, I’m still the same person,  I just dress better and get more of the attention I want.

  15. 55
    Helen

    All this “I feel” vs. “I think” crap… first, guys don’t necessarily prefer the former to the latter. There is no proof of it. Second, the more we women adhere to “I feel” linguistic silliness, the more guys will accuse us of being too emotional. Think about it; wouldn’t that be a logical conclusion on their part? We’re always feeling; we’re not thinking. And that makes our beliefs and our arguments lose weight.

    Give me a break. Women think. Why be ashamed to admit it?

  16. 56
    Steve

    Sophie,  I think post #44 by Lance is the most useful feedback for you.

  17. 57
    Annie Gleason, Midlife dating coach

    Wake up call to Sophie: When you become a single mom, you will not have the time or energy to have an active dating life for years. Not only that, many of the Alpha men you desire will pass you over in favor of a woman who isn’t burdened by the demands of children. And, when you do meet someone interesting, integrating a new man with your kids is one of the biggest challenges any relationship can face.
     

  18. 58
    Steve

    Seriously though, I find that a lot of people confuse two things: one is trying to look or act like something you’re not in order to get accepted, the other one is personal growth and development.
     
    Exactly!

  19. 59
    Bill

    @ Lance – I have read that book Way of the Superior Man. That is true very alpha is attracted to very feminine. Look at Donald Trump which is probably the worst example. People with extreme personalities are generally attracted to opposite personalities.

  20. 60
    Bill

    @ Lance – I have read that book Way of the Superior Man. That is true very alpha is attracted to very feminine. Look at Donald Trump which is probably the worst example. People with extreme personalities are generally attracted to opposite personalities.
    If you are a top alpha male you aren’t afraid of approaching that very feminine/beauty lady no matter where you are. These kind of men are always doing sales pitches and they are amazing at there job because if they are not they wouldn’t have those amazing salaries you crave.
    The problem with men I know who are amazing with there sales pitches are very very picky with the kind of women they date because they can always find a new girl.
    So if you want a man with those characteristics if he is not talking to you than you have to talk to him.

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