Monday, March 10, 2008

the case for settling

I was at the gym today and read a very interesting article in The Atlantic called "Marry Him: The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough" by Lori Gottlieb.

Gottlieb presented the argument that a woman in her 40's should "settle" for someone who is not her ideal man as long as she can respect him, enjoys his company, and if he would make a good husband/dad/provider for a family. She stated that women are often too picky, rejecting men in their 20's and 30's who they would probably be very happy with in marriage. "Unless you meet the man of your dreams (who, by the way, doesn't exist, precisely because you dreamed him up)," Gottleib cautioned, "there's going to be a downside to getting married, but a possibly more profound downside to holding out for someone better." (pg. 83)

I do not know how to feel after reading this article. On one hand, it contrasts with everything we are brought up to believe. It seems at first to be a contradiction to what theologians such as Christopher West have said about it being better to not get married at all rather than to settle for someone who will not see your true dignity as a woman.

But on further analysis, I don't think this is what Gottlieb is trying to say. She is just advising women to see that all men are human and have less-than-ideal qualities. In a certain sense, she is echoing my favorite quote from Karol Wojtyla's Love and Responsibility:

"We love the person complete with all his or her virtues and faults, and up to a point independently of those virtues and in spite of those faults. The strength of such a love emerges most clearly when the beloved person stumbles, when his or her weaknesses or even sins come into the open. One who truly loves does not then withdraw his love, but loves all the more, loves in full conciousness of the other's shorcomings and faults, and without in the least apporving of them. For the person as such never loses its essential value. The emotion which attaches itself to the value of the person remains loyal to the human being." (pg. 135)

I don't like her term of "settling." That still makes it seem like she believes her perfect man is out there but she will never find him. But it is a more realistic approach to our fairytale world.

Never does she say that you should settle for anyone. There are many people you could settle for, Mr. Jerk, Mr. Drives Me Nuts, Mr. Dreamer But Will Never Be Able to Support a Family, etc. She advises to overlook little faults and see the bigger picture of Mr. Good Enough rather than rejecting him for Mr. Right or Mr. Perfect.

It's a difficult article to swallow. I'll have to chew on it for a while to see how I feel about it in the end.

God bless America.

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