My sister sent me this article tonight: "The case for settling for Mr. Good Enough," and asked, "What do you think?" Good question. The author, writer Lori Gottlieb, a single mom by choice, makes an argument for settling - marrying someone good enough, but not perfect. She concludes by saying that although she truly believes her own argument, she hasn't been able to convince herself to do it yet.
So, what do I think? Hmm.
First off, I can tell you for sure I wouldn't elect to be a single mom. Could I handle it if I had to (read: in the short interim between Josh being taken out by a runaway train and finding my trophy husband)? Sure. Would I want to - JUST because of the logistical, emotional, and financial burdens? Hell no. Josh has been traveling a lot in the past year, and I realize every time he's gone how lucky I am to have him here. It's a lot of work, raising kids! And it's exhausting, frankly. And it's overwhelmingly joyous, heartbreaking, and fun. So in the interest of having another body to share all that, would settling be an option? Maybe.
Twice this week, I've seen marriage described as running a not-very-exciting non-profit organization. While not the most romantic view, there's something to it, particularly for parents. We do spend an inordinate amount of time performing synchronized handoffs: juggling pickups and dropoffs, moving through the routine that is our day, keeping one kid company at dinner while the other kid gets bathed. It's definitely a partnership, and hopefully one that we navigate more and more smoothly as time goes by. I think the difference is that I CHOSE to get married because I loved Josh, wanted to be with him, and thought he would be an ideal partner for me. I HOPED a family would follow. We both wanted children, and I wouldn't have married someone who didn't share that value and that dream. But I married Josh for Josh, not so I'd have a regular date at parties, or someone to take out the trash, or a father for my children.
Maybe it's the romantic in me, but I can't see settling for someone who doesn't provide you with all of the essentials you need in a partner, whatever those are. Of course you might need to overlook some annoyances. Even the most perfect union of the most besotted pair would probably eventually lose a little of its luster... she'd snore, he'd fart under the covers... she'd be baffled by the appeal of Xbox, he'd refuse to answer the phone at night... But in my mind, even with kids as the fabulous result of a marriage, the reason for getting married is to be with each other. And while I think there's probably more than just one "the one," I wouldn't cheat myself out of an opportunity to find a partner who really wows me: one who loves me, respects me, makes me laugh, supports me - and for whom I do the same.
Even still, there's comfort in companionship. There's comfort in knowing yours isn't the only salary going toward the mortgage. There's comfort in coming home to a warm house with the lights on. I totally get the appeal of that. I feel like I got off easy, marrying this guy I didn't have to work hard to meet. He was already in my life when I realized I might be a little bit in love with him. (I also spent much of college and my pre-Josh life NOT dating anyone fabulous. More Valentine's Days eating chocolate, wearing black, and watching Thelma & Louise than I'd care to count.) And I'm not underestimating how hard it is to meet someone. If I were still trying to find "the right" guy, I might be tempted to settle for someone "good enough."
I'm 36 now, and I was married at 28. I know that then, in my idealized notion of what marriage was, I wouldn't have been capable of settling. Even now, when I can understand the appeal, it still makes me uncomfortable. You're theoretically going into this 'til death, and I have an idealistic notion that it should be with someone you really feel strongly about. The way I read Gottlieb's article, someone about whom you feel lukewarm might be good enough. As we get older, date more, have more of an idea of what and whom are important to us, perhaps we find that the prince looks more like a frog than what we would've settled for at age 23. I'm good with that. And I certainly don't begrudge anyone the right to make the choice that meets her needs (because let's face it, men don't deal with this issue the same way) - settle for the first guy who buys you roses, or wait until you're 38 for true love. But to answer your question, Mer, no, I don't think I could settle.