Are You Content With Good Enough Or Are You Holding Out For The Best?


In this video, Paul Bloom of Yale talks to Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice.

I got married and built my entire dating coaching practice around the idea that you can have high standards and still find happiness. People who push back – maximizers – insist that they will not “settle”. The problem with maximizers, as Schwartz points out in this video is that they find it harder to choose, it takes a longer time to choose, and they’re never really satisfied.

Holding out for “the best” or bust, often leaves you paralyzed and unhappy. Or perpetually single, as it might be.

As such, it’s next to impossible to succeed as a maximizer. Holding out for “the best” or bust, often leaves you paralyzed and unhappy. Or perpetually single, as it might be. Schwartz stresses a message that I emphasize here and that I emphasized in Lori Gottlieb’s Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough”:

“Even if you end up with less good outcomes, you’ll be happier” as a satisficer.

Trust me: it’s an acquired skill. I was a maximizer for 35 years until I figured out how to get happy. And if you’re a woman whose greatest fear is “settling”, it’s about time you picked up Schwartz’s and Gottlieb’s books above.

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  1. 41

    Sarahrarah (#36) wrote: “In the past,   I’ve had relationships with people who had a lot of the qualities I’ve looked for (similar values, intelligent, capable of having good conversation, readers, patrons of the arts)”
    Since when are these negatives? If you’re looking for a life partner, don’t you want someone who can carry on an intelligent conversation about a few things of mutual interest? However, I would argue that these men do not share your values if they are drug users (and you’re anti-drugs) or or just not that into you.
    Suzanne #33 wrote: “You have rejected guys because they want to stay in the same state in which they grew up.”
    If Jenna doesn’t want to live in that state for the rest of her life, then breaking up with a man who does makes sense.

  2. 42

    The main problem with marriage is this whole context of picking someone based upon outer attributes.   Find someone who is honest, friendly, has the ability to care for and love another person, has good character, and takes care of themselves and you.   All other things can be negotiated.

  3. 43
    Karmic Equation

    A good read for this topic is “Is He Mr. Right” by Mira Kirshenbaum. Key takeaways are

    The “five dimensions of chemistry”- make sure you and your guy have some degree of chemistry in all five dimensions
    Making sure you find a “safe guy who is hot enough” or a “hot guy who is safe enough” for you — don’t give up hotness if you’re with a safe guy (hotness doesn’t necessarily mean physically hot, but whatever “it” is that turns you on, e.g., reads, cooks, travels, etc.) — and don’t give up “safeness” if you’re with a hot guy.
    If a guy has more annoying habits than not, dump him. Those annoying things are going to magnify over time, not lessen.
    Be aware of counterfeit chemistry
    Don’t ping-pong between hot guy-safe guy dating cycles
    Be WILLING to dump the duds! Too many women can’t or won’t do this.

    Sounds to me as if Jenna is definitely doing number 6, but perhaps she’s not doing so well in the other areas.

    Jenna, What confuses me is if you’re planning to leave your rural town, why haven’t you left already? Wouldn’t it be easier to find and date “acceptable” men already living in the “new town” of your choosing than hoping to find men in your hometown who are willing to move? I think you’re asking for too much if you’re seeking the latter.



    I’ve never been a maximizer, but I’m not so sure I’m a satisficer either!

    I think that I’ve always had luck finding and building loving relationships because I simply look for a man I *LIKE* — And “like” encompasses so much more than what has been listed by various posters and yet so much less. For example, I don’t care if a guy is well-read so that we can discuss what he’s read, but rather that whatever conversations we have, are easy; no uncomfortable silences; not too many “Huh? What do you mean?”. I don’t care what he eats as long as he doesn’t care what I eat. I don’t care if he’s employed but that he persists in trying to find a job if he doesn’t have one. I really don’t have ANY preconceived notions of what I “like” so the guys I’ve had relationships with have been all over the map. No type, except that I liked them and they liked me, which eventually grew into love.

    In Kirshenbaum’s book she notes that if you and your guy have “chemistry” (some degree of all five dimensions) — you’re going to have a good relationship and more easily work through any difficulties. Great compatibility doesn’t necessarily equal great relationship. And remember Kirshenbaum’s definition of chemistry is much more than physical attraction.


    Paula #20

    I think you’re missing the point with the dress analogy. The point isn’t that the dress = man. The point is the THOUGHT PROCESS that the woman went through and then ended up with nothing. The woman needed *A* dress that looked good on her (dress = a man to make her happy). She DECIDED that she needed a RED dress to look good on her (RED dress = a good man with a BACHELOR’S degree [insert any non-happiness inducing criteria here] to make her happy). She bypassed the blue dress that not only looked good on her but was also within her budget (blue dress = good man with only high school diploma, within budget = bonus).

    If she hadn’t had preconceived notions of what she needed to make her happy, she would have bought the blue dress as soon as she tried it on. That’s not settling. That’s knowing a good thing when you come upon it.

  4. 44

    🙂 The dress analogy, amuses me. I would buy the blue dress but keep looking for a red one. If I did not find a red one in time I would keep the blue one. If I found a red one that was better I would take the blue one back . Now how would I apply that to a man ?;)

  5. 45

    Circular dating? 😀

  6. 46

    Karmic Equation, no I did understand the dress metaphor. Reread my post, I did get its point. The dress metaphor bares no resemblance to reality. Relationships are 2 way streets. Men have baggage. Yes the point is that the dress metaphor illustrates to women the dangers of being too picky. However picking a man also involves his feedback, hence this metaphor makes no sense.
    If we are using this horrible metaphor, it’s also neglecting the urgency of getting the dress. Do I need it for daily wear or do I have a special occasion to wear it for? And anyone that knows how women shop, you can buy both the blue and red dress and shop until your hearts content. You can go to other malls. Buying one dress is not the end of your dress buying career.
    Not a fan of metaphors, let’s use reality and actual experiences

  7. 47
    Karmic Equation


    Truth be told, that is what I would do, too! Buy the blue dress and keep looking for the red dress.

    So how do you apply this fable to men, with your example?

    Most women will “commit” to the red dress even though they know it needs alterations to fit…but, you know, it’s red. It’s what they decided they wanted. So they’ll buy it, take it home, take off the tags, get it altered…and then realize it was the WRONG shade of red for her complexion. But she’s now committed to the dress. She can’t take it back. It cost a fortune, so she won’t donate it. She wears it to the event and tries to forget about the fact that it’s the wrong color for her because of the sunk costs.

    She bypassed a great fitting, off the rack blue dress in favor of committing to the red dress of her dreams and then after commitment (becoming gf/bf, having sex, maybe moving in together) realizes that particular shade of red was all wrong for her. She’s only willing to part with the dress after several years, because of the sunk costs.

    That’s what most women do.

    I do it different, but I do what your example above illustrated.

    I buy the blue dress and keep looking for a red dress. I have sex without commitment so that I can continue to wear the blue dress while looking for the red dress. And I can continue to keep looking for a dress in right shade of red and the right fit because I haven’t required the blue dress to commit to me, so, therefore, I don’t have to commit to it.

    However, after wearing the blue dress often and recognizing how comfortable it is and how many compliments I get whenever I wear it, and the blue dress THEN asks me to be his gf, THEN I commit. I stop looking for the red dress, but I regularly assess the blue dress to see if it’s still a good fit. Once it’s too worn out or no longer fits, then I donate it and go looking for my red dress again.

    I don’t commit myself to the blue dress before the blue dress does offers to commit to me. I keep going about my happy life looking for the red dress.

    I have magic talking dresses, don’t you know. LOL

    But you know what I mean.

  8. 48
    Karmic Equation

    Then I guess you’re not a fan of fables. You must detest Aesop. Would a tortoise and a hare ever get in a race?
    You’re being too literal. Metaphors have a purpose. I like them.

  9. 49

    Karmic, you like metaphors – does that mean that Paula also has to like metaphors?  

  10. 50
    Karmic Equation

    If you actually read all the posts before commenting, it wouldn’t be me you’d be sniping at. I didn’t bring up the subject of liking or not liking metaphors. I was simply presenting the opposing viewpoint.

  11. 51

    You need to make a decision that works for you but the world doesn’t wait while you decide.   If you don’t make a decision, the universe will eventually decided for you.   I have a friend who broke up with her long term boy friend a few years ago.   A few years after the breakup, she discovered on facebook that her ex got married and was expecting a child.   The news upset her because it dawned on her that he will never be in her life.   She wasn’t in love with the man but I think she had the feeling maybe it could happen again.     I think some   people delude themselves when they consider their romantic options.   They think they have a discount rack they settle on.    

  12. 52

    Karmic Equation, on an offtopic note, yes I totally dislike most imaginary things. I don’t really like fiction or movies and tend to stick to non-fiction or documentaries. Not everyone likes metaphors so at least we have to be open to that reality that some people (like me) prefer more concrete things. 🙂

  13. 53
    Karmic Equation

    I totally get that. My exhusband was like that. We couldn’t ever have a conversation about conceptual/conjectural (is that a word?) things 🙂
    My life is very real, so I like to escape by reading Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels. Fiction-based mystery novels, etc.
    To each her own. There’s room enough in the universe for the two sides 🙂

  14. 54
    Randal Cieslak

    I feel like the term “good enough” is possibly misleading. It’s not settling, which is what good enough sounds like. There is a difference here. Having high standards and/or holding out for the best can still happen IF YOU’RE HONEST WITH YOURSELF. Be honest with yourself about three things that determine “the best” for you. Anything you list beyond three is a “want”. And determining if the next person you meet is “the best” is a simple matter of meeting the important qualities. Beyond the important qualities, ask yourself if whatever trait you’re debating over is something that you would be happy living with. That’s love, which is what everyone here is looking for. If you want “unconditional” love, be willing to give it yourself. That means really taking a look at those “deal-breakers” that are now a mile long and determining which ones TRULY are, and which are preferences that don’t matter if you love the person. It’s not settling at all, it’s accepting someone for who they are.

  15. 55

    I was with one of these maximizer women for a bit, funny thing was although I found her attractive even in jeans, she was unemployed? And basically homeless, yet she was holding out for just the right rich good looking man!

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