Why (Some) Women Might Consider Settling

Why (Some) Women Might Consider Settling

I got an email from my sister the other day. She was forwarding an article written by Lori Gottlieb for The Atlantic, called “Marry Him — The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough”. Actually, that’s not quite right. In fact, she was forwarding me a link to a gossip site called Jezebel, which was ripping the author for even posing the notion that settling was a reasonable idea. So first I read the criticism, then I read the article, then I read a post-article interview with Gottlieb, and then I watched Gottlieb defend herself on The Today Show.

It was very clear that Gottlieb was onto a hot-button issue. But why was she getting attacked from all angles? Why the seething vitriol at a single mother who suggests that it might be wiser to compromise at age 34 than to continue searching through a thinning talent pool at age 40? It was clear to me that the messenger was being shot for carrying a controversial message. But it wasn’t fully clear why. So I started talking with the very people who were upset about this piece — single women, 35-45. My clients.

They told me that the piece was offensive.

They told me that it speaks more about the author than it does of them.

They told me they were very happy being single and would sooner die alone than settle.

They told me that it’s unfair to single out women for “settling”. What about men?

Now, to be clear, I am very sympathetic to the plight of women looking for love. No, I’m not a woman, which inherently limits my understanding, but I am a dating coach who listens to the fears and complaints of women every single day. You’d be hard pressed to find a man more attuned to the frustrations of single women than I am. Yet from a coldly logical standpoint, I found Gottlieb’s argument virtually unassailable.

She didn’t say settling was ideal. She wasn’t saying that you should “settle” to the point that you’re miserable. She wasn’t saying that you couldn’t possibly be happy alone. She even admits that “talking about settling in a positive light makes people profoundly uncomfortable”. So what was she saying? To paraphrase:

If you DO want that traditional American dream of husband + house + kids who look like you, then your odds of achieving it are greater if you “settle” in your early 30’s.

If you want to have your own biological children with a quality man, your options are considerably greater when you’re 32 than when you’re 42. And if that’s the case, it might behoove you to settle for a “good” guy when you’re younger, rather than hold out for an ideal guy when there are fewer quality options available.

I’m not sure what there is to argue with. I mean, you can make the argument that you’re perfectly happy being single. Great. Stay single. You can make the argument that you’d be suicidal if you were to marry the “wrong” guy. Certainly, you shouldn’t marry under those circumstances. But if you DO want that traditional American dream of husband + house + kids who look like you, then your odds of achieving it are greater if you “settle” in your early 30’s.

Here’s why:…

1) If a tall, dark and handsome 40-year-old man with a six-figure income and great family values is on the hunt for a wife, he is most likely is going to be attracted to someone younger. Wait, don’t shoot! I’ve got an older wife, and have long advocated for the wisdom and experience of thirtysomethings over twentysomethings. But youth and beauty have always been coveted by men, and wishing it away doesn’t change a thing.

2) If a tall, dark and handsome 40-year-old man with a six-figure income and great family values wants to be the biological father to his own children, he is mostly likely going to be searching for someone younger. It makes perfect sense. He doesn’t want to have to rush the relationship, much less get engaged, married, and pregnant in a year. Thus, all things remaining equal, most 40-year-old men with a choice will choose to date a woman younger than 35. It buys them time. Time that 35-40 year-old women don’t have IF they want their own biological children.

If a tall, dark and handsome 40-year-old man with a six-figure income and great family values wants to be the biological father to his own children, he is mostly likely going to be searching for someone younger.

And that’s the caveat that I need to emphasize more than Gottlieb did in her article. If you don’t want children, you’ve got no reason to settle. If you already have children, you’ve got no reason to settle. If you’re fine adopting children, you’ve got no reason to settle. But if you want to have your own kids, you have a far better pool of male applicants at age 30 than you do at age 40. It’s not that it’s impossible. Women in their late 30’s and early 40’s fall in love, get married, and get pregnant all the time. It’s just more difficult, that’s all.

Which is why this should not be taken as a judgment against women over 35. It’s merely an observation about the dating preferences of men. It’s not like women don’t know this. If they weren’t fully aware that men discriminated by age, they wouldn’t be lowering their ages to 29, 34, and 39 on dating sites across America. And what these women have surely realized — what they voice to me on the phone daily — is that the quality of their suitors is abysmal.

Are all the good ones taken? Not quite. But here’s a lot of what you’re going to get as a 40-year-old woman on Match.com: Commitmentphobes. Players. Financially unstable guys. Unattractive guys. Socially awkward guys. Much younger guys. Much older guys. Look in your in-box. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know….

So where are the tall, dark and handsome 40-year-old men with six-figure incomes and great family values? Searching for women 25-35, that’s where. And while some of those 25-35 women are getting married to these guys, many others are holding out for better men —younger, richer, cuter, smarter. Are they wrong for doing so? Hell, no. They’re following their hearts. They know what they’re worth. They WILL. NOT. SETTLE. In the meantime, they focus on their careers, their friends, their travel, and their homes, because that’s more rewarding than the tedious, maddening process that is dating. But occasionally, as these women near 40, things begin to shift. They find themselves lonely at holidays, or fed up with weddings, or feeling a biological pull that can’t be ignored. So, once again, they decide to gamely search for Mr. Right. But who’s left to choose from? Mostly (not exclusively), a parade of the “wrong” men on Match.com.

Given all that, I find it hard to disagree with Gottlieb’s assertion that, for women who want their own kids, it may be a better long-term decision to snap up Mr. Good Enough at 32 than to hope for Mr. Perfect at 42.

It sure ain’t romantic, but it is practical. People hate practical.

It sure ain’t romantic, but it is practical. People hate practical.

You may be reading this and getting upset. Maybe you’re upset at me for my take on this. Maybe you’re upset with Gottlieb for perpetuating the myth that women need men. Maybe you’re upset with men for wanting younger women. But mostly, I think what is most upsetting is that the article challenges our worldview that we can have it all without having to compromise. And the fact that a few people seem to have it all makes it all the more tantalizing. But when the high wears off – and, oh, it does – what do those people have left? Ask any older married couple. They’ll tell you about the virtues that have kept them together for forty years. Friendship. Loyalty. Patience. Values. Compromise.

So why do we single people so arrogantly insist that our elders have got it wrong? And if you’d rather be alone than compromise, why get so upset that other people like Lori Gottlieb have a different point of view?




Click here to read more:

Lori Gottlieb’s Article in the Atlantic: “Marry Him”

Jezebel’s criticism of Gottlieb

Lori Gottlieb defending her article on The Today Show.


Join our conversation (291 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.


  1. 1

    Bravo Evan. Bravo. A couple of things. First, your last paragraph and a half is gold. I was married for 10 years. My grandparents died together (not literally) and my parents just celebrated 40 years. It’s unfair to expect ANYONE to give you that buzz for the rest of your life. You need to be happy with the comfy kind of love that comes after. More, I think the perpetuation of the myth that you should ALWAYS have that buzz is partly behind the rise in female infidelity.

    Second, I frequent a site called survivinginfidelity.com and it’s my experience that as women get older they feel more independent than men do. I feel that this may partly be due to female rise in testosterone w/ age and corresponding male decline in same w/ age. Sorry to whip out my bachelors in science. Just a theory.

    Lastly, with everything you’ve written Evan I just feel that much more pathetic. I’m 38 and in peak physical condition. 6’1″, 200 lbs and I can even dress myself, cook and choose wine. Yet, I’ve been on match for more than 2 years with nothing more to show for it than some one night stands and month-long relationships that crash and burn. Negatives include, I already have 2 kids and their nights are unavailable, socially. Some emotional baggage and financial instability due to divorce/child support (excellent credit and bills get paid but, hey, month to month) and the inability/lack of desire to produce more children. Very frustrating. I really don’t want to be a 50 year old bachelor. : (

    1. 1.1

      hey Markus, I understand where you come from, but I must say for me one of the first dealbreakers on dating sites is ‘already has kids/ex wife’. Maybe I am wrong for doing so, maybe I am missing out on a great guy..But as an attractive, smart 33 y.o. I get flooded with options, so I guess part of your bad luck can be explained by this. A girl looking for her ‘prince charming’ does not want it with that much baggage and the no kids policy on top? did you try older women?

  2. 2

    Settling is a practical option. Many women and men settle. The problem with settling often comes down the road. Many people who settle find themselves on other message boards complaining about their mates in terms of sex, affectionate, communication, compromise, values, the list goes on and on. And you ask them, “But was s/he like this BEFORE you married?” Answer: “Well yes, to a degree. But I thought it would get better in time after we were married.”

    Well it didn’t and years after the bloom is off the settling relationship, what you have is at least one unhappy person who complains and complains, yet stays because the spouse is a good provider/good parent. And that might be the only reason.

    Settling as practical to get what you want? Sure. But you might want to talk to those people who settled a while AFTER they got the house and the kids and the SUV and see what they have to say then.

  3. 3

    Settling at 32 can feel like being trapped at 42. It’s a tradeoff.

  4. 4

    I think one of the reasons why women find the idea of “settling” so offensive is that when they were little girls their heads were filled with the “Knight In Shining Armour” BS and their heads were filled with the BS that their weddings would be the end all,be all, romantic adventures of their lives.

    They have been waiting for that ideal all of their lives. For many it keeps them going.

    The idea of giving all of that is not going to be happy one.

    1. 4.1

      Were you ever a “little girl”?

      I was, and my head was never filled with anything of the kind. I developed an “ideal” all by myself, and yes, that ideal includes – non-negotiably – nobility of character. (The same goes for my expectation from women friends, BTW.) I don’t care how much he earns – as long as he does his work WELL – I couldn’t care less whether he has a car (although it is practical), but he has to be noble, kind, intelligent (= with an independent mind) and sexy (to me); and he has to adore me.   The rest are just basic personal hygiene requirements and such.

      Interestingly enough, that seems to be too much to ask for. 🙂



  5. 5

    To be clear

    “Settling”, I think, in this context” means accepting accepting “Mr. Human” instead of holding out for “Mr. Knight In Shining Armor”.

    “Settling” does not mean marrying “Mr. Wrong” or even “Mr. Poor Fit”

    1. 5.1

      wow I really like the clarification! Makes perfect sense and should even be added to the main post.

    2. 5.2

      To be even clearer: “settling” means accepting someone you are not in love with.

      Why would anyone want to put up with that is beyond me. But to each their own.




  6. 6

    Evan’s points are great. He’s right about compromising and the challenges of ‘having it all.’ For both sexes, I might add.

    Ah, practicality. Selena makes some good points for & against both sexes. Here is what I’ve found, anectedotally (spelling?) speaking. And no, I’m not critiquing her post, just taking it a step further.

    She wrote, “Well it didn’t and years after the bloom is off the settling relationship, what you have is at least one unhappy person who complains and complains, yet stays because the spouse is a good provider/good parent. And that might be the only reason.

    Settling as practical to get what you want? Sure. But you might want to talk to those people who settled a while AFTER they got the house and the kids and the SUV and see what they have to say then.”

    No kidding. She’s right. However, it’s pretty easy to divorce now, and no one needs to be ‘at fault.’ Since the thrust of the article is about having children, let’s look at that.

    If she ‘settles,’ she’s already dissatisfied on some level, as noted by Selena. However, let’s look a little at what happens if she’s a stay-at-home mom. This isn’t to debate the merits or supposed benefits to the kids. It’s about her dissatisfaction because she settled.

    Husband has risks he shoulders when accepting 100% of the financial burden to allow his wife to stay at home. I agree that staying home with children is backbreaking and difficult work. This changes when the kids go to school from 8-3, or 7 hours. After a few years of hard work at home, many wives may feel entitled to “kick back” and take it easy. What’s husband done this entire time? He’s worked to provide the funds for the household, has done his share of housework, and is still working just as hard to support the family once the kids are in school. His workload has not diminished, and it may have even increased as her expectations rise. He is rarely afforded the same option to scale back his daytime efforts.

    What motivation does wife have to return to work? Very little. Husband’s income has been enough to live on. Otherwise, she would have been working to make ends meet out of need. Unless tight finances dictate that she must return to work, the husband really has little say in this matter. Wife usually has many different ‘reasons’ she cannot work, despite having little to do from 8am-3pm. Here are some of the most popular.

    “I do the housework”
    Hooey. This was valid in the 30’s, before dishwashers, washers, dryers, microwaves, and refrigerators were in every home. In the 30’s women did have too wash the clothes (incl. cloth diapers, not disposables like today) by hand on a washboard. Ouch! Today, throw them in a Maytag. Run a vacuum – 1 hour/week. It is easy to exaggerate the labours of daily housework. Yet how long does it take to throw clothes or dishes into the washer, and remove them later? Grocery shopping used to be done daily, as not everyone had refrigerators to store food. Food was prepared from scratch daily. That doesn’t exist today. A decent meal can be prepared in under an hour, not to mention the proliferation of take-out (Chipotle, anyone?). Does all of this add up to 7 hours a day? The lie that housework is hard, time-consuming drudgery is no longer as persuasive as it may have been in the past, because in an age of later marriage, many men have done their own cooking, cleaning, and general housekeeping and know that it doesn’t take that much effort or time. Humourously, not every stay-at-home-wife even performs all of these duties.

    “I can’t find a job”
    She has been out of work too long, and therefore is unable to find a job. This may be true, but many men do not consider this risk when they agree to support her while she “temporarily” stops working. Hopefully now they will, and can make a more informed decision. Many wives may use this as a convenient scapegoat to stop looking for any job at all.

    “It doesn’t pay for me to work”
    In the short run, the expenses of returning to work such as gas, lunch, clothes and day care may not make it worthwhile for her to return to the workforce. This may be true, but does that justify her playing tennis, drinking lattes and catching up with her friends while her husband toils away? Many couples may be too shortsighted to thoroughly and comprehensively think through this issue. Initially, the cost to benefits ratio may not be ideal, but her returning to work will improve her job skills and network of contacts and over time the return on investment will improve. More so than strolling through the local mall every afternoon and window-shopping for new window treatments. Over time, as her career gets back on track, and she becomes qualified for better jobs, her salary should also improve.

    Ah, Divorce. I don’t like to bring it up, but you have to include it in the discussion since, if she’s ‘settled’ and dissatisfied, she will likely initiate a divorce. The divorce rate exceeds 50%, and of those, women initiate AT LEAST 70% of the divorces (see Discovery Health).

    Upon divorce, all assets accumulated during and prior to a marriage are subject to division. Divorce is a license to steal. It’s wealth redistribution. If the Wife has not worked in years, and has spent the intervening 5-10+ years shopping and lunching from 8am-3pm, she is entitled to half, or more, of everything Husband earned during the course of the marriage. Is this fair? How many people would ever agree to a job contract that stipulated that in the event of separation that one party would have to return 50% of the gross amount of everything in the pay packet? No one in his or her right mind would knowingly sign such an agreement. Yet Husbands agree to this insanity every time they marry.

    Imagine that in the spirit of generosity and kindness that you gave a beggar a hot meal. This is nice, no? Now imagine your reaction if that same beggar sues you in court. He is petitioning the judge to have you keep providing him with the food that you gave him willingly, freely, out of a big heart. The judge orders you to keep feeding the homeless man meals, indefinitely, forever, because he has become accustomed to eating those meals! This is categorically absurd, yet this happens to Husbands in divorce court every day. Instead of thanking you for paying her bills for all those years, what you get is the privilege of being legally forced to pay her bills forever!

    After having children, many women demand to quit working and stay home. Before the kids came along, many of these same women may have been in careers they hated, working long hours, and enduring long commutes. It is the man’s generosity and dedication to his own career that enables her to walk away from her own career. During a marriage, a man with a stay-at-home wife might work long and grueling hours in order to support her. He will pay the mortgage, the property tax, grocery bill, phone bill, cable bill, Internet bill and electric bill. He also pays for her car, gas money, clothes, and vacations.

    As one final slap in the face, the man may be punished for working hard enough to allow his wife to have the luxury of staying at home with the kids. As noted above, after the children are in school, the wife may enjoy a life of leisure and relaxation that is afforded to her by her man’s hard work. In the event of divorce, he will be legally obligated to support her for years or decades to come. Because she stopped working and led a life of leisure, the ex-husband is now responsible for supporting her, forever! History has a tendency of rewriting itself. Originally, a woman may have had a career that she may have hated, and was begging to leave. Women often “play” at work and career for a few years after University, and then when they near 30 or grow tired of the workplace they seek out a man to “take her away from all of this”, whatever “all of this” may be. In fact her desire to leave the world of work may have been her motivation to have kids in the first place. But now, in her eyes, and definitely her lawyers eyes, she “gave up” her career for her man and his kids. She is now “owed” all of her “lost income”. His gift of leisure and support to her has now become twisted and is viewed as her sacrifice! Another way in which the situation is turned against him is that he will be characterised as being threatened by her having her own career, and that he forced her to quit her “lucrative career” and stay home with the children. Her lawyer will now attempt to convince the judge that he wanted to “oppress” his wife and “keep her down”. Truthfully now, how many men do you personally know that are upset at having a wife that earns a good living? Many of these misleading stereotypes still run rampant in our society, and are routinely used to the woman’s advantage during a divorce. As a result of her not working, regardless of whether she was minding the home or not, she remains a financial liability.

    Generous, caring men who spoil their wives should certainly think twice about how this generosity can later be used against them. The phrase used in divorce court is “She has become accustomed to a certain lifestyle”. A husband’s reward for spoiling his wife today is the legal obligation to spoil her indefinitely, forever. Buy her a luxury car today, and you may be obligated to buy her luxury cars after she leaves you for another man! Yet, imagine a husband that became accustomed to eating a home cooked dinner, or regular conjugal visits. Now imagine the courts obligate the ex-wife to continue cooking for him and sharing her bed with him and his new girlfriend each night, despite being divorced! Inconceivable, but it happens the other way around every day!

    Ok. Apologies for being so long winded. But you get the point. She ‘settles’ for him to have kids. She gets dissatisfied. In the end, he ends up with modern indentured servitude. By the way, the same thing happens to him if he ‘settles’ and later wants out. The post sounds negative, but it’s a no-win system for men, generally speaking.

    It would seem best that men avoid women who are ‘settling’ for them. Now how to do so is the trick…

    1. 6.1

      Oh my. You’ve got the “put upon” husband side down pat. Now I’ll provide the alternate view from the stay at home wife’s perspective. This is a true story for many single mothers.

      First off, BOTH spouses agreed that one parent should stay home and do the majority of the home making, finances and CHILD REARING (hardly an insignificant task mind you). How often does the husband offer to sacrifice HIS career to stay home wiping bottoms and snotty noses, bored out of his mind for a decade? I’ll tell you, very, very few. Yet, at the end of the relationship, many husbands disregard the Wife’s role and sacrifice in creating this life they have together, feeling as though they are entitled to walk away from the relationship with all the spoils and none of the responsibilities. It’s akin to a long term professional partnership where one partner gets to leave with all the profits from a business (life) they both built from the ground up. How likely is that to happen in the business world? I smell a lawsuit!

      However, this is often how it plays out in marriage. Years down the line, once the children are in school, the wife looks around for work and realizes that no one, I mean NO ONE, will even consider hiring a person who’s been out of the work force for a decade. She has sacrificed her future earning potential to raise the kids. She has no connections and few practical job skills.

      If she’s lucky, she finds a secretarial or part time position just so she’ll have something of her own to do as work once the kids start school. I know of not a single former stay at home mother who lazed about, drinking lattes and playing tennis at the Country Club. All are working as soon as they can convince someone to give them a shot. Oh, and by the way, after working at whatever menial job she managed to find, she still gets to do all the housework and child rearing when she gets home. She’s exhausted.

      Hubby comes home from his higher paying job and demeans what the wife does, both professionally and at home, always claiming that HE’S doing SO much while she slacks off. Naturally, he does not offer to try doing any of the things SHE does because he feels that is beneath him. He starts to notice that the cute younger secretary in his office is in much better shape than his post baby wife and begins an affair. He feels entitled to what he wants because HIS life is so difficult.

      He then leaves his wife for the younger 2.0 version and complains bitterly that he must pay child support and alimony, even though he helped make those babies and encouraged his wife to abandon her future earning potential to raise his children while he advanced his career. He spends one or two weekends per month with his kids while the wife continues to do all the heavy lifting and whines about how the “Ex is raking him over the coals” financially. Of course, child support ends when the kids reach 18 so he’ll be off the hook then. He continues to enjoy his new (primarily kid free) single life while the wife faces her later years without the retirement options Hubby has from his years of working.

      When couples marry, have children and AGREE that one party stays home it is like a mutual life-contract. The party who works is agreeing to share the benefits in later years just as the one who stays at home sacrifices during the children’s youth.

  7. 7

    I didn’t start out looking for younger women almost exclusively. I like good conversation. I also like someone that has the same cultural references that I have.

    I gave up on women my own age because

    – They are paranoid. Dates aren’t fun. They come with an
    agenda of questions designed to weed men out on indicators.
    I understand why they do this, but I want to have
    fun on a date, and enjoy someone’s company not be interviewed.
    have fun. These women are not as subtle as they think they are.

    – Low self esteem. Forcing a shy person into a conversation is
    no fun. At various parties I have been at it has been a LOT
    easier to break the ice with younger women. Not so with many
    of the older women I have come across. I have to work a lot
    longer and a lot harder to draw them out. I can get the vibe
    from them that they think of themselves as “expired produce”
    so why would a guy like me want to talk with them or maybe
    I will then get bored with them quickly. Not true, but if it is a lot
    easier to get someone else to warm up in a conversation that is
    the person I am going to talk to at a party.

  8. 8

    I read this great quote in a book last year

    “If you will settle for nothing less than perfection then that is exactly what you will get: nothing

    1. 8.1

      And “nothing” IS better than settling for something that is below your (well, my) standards. Nothing would be worse than looking myself in the mirror knowing that there is someone around whom I wouldn’t have chosen naturally (i.e. without compromising heavily); someone that I am not IN LOVE with.

      BTW, not all standards include “perfection”; and “perfection” isn’t the same as “flawlessness”. Someone can be perceived as “perfect” for someone with all their flaws.


  9. 9

    Evan, kudos for a great post! I’m generally a fan of being open and cognizant of other points of view and I think you hit this one dead on.

    In response to Selena, I view those as the balance to the equation, or caveats if you will. Settling is a trade off, a gamble in many ways.

    Two (possibly relevant) quotes: The problem with getting what you want is getting what you once wanted. (Don’t remember where that’s from.) “It’s not having what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” Sheryl Crow (“Soak Up The Sun”)

  10. 10

    Evan, Gottlieb isn’t just saying “settle for a guy who’s less than perfect.” She’s saying “settle for a guy you don’t love and don’t find attractive before your ovaries wither or you have to be a single mom.” I mean, she’s advocating being willing to marry and have babies with a man whose touch repulses you — and she’s saying that being repulsed should be Good Enough. Isn’t that a bit too much of a sacrifice just to get a ring and a Diaper Genie?

  11. 11
    Angela Crisp

    Firs, Evan, my dear, I applaud you for this brave piece, however, it does seem to me to be misguided on several points. As a 42 year old, unmarried woman, I don’t feel I should rip the author, but I must admit I do feel pity for her, and anyone who takes her advice. The idea I should settle for a problematic man for biological purposes is, on its face, rather cold. I can, in fact, give birth through my mid fifties to satisfy my own biological needs. If men prefer vigorous younger women to conceive with, I also seek a vigorous man for a sperm donor. But if in seeking a man, I am also seeking a companion, and if the chemistry is not strong enough, the relationship will end at some point, and the children will likely be my responsibility alone. The large number of single mothers in the US I think attests in the support of this theory. Women don’t seek ideals, we seek real people, and practical situations. Recommending women settle for what they don’t really, truly desire is a recipe for unhappiness. Now, I recognize that sometimes everyone needs to adjust what they desire, but I would hope the passion for the new desire would be just as great as for the old desire. I happen to adore men, no doubt a product of my past affairs, but adore them I do. However, the idea I should “settle” for something less than I desire is disturbing considering my passion for the men in question. I notice that this recommendation is made only to women, not to men, although you make it plain that previous objection won’t be addressed in your column. I find that interesting. Women, for biological satisfaction, should deny themselves emotional satisfaction. Yet, it is the emotion that will keep people together to raise the biological offspring, and it that’s not present, the relationship will end, if for no other reason than the stress of raising the offspring. Would it not be better to let the women have their biological offspring even if an ideal or good man is not present? Then if the man truly wants to stay, he can of his own free will? And if a woman tries with a man to have children she will remain involved with, shouldn’t her biological and emotional choice be hers? It is not like women don’t raise children on their own in the US. And if children are not her goal, should she not have the same set of choices? As for being arrogant questioning our elders — if no questions are allowed, however respectfully they may be made, won’t that cut off all advancement, all progress, even between generations? In what way does wanting and waiting for a compatible man we are passionate about question our elders? You column raises more questions than it provides answers aside for an injunction for women to settle for someone they might not really desire in the long run. Is looking for a good man really that painful and detrimental for women? We are, after all, told we are natural shoppers. I realize my point of view resonates with old feminist ideas that have been lost or refuted by US culture, and I don’t want to imply any threat to you. But your column provides a very old fashion solution to a complex modern problem. I admire your bravery and courage in addressing these issues at all, and would hope you can find in my words a few things to consider in the future. Thank you.

  12. 12
    Angela Crisp

    To Steve: I think it is wonderful you have found a group that seems right for you to focus on. I date mostly younger men for the same reasons you date younger women. Older guys do have more baggage, just as older women do. I am the lucky one, I lost my baggage at the airport and never bothered to track it back down, lol. Do I need that old tooth brush and those worn out sneakers? No. I don’t think you do either. It is about fun, and friendly, open minded people are more fun from the beginning. That’s a lesson for all age groups, from teens to 80s. Thanks for your comment.

  13. 13
    Evan Marc Katz

    Thanks, Angela, for the respectful note.

    I think our main source of departure is the definition of a “problematic” man. As you said – “recommending women settle for what they don’t really, truly desire is a recipe for unhappiness.” But what if what they really, truly desire doesn’t exist? What if what it exists as infrequently as a solar eclipse? What if what women want is unrealistic, unfair, and unreasonable? These are the main issues that I think it’s important to address. Because NOBODY – myself and Lori Gottlieb included – advocate for misery. I’m simply suggesting that we all, to a degree, overestimate ourselves. We dissect others and hope that nobody dissects us. And then when we find ourselves standing alone, because all the people we want don’t want us, and all the people who want us are summarily rejected – we complain. The logical solution, it therefore stands to reason, is to compromise, which others describe as “settling”. And, as evidenced by the tone of the Gottlieb debate, the notion of settling is entirely unsettling – to ALL of us.

    As far as your later points, I’m not a slave to orthodoxy. The whole nature of this blog is to challenge beliefs and ask questions. But the REAL belief structure that’s being challenged, Angela, is NOT our parents’ conventional wisdom. No, what’s got everyone up in arms is the concept that all women can’t always have it all. And that’s not something that anyone is particularly comfortable with.

    Frankly, I find this whole debate to be surprising, since the argument is moot to most single women. If the women who are angry at Lori Gottlieb refuse to settle, refuse to compromise, are happy being single, and perfectly content being alone for as long as it takes to find Mr. Perfect, then WHO CARES WHAT LORI GOTTLIEB SAYS? Just go on and live your life. Lori provided some very practical advice specifically to women who want to have their own kids. “Take it from me – an unwed 40 year old single mom. I might have been happier with a guy who gave me 85% at 30, than to be searching for 100% from a worse dating pool ten years later.” That is a thought worth considering. Case closed. You don’t want to consider it – fine. But why the anger?

    I’d forgotten, but I wrote about this in a chapter in Why You’re Still Single called “Hitting on 20”. It’s a blackjack metaphor – and it seems to me that both men and women are not content with a perfectly winning hand. We’re always going to pull for another card, and a lot of times we’re gonna bust. So as I see it – and you may disagree – Lori’s not talking about sticking on 13 or 14. She’s saying that when you have a good guy – an 18 or a 19, it may be wiser to hold onto him than to cast him out – especially as the pool of quality single and interested men diminishes. This is sound advice to SOME women – even if you’re not one of them.

    Finally, the reason this doesn’t apply to men is because men don’t have a biological clock. Plain and simple. Thus, they feel (rightfully and wrongfully) that they can hold out for perfection, longer. But even they’re wrong. Eventuallythe successful 45 year old guy gets pretty damn desperate for a 29 year old bride – only to discover that he, too, has waited too long – and that 29 year old women usually get creeped out by them. They, too, overestimate their value and are shocked, SHOCKED, that the women they covet have no interest in them.

    The moral of the story is this: until we get very clear on what is a) reasonable, and b) realistic, we’re all gonna be single and bitching for a really long time.

    1. 13.1

      I loved Lori G’s book!

      It tells a harsh truth that every woman looking for love need to hear. I’m “only” 27 years old but I had a strong longing to find somebody after my 4-year-long relationship ended in 2012. I dated for 2 years men whom I had always found to be my “ideal” type; the greek/mexican/iranian male – i just love the dark features, they are emotionally expressive and passionate men (Swedish men are NOT like that – I’m from Stockholm, Sweden). I dated that type for 2 years and and it ended equally terrible each time. Great sex, great conversation – terrible temper, too much alike (i’m the emotional type) and I ended up dating men that was not ready to commit to me (or that I didn’t want to be committed to because of their personality traits). This is until I met my now boyfriend! I didn’t even take a second look at his pictures when I by accident found him online.. Luckily! he wrote to me and even though his was NOT my type regarding his appearance (typical Swede – blonde, tall, pale skin), it was something within in me that made me write him back (maybe just to be polite ;). He ended up being my dream man(!) because of his kind personality, he is great at compromising, we compliment each other with our tempers (i am emotional, he is rational), he’s always positive and optimistic, fun to be around, social, creative, treats me like a princess etc etc – the list goes on! Does he fill ALL of my “ideal man”-wants? No.. He’s not spiritual and he’s not naturally emotional (he’s actually opened up more of this side since we met) and he doesn’t have the appearance that would have been my “top choice” . Even though! that is not things that make me rule him out as my dream/ideal man, all his other personality traits is what makes him the most attractive man I’ve ever met (I have had 4 boyfriends and around 7 men that I have dated for a period of approx 2-3 months each). I think what Lori is trying to say in her book (and Evan in many of his blog entries) is that you should question your perception of “dream man”. Often what you picture as ‘dream man’ doesn’t exist! Only in your mind. You can’t get a man that is both handsome, emotionally available and open to marry you; willing to compromise, treats you with respect and love (even when fighting)… I don’t believe that’s possible anyways! My man of 8 months talks constantly about wanting to marry me and we have plans to buy a condo together. If this is settling.. than settling was the best choice I’ve ever made!

  14. 14

    Angela Crisp Feb 14th 2008 at 11:43 am 13
    To Steve: I think it is wonderful you have found a group that seems right for you to focus on. I date mostly younger men for the same reasons you date younger women. Older guys do have more baggage, just as older women do. I am the lucky one, I lost my baggage at the airport and never bothered to track it back down, lol.

    Angela, if that is true, the next time you are near Washington D.C. email me your phone number. I would love to have the night out with someone from my generation.

  15. 15

    I’ve been reading the blog for awhile, never posted, but felt inspired today to post. I totally agree with Evan’s points. I would make one change- I don’t call that “settling” I call it maturing and having reasonable expectations. I am a 28 year old woman who has lost both of my parents before the age of 16- so I think I may have come to this conclusion that stability and dependability outranks fireworks every time earlier than most. Although I don’t find it depressing- I find it liberating. For me, it has allowed me to realize that when a guy doesn’t necessarily give me butterflies at first glance, the minute he shows what a solid guy he can be when I might need him, the butterflies come. And they get even stronger when he can let me do that for him as well. It makes it so that my goal when dating is to get to know someone and find something deeper and more genuine than some sparks. And really, the sparks can be totally ignited down the line- although I am single now, it’s happened to me before. When the sparks come a little later than expected, you have a solid base to rely on when the sparks begin to dim. Again, I think I am talking about the same phenomenon as Evan is, I just call it something different.
    One more note- verbosity, I appreciate all the thought you put into your posts, and I’d like to comment on this one. I’ve seen you use this statistic about women intitating divorce several times, and I was curious about it, so I looked it up where you found it. Although the statistic is there, I think the way you are using doesn’t quite support your argument- it appears that you use it as kind of way to implicate women in the rising divorce rates and subsequent rise of single people in their 30s and 40s. Of course women have a part in this phenomenon- I am just not sure that it’s related to this statistic. Here is something is says below the statistic on the site you found it on:
    “Two-thirds of all divorces are initiated by women. One recent study found that many of the reasons for this have to do with the nature of our divorce laws. For example, in most states women have a good chance of receiving custody of their children. Because women more strongly want to keep their children with them, in states where there is a presumption of shared custody with the husband the percentage of women who initiate divorces is much lower. Also, the higher rate of women initiators is probably due to the fact that men are more likely to be “badly behaved.” Husbands, for example, are more likely than wives to have problems with drinking, drug abuse, and infidelity.” (Discovery Health)
    So, basically there are a myriad of reasons women initiate divorce that don’t fit into your argument. I think a women who leaves her husband because she wants to take his money is very different from a woman who leaves her husband because he is an alcoholic who won’t get help- yet both are the “intiators.” It’s really a misleading statistic. I also think the scenario you put forth about the dissatisfied stay-at-home mom is probably pretty confined to the white upper middle and middle class, which is not the majority in our society. And you did say this was just from your anecdotal experience, so I appreciate that.

  16. 16

    I meant upper-middle and upper class. Ooops.

  17. 17


    While I very much sympathize with your content, I think you are rather off topic.


    Man have I lived this thread. I was dating an incredible girl last year and I broke up with her because I thought something better had come along. I’ve been paying for it ever since.

  18. 18

    If you will settle for nothing less than perfection then that is exactly what you will get: nothing”

    So true Evan. As a 42 yo single mom I can say that I’m looking
    for someone mainly with good character, honesty, loyalty, kindness, ability to hold a job, and I can live with someone with financial difficulties. That can be temporary. Or one who has kids at home…they eventually grow up and leave home.

    The only problem I see with settling for Mr good enough right now, is if you do settle for the sake of having kids, and things don’t work out, its the kids who can suffer. No one should settle just for the sake of having kids. For loneliness, maybe, but not for kids.
    There’s way too many kids growing up in single parent homes now.

    Other than that, I totally agree, no one is perfect, and you have to accept some flaws to find long term happiness.
    The high of finding love wears off and then you have companionate love. It even shifts from one area of the brain to another. And that’s what you need to have a lasting long term relationship.

  19. 19

    This is an epic thread. I just got done reading the original article, the rant on Jezebel, the followup interview, and all the comments on EMK’s blog.

    Lori’s perspective is shattering but it also strikes me as totally reasonable…she’s just arguing for it in a way that comes off as controversial. There is often a huge disparity between the romantic ideal and the “solid person” that is marriageable…this is true for both men and women. Lori and Evan both suggest a lowering of expectations IF you’re interested in starting a family. If you’re satisfied with with being single and dating, then there’s no reason to settle, and I agree with that totally. Why not? You’re not in a hurry.

    Here’s the money quote from Lori’s interview:
    “I was so focused on true love that I hadn’t appreciated the purely practical benefits of having a husband. Not only does he contribute financially, help with the dishes, and share in the child care, but as his wife, if you want some companionship or physical intimacy, you don’t have to shave your legs, blow-dry your hair, find a puke-free outfit, apply lipstick, drive to a restaurant and sit through a tedious two-hour meal for the mere possibility of some heavy petting while the babysitter meter is ticking away.”

    Wow! That’s a heavy dose of realism. I think everyone could benefit from having their romantic ideals knocked down a peg or three. It’s not like the movies. Dating is truly a battlefield and I ain’t gonna lie, it makes me glad I don’t have a biological clock.

  20. 20
    Angela Crisp

    verbosity: You make some interesting points, but I actually know women paying alimony to men. I don’t think anyone should get paid out a relationship they wanted unless they are too disabled to work and provide for themselves. This simply complicates a free and open possibility for everyone else because it builds up stereotypes. We need to halt all alimony unless a partner who was fit can no longer provide for themselves.

    Markus: I hear your regret loud and clear. I, too, have let some fantastic men walk out of my life. The question is, how do I manage to find other fantastic men to spend time with now? If I could bottle and sell it, I’m sure I would be rich, lol! I hope you decide to try again, and not blame yourself for a mistake.

    Steve: it is true. I did lose my baggage at the airport. But are we talking about baggage here, something someone should change about themselves to find the person who will be a joy for them to know? Or are you talking about settling for less joy, and toting along our baggage anyway? I would agree people can and do have unreasonable expectations. I am as guilty of that as the rest. I used to call it my “knight-in-shining-armor complex.” (Not really fair to me or to real knights in shining armor, lol) Once I understood that men would never solve a problem for me, but are a problem that once solved (ie., understood, accepted, embraced), the problem would present me with incredible gifts, and so my relationship choices improved. Men have the same problem, we’ll call it the “damsel-in-distress” complex. Wanting real passion has nothing to do with being unrealistic. It is for the individual to decide when this one is the keeper, and when to work on themselves to improve their playing field.

    Now, for Mr. Katz: by problematic, I mean no offense, merely that this individual woman is not satisfied with this individual man. (It may be the man is not satisfied either?) This man might be a joy to someone else, but not to this individual woman. Why ask anyone to “settle” so long as the passion is insufficient? Settling breeds resentment as surely as alimony breeds resentment. Perhaps you can address the unrealistic expectations, and bring them more into line with the flesh-and-blood people one actually has to choose from, but “settling” just to have children is a huge mistake. Becoming realistic is different to me (as a work someone does on themselves) and “settling” for something that does not seem right (a possible deception as far as real passion is concerned, with another person). I think I am mature (at 42, but who really knows, lol), and settling would be a huge mistake for me because I value passion so very much. Again, thank you for your efforts. A.C.

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