Poll [Results] Wednesday – 11/23/2011

If You Want To Be Married By A Certain Age, Is It Better To Be Alone Or Settle?*

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*The original poll was posted on October 28th, 2011:

The closeness of this poll prompts me to tip the scale. SETTLE, I say! SETTLE! Well really, Lori Gottlieb says so in her ‘Marry Him!‘ article. Gottlieb, a single (and never been married) 40-year old woman presents some good arguments for why women should settle in her piece.

Gottlieb begins her article by explaining that she hasn’t always been a proponent of settling, however now at 40, her views have changed: marrying mr. good enough is a viable option if “you’re looking for a stable reliable life companion.” She claims that the idea of settling is uncomfortable because people have developed the belief that a good romantic relationship is what makes a good marriage (and that there must be some divine spark). However, “once you’re married, it’s not about whom you want to go on vacation with; it’s about whom you want to run a household with.” She then likens marriage to a pragmatic partnership: “Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business.” Interesting analogy. To Gottlieb, her own interactions with her married friends only confirm this, because even though her friends complain about their marriages, they would rather feel alone in a marriage than to actually BE alone.

They, like me, realize that marriage ultimately isn’t about cosmic connection—it’s about how having a teammate, even if he’s not the love of your life, is better than not having one at all.

It’s better to have that decent guy to take out the trash and provide a second income, which allows you to spend more time with your kids instead of working 60hrs a week to support a family by yourself (Gottlieb recently had a child through a sperm donor). To her, marriage should be similar to the roles depicted by the TV characters Will and Grace…

” What I long for in a marriage is that sense of having a partner in crime. Someone who knows your day-to-day trivia. Someone who both calls you on your [BS] and puts up with your quirks”…so what if Will was gay and his relationship with Grace was platonic.

Gottlieb notes that settling is mostly a women’s issue, because men settle less and, when they do, they are less bothered by the idea. Gottlieb’s own guy friend justified marrying a quote unquote bland wife who is a good mom (but someone he shares little connection with) by saying: “I think one-stop shopping is overrated. I get passion at my office with my work, or with my friends that I sometimes call or chat with—it’s not the same, and, boy, it would be exciting to have it with my spouse. But I spend more time with people at my office than I do with my spouse.” …Interesting. I’m not sure how I would feel if my spouse honestly felt that way about me. What about you?

I don’t agree with everything Gottlieb is saying, particularly because she speaks of marriage primarily in the context of having children (and not all marriages include children), but I do agree that ‘settling’ gets a bad rap mostly because it is defined incorrectly. Really in the end, “Everyone settles to some degree. You might as well settle pragmatically.”

So for the 54% of you who answered ‘be alone’, does this change your mind? Is marriage really like a game of musical chairs like Gottlieb says— do you have to take a seat, any seat, just so you’re not left standing alone?


Is It Better to Be Alone, or to Settle?

I’ve been sent this article by a few people, and after reading it I still don’t know what to think. For those of you who haven’t seen Kate Bolick’s ‘All the Single Ladies’ article or some form of commentary about it, here’s a quick summary of her main point, as neatly provided by one of the co-founders of Bandeka:

“People go round looking for Mr. Right/ Ms. Perfect (often times getting out of relationships because “something doesn’t add up” or “it just doesn’t feel right” or some such without some real concrete issue and if concrete issue, often minor and reconcilable) especially in their mid to late 20s, early 30s. Then when they’re mature and older and lonelier (either divorced from the stud they married or the hot chick they went after and married within a year), they realize the nerd from back when they were 28 was really the best person… but then it’s too late.”

In essence, the grass isn’t always greener post-breakup. Bolick shares her own story in the piece as she speaks about her regret of breaking up with her boyfriend of 3 years at age 28 (for no good reason) – “he was (and remains) an exceptional person, intelligent, good-looking, loyal, kind.” Explaining her behavior, Bolick says she had “two intangible yet undeniable convictions: something was missing; [and] I wasn’t ready to settle down.” But now hitting 40, she is realizing that that breakup could have been the biggest mistake of her life:

Today I am 39, with too many ex-boyfriends to count and, I am told, two grim-seeming options to face down: either stay single or settle for a “good enough” mate. At this point, certainly, falling in love and getting married may be less a matter of choice than a stroke of wild great luck. A decade ago, luck didn’t even cross my mind. I’d been in love before, and I’d be in love again. This wasn’t hubris so much as naïveté; I’d had serious, long-term boyfriends since my freshman year of high school, and simply couldn’t envision my life any differently.

In her article, Bolick explains that her story is not uncommon among women today. She attributes many reasons, including unrealistic expectations of marriage, and a desire for two incompatible states of being- autonomy and intimacy, among other things. She also discusses how men these days have more choices to choose from and this decreases their desire to commit:

“… the more successful a man is (or thinks he is), the less interested he is in commitment.”

She recalls her discussion regarding black men with Professor Richard Banks of ‘Is Marriage for White People?’:

“If you’re a successful black man in New York City, one of the most appealing and sought-after men around, your options are plentiful,” Banks told me. “Why marry if you don’t have to?” (Or, as he quotes one black man in his book, “If you have four quality women you’re dating and they’re in a rotation, who’s going to rush into a marriage?”)

She also points out that in 2010, The New York Times ran a much-discussed article chronicling this phenomenon among college-aged men. “If a guy is not getting what he wants, he can quickly and abruptly go to the next one, because there are so many [women available].”

The blame isn’t solely on men however, as the evolution of a woman’s freedom and independence has played a major role in this particular outcome. I’m not sure what to make of Bolick’s article, honestly. What do you think? Is settling the only alternative for women who desire to be married by a certain age? Before you start firing off, the ‘desire to be married by a certain age’ is key here. Take our poll below- even if you are a guy!