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.

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.


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.


  1. 61

    Hi Evan,
    I just finished reading your blog – “What’s the Difference Between Settling and Compromising.”   Bravo Evan for an amazing response to Sophie’s email.   I am now giving you a standing ovation.
    Here’s my story – This September would have been three years with Match.com and I could tell you stories that would take the waves right out of your hair.   Suffice it to say my friends called me the ‘freak’ beacon.   The men I met went from the sublime to the ridiculous.   But I never gave up.   I learned that there might be a dry spell from time to time but there was always another person to meet just around the corner.   And then it happened, I met the love of my life.
    Jeff and I were not the types we were both looking for physically but after getting to know each other, and giving each other a chance (which so many of us do not do) we couldn’t be more suited for each other.  
    Of course everyone is looking for their Angelina Jolie or Hugh Jackman but let’s be serious here – is that real?     Heck no.   I do not have Angelina’s figure nor is Jeff over 5’8 but we love each other mind, body, and soul.  
    Jeff makes me laugh which no one has ever done before.   I am the one who always makes others laugh.   And Jeff is good, kind, caring, considerate, and only wants to take care of me and make me happy…and vice versa.
    We consider ourselves blessed that we were lucky to find each other.   It’s now almost 4 months and Jeff makes me happier then I ever thought I could be.
    Looking for what you think you want will cause you to block your blessings.   Keep yourself open and meet everyone that comes your way.   And don’t ever give up.   You never know.  

  2. 62

    Oops [49] ~ zebras have stripes. 🙂 What can I say? It’s Friday; brain’s tired.

  3. 63

    Hey, when I support Sophie’s action to make changes, I’m not saying that she shld change and makeover and not be herself.

    C’mon ppl. Really. After being on Evan’s blog for so long. One thing to learn is: Its not all or nothing.

    I’m very very comfortable being myself. I warm up to people quickly. I’m funny. I’m witty. But I also have an acid tongue. I have a sense of dry humour. I can build insults into my jokes and many times people don’t catch them.  

    I’m on the heavy side physically. I’m rather masculine in my core than feminine. More man than some men. Able to organise and plan better by far compared to a lot of my guy friends.

    However, like Sophie, I admire alpha males too. I don’t like guys who are wishy washy. No direction in life. Or  don’t know how to go where they want to go. Passive and not passionate  about their life.  They make me frustrated.

    I’m love myself too much to totally change myself. However, I reckon that guys like their girl to be in touch with their feminine side too. So, what’s wrong with it?

    Frankly, I’m not a feminist. I don’t want to be one too. While I’m planning and organising away, I  yearn for a partner who can  share the load with me. I would like to be a follower sometimes too. If I’m forever leading, am I able to attract a fellow leader into my life? If I’m forever self sufficient, would I get to enjoy the  joys of having someone  to do nice things for me?

    I believe  people  have multiple sides to them. I have my musculine side. I have my feminine side. During dating, its time to let my feminine side  surface more.  If not, I would be the one who initiates and chase every guy I think  I like. Hahhaaa…which would really scare them away.

    When I do my “makeover” at work, actually its not meant for dating. I put on makeup at work because I look  5 years younger than my  actual age. Which doesn’t help me in  my line of work at all. I want to look older, more polished and put together. I have to interact with many  heads of departments whom I need to have their trust and respect.

    I wear dresses at work to look softer. To be more feminine as well. But really more for my work. I interact a lot  with lower level staff as well. My job requires me to  criticise their work.  If I were to look stern, strict  and unyielding, they would be very defensive. Made worse if I always wear black  suits.  Instead, by  dressing to look softer and also being careful not to talk with my acid tongue and come across as judgemental,  I can build rapport with them easily. People are more cooperative and my job gets done faster.

    I can do all these for my work, why can’t I do it to benefit my dating life?  

    As I  read beauty blogs and learn to makeup, I realized I love doing that!!! I also realized that wearing dresses  flatters me more than pants.

  4. 64

    @Lance: “I recommend being less analytical and more emotional and chick-like.”
    Wait, I thought emotional chicks were a turn-off to guys?
    @ Steve and Goldie, yeah, I know what you’re saying…and I am trying to umm, “develop” into a woman–heh, funny because I still shop in the junior bra department 😛 — but I think being bratty about it is part of the grieving process. I mean, so much of my identity has been based on my tomboyish nature. That said, and also pertaining to Lance’s post, I am certainly not a ball-buster or all that competitive in the work place, so maybe my “softness” lies in how I treat others, and I just need the outfits to match that.
    Sophie on the other hand may “look” soft, but if she thinks she better than everyone else shes still gonna come across as a cold, hard b-word.

  5. 65

    I’m curious.
    What do the people who earn 200K or more do?
    Doctors, lawyers, small business owners, government contractors in a sweet spot, dating coaches?     If your career doesn’t fall into one of those I would be interested to hear what you do.

  6. 66

    Helen (#37), its great that you get hit on a lot. Good for you.  Frankly, that’s not happening to me. I get hit on by guys who look like they are my uncle’s age. Thanks, but no thanks.

    I’m not desperate. I rather remain single than to settle. I see dating as a learning and growing process for myself.

  7. 67

    Yes Ruby (#41), women of course can think and men appreciate that.

    I have pretty strong opinions myself. However, I come to learn that before a guy knows me, its good not to express all my opinions at one shot. I understand that to some, it might come across as appearing to be rigid, stern, strict. A girl friend gave me that feedback.

    Have you ever had a guy who bolted and leave you at the table at the end of the date?  That happened to me. I was talking my head off during that date. Hahaha….and I guess that guy didn’t like it. I kinda like that guy. Its a pity, but oh well…

  8. 68

    sayanta (#42),

    of course I don’t mean to accept those sketchy ones. I’ve rejected 3 men within the span of a month. They have a certain trait and treat me in a certain way which I don’t like. Had to go out on a date with the first one before I know that’s a dealbreaker for me. So when I detected the same in the 2 other men, I know I’m not interested.

    However, people have different qualities in them. I’m sure these gentlemen have good qualities too.

  9. 69

    Karl R (#43),

    if you are Sophie, given  the  traits in men that  you want, what would you do? Can you please explain what is your plan to find the husband to  your kids? Start to  develop stay at home dads? Can’t alpha males be good husbands too?

    Karl R, dating is a self discovery and learning  process. It takes time to refine and  fine tune. Its really great that she knows what she wants right now. And she has a plan to get it. If she gets it and realizes its not really working for her, you know what? She can  change her mind!  That’s why people like you are in a few relationships before finding the right one.

    Some people might take longer, some shorter. She is feeling her way and getting along fine. I don’t think its fair to say she doesn’t know what she wants and don’t know how to get their either.

  10. 70

    Goldie (#51)!!!! You’ve spoken what I wanna say!!!

    People can change. People are multi-faceted.

    Dating is a time in life which I wanna play up my feminine side and tune down my musculine side. Learning how to dress up is fun. When I was in my teenage  and early 20s, I was too much of a nerd to explore that part of me. I’m glad to do it now.

    I’m also learning to understand people better without judgement. It’s a feminine trait which benefits my relationship with people in general. Good to attract  guys too!! But  it’s something I want to develop in myself  for me to be a better person.  Not something I wanna fake.

    1. 70.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      Hey Shay – please don’t post 4 times in a row. If you want to respond to multiple people, just put it in one brief post. Thanks.

  11. 71

    Shay @63: Thanks for the further descriptions of yourself, I find it helpful! I don’t have any experience dressing feminine for work. I’m a designer for a men’s casual apparel line (yeah, got to translate my love of boys clothes into a job!) and part of my job is snapping photos of models in the clothing. I always squat while taking photos because it makes the models look taller, which would be quite difficult and inappropriate to do in heels and a skirt! Oh, and yeah it is a bit of a gender role reversal being a female photog with male models..I must be blushing the entire time. Once a model did ask me out, and we had drinks but I felt sooo weird about it, as he was prettier than me and barely 21 😛
    But anyway, I am starting to improve, like wearing a silk blouse with my jeans instead of a t-shirt, and wearing more make-up and putting product in my hair. Co-workers ARE starting to notice and compliment me..too bad all the male designers I work with are gay or married.

  12. 72

    C. (#47), I really did not say that I support dramatic makeovers.


    I saw the other blog post about you. I understand that you want to appear more attractive to the guys who can build a family with you. Me too.

    Do you know you don’t need to change altogether at once? For starters, you can try non frilly, non  flowery skirts. They can even look funky, alternative from main stream fashion. Or you can try denim skirts.

    If you wear tank top and jeans, how about getting some from Forever 21? I went shopping yesterday and got myself jeans and a tank top there.  I ditched my comfy baggy jeans and got this one which  fit me nicely  and accentuate my curves.  The tank top has some puffy designs at the neckline. Not over the top girly, but its in a dusty pink. I chose this colour over a dull olive/navy one.  It’s feminine but not overly so. I know I definately can’t do lacy stuff. Makes me look like a huge ball of fluff.

    If you have a short tomboyish haircut, how about doing eye makeup?  They will cause your eyes to capture attention! No need for drama mama makeup. Just some eyeliner, shimmery cream shadow close to your own skin tone and mascara. That’s natural and not over the top but already enough to define your eyes. Some sheer cream blush can give you radiance to accompany your smile! 😀

    I’m also not a girly girl. My ex-date, current dating team guy friend, encouraged me to check out fashion magazines.

  13. 73

    Hi Evan, I’m sorry…the posts were so long, I got really lost. I had to reply them one at a time. Sorry about this!!

  14. 74
    Christie Hartman, PhD

    @ Goldie: “Love, you mean that warm and fuzzy feeling that tends to wear out 2-3 years into the marriage?” Uh, no – I mean real love, the thing that keeps people together for decades. The thing that still strikes me about this post is that it lacks heart – it’s like she’s shopping for a luxury car.
    Side note: Clearly, I need to pick up this Way of the Superior Man book. I’ve read lots of stuff written for men and I’m still looking for the really good one.

  15. 75
    Karl R

    Shay  said: (#69)
    “if you are Sophie, given  the  traits in men that  you want, what would you do? Can you please explain what is your plan to find the husband to  your kids?”

    1. Figure out if those traits are actually what  she wants. If  she wants him to be a good husband and father,  She should start with the traits which would imply that: kindness, patience, etc. (As far as I can tell, those traits don’t make  Sophie’s short list.)

    2. See if some of the men who are interested in her have those traits.

    3. If none of the men who are interested in her have those traits, she might want to figure out what traits the good potential fathers/husbands want. (Probably the traits that make someone a good mother/wife … like kindness, patience, etc.)

    Shay  said: (#69)
    “Can’t alpha males be good husbands too?”

    Have you ever gone shoe shopping for a cute pair of shoes, and ended up with a pair that was very cute but really uncomfortable?

    There are shoes which are cute and comfortable, but if you’re just looking for cute, you’re a lot less likely to accidentally end up with comfortable.

    And if a man is an alpha male and a great husband, he probably won’t be on the dating market long. (Those are two traits which many  women find desirable.) It’s the alpha males who don’t make good husbands who end up on the dating market again and again and again.

    Shay  said: (#69)
    “Its really great that she knows what she wants right now. And she has a plan to get it. If she gets it and realizes its not really working for her, you know what? She can  change her mind!”

    That’s how a lot of young men and women end up having their  first divorce.

    Shay  said: (#69)
    “I don’t think its fair to say she doesn’t know what she wants and don’t know how to get their either.”

    We may have very different definitions of what “knowing what she wants” means.

    There’s a joke I’ve heard  several boat owners agree with: “The two best days of owning a boat are the day you buy it and the day you sell it.”

    For the person who agrees with that statement, would you say they really wanted a boat? I would say they didn’t want a boat. They only thought they did. Once they owned the boat, they realized they really didn’t want  all the expenses and hassles that come with owning a  boat.

    You claimed that Sophie “knows what she wants and how to get it.” I would say there’s no proof of that. The proof will come when she gets the kind of man she’s looking for and gets to know him well enough to be sure he’s the kind of man she wants.

  16. 76
    Christie Hartman, PhD

    @Steve 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.”
    Sounds like good advice to me.

  17. 77

    What if you do understand everything that EMK is saying about making compromises, but still can’t change? I’ve been reading this blog for ages, but so far, no luck. I HAVE been giving lots of time and attention to those “nice guys”. at the beginning, it was refreshing not to date without anxiety, but after years of being with these nice stable guys, I almost wish I hadn’t invested all that time.
    I think that when people do fall in love eventually, it often doesn’t look like how they imagined- compromises are made. BUT these compromises just happen naturally as a consequence of meeting the right person. If you try it the other way around ( think you are compromising and then hoping to fall in love) it just doesn’t work.   I’m just comparing myself to my friends who have fallen in love.

  18. 78

    Steve #65 – location, location, location. In my profession, the same amount that a senior specialist makes here in the Midwest, is a junior-level starting salary in major cities on the East or West Coast. But then, the cost of living is also wildly different.

  19. 79

    @Goldie #78.
    I had that thought.   High salary is one thing, but does it mean that much if you live someplace like New York?

  20. 80

    What exactly constitutes an alpha male? This term has been mentioned several times, and maybe we’re not all on the same page about it.
    Is an alpha male someone who earns above a particular level relative to those around him? Someone who has a leadership position? Someone who behaves in a domineering way? Someone who is handsome? Someone who has the loudest voice and manages to monopolize conversations? Someone who attracts many females? This last is what “alpha male” means in zoology, but I can hardly believe that is how most women would like to think of it in the human world (even if it’s true).
    I’m not comfortable with ranking men or any humans in general (alpha vs. beta vs. gamma, etc.), but in my workplace, there are 2 alpha males: loud voices, leadership roles, dominating conversations, giving unsolicited advice and criticism… and I just think it would be hell to be married to them. They are charming, to be sure; and maybe this is all that Sophie can see when she looks for alpha males. But marriage is about living together for decades, ideally. Can one stand to be around someone like that for so long? Can one even stand to be with them more than 1 hour a day? And if they’re the type that can attract many women, is that what a woman wants?   When I’ve gone to these workplace parties and seen the wives of the top dogs, they more often than not appear harried, stressed, and unhappy. Better to live with someone who doesn’t stress you out.
    Going for shallow things may be natural in the animal world, but in our human society in which we build institutions that are meant to last, one must be more practical and thoughtful. Looking for money and charisma, as Sophie is, is painfully naive. I’m with Karl R #75 in that chasing after such things is what often leads people to their first divorces.

Leave a Reply

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