Settle For Less In Love

Discussion in 'Women's Issues' started by jason_els, May 11, 2008.

  1. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    The following is from The London Times and is in two parts. This is one of the best articles about love I have read and it rings true to me in many ways. Whether man or woman, Gottlieb has some salient points. Part two follows:

    About six months after my son was born, he and I were sitting on a blanket in the park with a close friend and her daughter. It was a sunny summer weekend, and other parents and their children picnicked nearby. My friend and I, who, in fits of self-empowerment, had conceived our babies with donor sperm because we hadn&#8217;t met Mr Right, surveyed the idyllic scene.
    &#8220;Ah, this is the dream,&#8221; I said, and we nodded in silence for a minute, then burst out laughing. In some ways, I meant it: we had both dreamt of motherhood, and here we were. But it was also decidedly not the dream.

    The dream, like that of our mothers and their mothers from time immemorial, was to fall in love, get married and live happily ever after. Of course, we&#8217;d be loath to admit it, but ask any soul-baring 40-year-old single heterosexual woman what she most longs for in life and she probably won&#8217;t tell you it&#8217;s a better career, a smaller waistline or a bigger apartment. Most likely, she will say that what she really wants is a husband (and, by extension, a child).
    To the outside world, we still call ourselves feminists, and insist that we are independent, self-sufficient and don&#8217;t believe that damsel-in-distress stuff. In reality, however, we are women who want a traditional family. And, despite growing up in an era when the centuries-old mantra of getting married young was finally replaced by pursuit of high ideals (education, career, but also true love), every woman I know &#8211; no matter how successful and ambitious, how financially and emotionally secure &#8211; feels panic if she hits 30 and finds herself unmarried.


    Oh, I know. I&#8217;m guessing there are single, 30-year-old women reading this right now who will write letters to the editor to say that I have no idea what I&#8217;m talking about. All I can say is, if you say you&#8217;re not worried, you&#8217;re either in denial or lying.


    Whether you acknowledge it or not, there is good reason to worry. By the time 35th-birthday brunch celebrations roll around for still-single women, serious, irreversible life issues masquerading as &#8220;jokes&#8221; creep into public conversation: &#8220;Well, I don&#8217;t feel old, but my eggs sure do&#8221;; &#8220;I&#8217;m not getting any younger&#8221;. The birthday girl smiles a bit too widely as she delivers these lines, and everyone laughs a little too hard for a little too long because, at their core, they pose one of the most complicated, painful and pervasive dilemmas with which many single women are forced to grapple nowadays: is it better to be alone or to settle?


    My advice is this: settle. Don&#8217;t worry about passion or intense connection. Don&#8217;t rule out a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling &#8220;Bravo!&#8221; in the cinema. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. If you want the infrastructure in place for a family, settling is the way to go. Based on my observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, because many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.


    Obviously, I wasn&#8217;t always an advocate of settling. In fact, it took not settling to make me realise that settling is the better option. Whenever I make the case for settling, people look at me with creased brows of disapproval or frowns of disappointment. Not only is it politically incorrect to get behind settling, it is downright unacceptable. Our culture tells us to keep our eyes on the prize (while our mothers, who know better, tell us not to be so picky), and the theme of holding out for true love (whatever that is &#8211; look at the divorce rate) permeates our collective mentality. When we&#8217;re holding out for deep, romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier &#8211; but marrying Mr Good Enough might be an equally viable option, especially if you&#8217;re looking for a stable, reliable, life companion.


    What I didn&#8217;t realise, when I decided, in my thirties, to break up with boyfriends I might otherwise have ended up marrying, is that while settling seems like an enormous act of resignation when you&#8217;re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge, you will probably be relatively content. It sounds obvious now, but I didn&#8217;t fully appreciate back then that what makes for a good marriage isn&#8217;t necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. Once you&#8217;re married, it&#8217;s not about who you want to go on holiday with, it&#8217;s about who you want to run a household with. Marriage isn&#8217;t a passion fest; it&#8217;s more like a partnership formed to run a small, mundane and often boring not-for-profit business. And I mean this in a good way.


    I don&#8217;t mean that settling is ideal. As the only single woman in my son&#8217;s mummy-and-me group, I listen each week to unrelenting complaints about people&#8217;s husbands and feel pretty good about my decision to hold out for the right guy, only to realise that these women wouldn&#8217;t trade places with me for a second, no matter how dull their marriages. They, like me, would rather feel alone in a marriage than actually be alone, because they, like me, realise that ultimately, marriage isn&#8217;t about cosmic connection &#8211; it&#8217;s about how having a teammate, even if he&#8217;s not the love of your life, is better than not having one at all.


    It&#8217;s not that I&#8217;ve become so jaded that I don&#8217;t believe in, or even crave, romantic connection. It&#8217;s that my understanding of it has changed. In my formative years, romance was John Cusack and Ione Skye in Say Anything. When I think about marriage nowadays, however, my role models are the television characters Will and Grace &#8211; who, though Will was gay, and his relationship with Grace was platonic, are one of the most romantic couples I can think of. What I long for is that sense of having a partner in crime. Someone who knows your day-to-day trivia. Someone who both calls you to task on your bullshit and puts up with your quirks. So what if Will and Grace weren&#8217;t having sex? How many long-standing married couples are having much sex?


    &#8220;I just want someone who is willing to be in the trenches with me,&#8221; my single friend Jennifer told me, &#8220;and I never thought of marriage that way before.&#8221; Two of her friends have married men she believes aren&#8217;t even straight; and, while she wouldn&#8217;t have made that choice a few years ago, she wonders whether she might be capable of it in the future. &#8220;Maybe they understood something that I didn&#8217;t,&#8221; she said.


    What they understood is this: as your priorities change from romance to family, the so-called deal-breakers change. Some guys aren&#8217;t worldly, but they would make great dads. You walk into a room and start talking to somebody who is 5ft 4in, with an unfortunate nose, but he &#8220;gets&#8221; you. My long-married friend Renée offered this advice: &#8220;Even if he&#8217;s not the love of your life, make sure he is someone you respect intellectually, who makes you laugh and appreciates you . . . I bet there are plenty of these men in the older, overweight and bald category.&#8221; (Which, in any case, they all eventually become.)
     
  2. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    She wasn’t joking. All marriages, of course, involve compromise, but where is the cutoff? Take the date I went on last night. The guy was substantially older. He had a long history of depression and said, in reference to the movies he was writing, “I’m fascinated by comas” and “I have a strong interest in terrorists”. He had never been married. He was rude to the waiter. But he very much wanted a family, and he was successful, handsome and smart. I thought: “Yes, I’ll see him again. Maybe I can settle for that.” But my next thought was: “Maybe I can settle for better.” It’s like musical chairs – when do you take a seat, any seat, so you’re not left standing alone?


    Back when I was still convinced I’d find my soul mate, many of the guys I dated lived up to my requirements – but, if one of them lacked kindness, another didn’t seem emotionally stable enough, and another’s values clashed with mine. Others were sweet, but so boring that I preferred to read during dinner.


    Now I realise that, if I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, I’m at the age where I will probably need to settle for someone who is settling for me. What we forget is that we won’t always have the same appeal that we may have had in our twenties and early thirties. Having turned 40, I now have wrinkles, bags under my eyes and hair in places I didn’t know hair could grow on women. With my nonworking life consumed by thoughts of potty training and play dates, I have become a far less interesting person than the one who went on hiking adventures and performed at comedy clubs. Once you have a baby, you age about 10 years in the first 10 months, and if you don’t have time to shower, eat, go to the loo in a timely manner or even leave the house except for work, there is little chance that a man – much less The One – is going to knock on your door and join the party.


    Then there is the cost of dating as a single mum: online dating, the baby-sitter and, most frustrating, hours spent away from your beloved child. Even women who settle but end up divorced might be in a better position, because many ex-wives get both child-support payments and a free night off when the kids go to their dad’s house. Mums in my position don’t get the night off. At the end of the evening, we rush home to pay the baby-sitter, make any house guest tiptoe around and speak in a hushed voice, then wake up at 6am at the first cries of “Mummy”. Try bringing a guy home to that.


    Settling is mostly a women’s game. Men don’t seem the least bit bothered: my friend Chris, a single, 35-year-old marketing consultant, dated a kind and beautiful surgeon, whom he calls “the perfect woman”, for three years. She broke off the relationship several times because, she told him with regret, she didn’t think she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. Each time, Chris would persuade her to reconsider, until, finally, she called it off for good, saying that she couldn’t marry somebody she wasn’t in love with.


    At the time, he was devastated, but now his former girlfriend has reached 35, Chris is hopeful about their future. “By the time she turns 37, she’ll come back,” he said confidently. “And I’ll bet she’ll marry me then. I know she wants to have kids.” I asked him why he would want to be with a woman who wasn’t in love with him. He didn’t see it that way at all. “She’ll be settling,” he said, “but not me. I get to marry the woman of my dreams. That’s not settling. That’s the fantasy.”


    Chris believes that women are far too picky: everyone knows that a single, middle-aged man still has appealing prospects, he says, whereas a single, middle-aged woman doesn’t. And he is right. Single women are painfully aware of this. I hear far more women than men talk about getting married as a deadline. My friend Gabe points out that this allows men to be true romantics; when a man breaks up with a perfectly acceptable woman because he’s “just not feeling it”, there is none of the ambivalence that a woman with a deadline feels.


    The paradox is that the more it behoves a woman to settle, the less willing she is to do it; a woman in her mid- to late thirties is more discriminating than one in her twenties. Her tastes and sense of self are more solidly formed. She says things like “He wants me to move into town, but I love my home by the beach”, or “Can I really spend my life with someone who’s allergic to dogs?”. And, no matter what women decide, there is always going to be regret. Unless you meet the man of your dreams (who, by the way, doesn’t exist, precisely because you dreamt him up), there is going to be a downside to getting married, but a possibly more profound downside if you hold out for someone better.


    Jennifer summed it up this way: “When I used to hear women complaining bitterly about their husbands, I’d think, ‘How sad, they settled.’ Now it’s, like, ‘God, that would be nice.’ ” That’s why mothers tell their daughters to “keep an open mind” about the guy who spends his weekends playing online poker or touches your back for two minutes while watching Sky Sports and calls it a massage. As my own mother once advised me, when I was dating a musician: “Everyone settles to some degree. You might as well settle pragmatically.”


    I know all this now, yet here’s the problem: much as I’d like to settle, I can’t seem to do it. The very nature of dating leaves women my age to wrestle with a completely different level of settling. Consider the men older women I know have married in varying degrees of desperation over the past few years: a recovering alcoholic who doesn’t always go to his meetings; an actor still trying to make it in his forties; a widower with three nightmare kids who is still actively grieving for his dead wife; and a socially awkward engineer, so socially awkward that he declined to attend his wife’s book party.


    It’s not that these women are crazy, it’s that the dating pool has dwindled dramatically and that, due to gender politics, the few available men tend to require far more of a concession than those who were single when I was younger. And, while I have a much higher tolerance for settling than I did back then, I now have a baby to consider. So while there’s more incentive to settle, there’s less willingness to settle too much, because that would be a disservice to my son.


    This doesn’t undermine my case for settling. Instead, it supports my argument to do it young, when settling involves constructing a family environment with a perfectly acceptable man who may not pull your romantic trigger, as opposed to doing it later, when settling involves selling your very soul in exchange for damaged goods. Admittedly, it’s a dicey case to make. Like the divorced women I know who claim they wouldn’t have done anything differently, because then they wouldn’t have Biff and Buffy, I, too, can’t imagine life without my magical son. I also acknowledge the power of the idea that the grass is always greener and allow for the possibility that my life alone is better (if far more difficult) than the one I would have in a comfortable but tepid marriage.


    Then my married friends say things like: “Oh, you’re so lucky, you don’t have to negotiate with your husband about the cost of piano lessons”. Or: “You’re so lucky, you don’t have anybody putting the kids in front of the TV, and you can raise your son the way you want.” I even hear things like: “You’re so lucky, you don’t have to have sex with someone you don’t want to.”


    The lists go on, and, each time, I say: “Okay, if you’re so unhappy, and if I’m so lucky, leave your husband. In fact, send him over here.” Not one person has taken me up on this offer. -Laurie Gottlieb, Times Online
     
  3. B_New End

    B_New End New Member

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    I settled, at 24, with the thought that arranged marriages are much more successful, and that I wanted steady sex. It lasted for 5.5 years, and I must say, it was really good... and then we decided that a relationship had to be more than good sex, and went our separate ways... actually, she was young and thought she could do better, and I did not want to be with someone that did not want to be there.

    Now, I am not so sure a relationship does have to be more, but the fear of "downgrading" keeps me from even approaching women I "know" I cant get along with.

    ..and worse, I know, the older women get, the more they do not want to "downgrade" as well. *sigh*

    ah, my human condition. Why cant I just be a mindless monkey?
     
  4. melis

    melis New Member

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    Okay, now I'm depressed - and I'm not even thirty for another month...
     
  5. DC_DEEP

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    Interesting reading. Jason, one comment by the author that really caught my eye was

    "They, like me, would rather feel alone in a marriage than actually be alone, because they, like me, realise that ultimately, marriage 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."

    That is so diametrically opposed to my philosophy, I cannot believe she published it.

    I got lucky - during a point in my life when I had reconciled myself to the fact that I would be single the rest of my life, I found that one-in-a-quadrillion person. There were some qualities on which I was NOT willing to compromise, and for the first 39 years of my life, I had met not a single person who met those criteria. The physical aspects, so important to so many, were unimportant to me. Honesty, intelligence, and integrity were among the top three that I absolutely refused to "settle" for.

    Personally, I would much rather be alone, than to be in a relationship that was neither fulfilling nor love-rich.
     
  6. HazelGod

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    I couldn't agree more...and this was my biggest requirement for anyone to be considered for a serious relationship.

    I had to be wanted, not needed.
     
  7. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    I think the view she's expressing is more traditional and she even says so. Reading it I pictured Tevye and Golde lying in bed asking each other if they love each other now. She does, however, point out, if not entirely explicitly, that children has a lot to do with it. She needs help running her home, having someone to look after kids, someone she doesn't have to sneak upstairs and out the door before the kids wake, someone who will be a good father. If you don't plan or want to have children then perhaps what she's writing isn't so relevant?

    I do completely sympathize with her situation and wonder if I shouldn't do the same thing. I don't think I can go through another Hell of falling in love with someone who doesn't love me and I'm not getting any younger. I'd like to sire a kid or two ideally with a surrogate or a lesbian, and I know I couldn't do it alone. Maybe that's way I felt such resonance with the article.

    You were very lucky, but not everyone can win the lottery and, while I'm happy for you both, it's unwise to think that we can all win it.
     
  8. Belly_Dancer

    Belly_Dancer Member

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    Yes. Oh hell, yes! The only people who think they want that kind of relationship are the ones who haven't been through it.

    It sucks, big time. Never settle, or sacrifice your dreams or freedom for "good enough." It will only come back to bite you in the end.

    Interesting...I was both wanted and needed, but not appreciated or cared for. There was no reciprocity; I took care of him, and I took care of me.

    Never again.
     
  9. Ethyl

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    I don't know that viewing it as a lottery is the way to go about finding a mate. There are literally billions of people walking the planet. There's gotta be some decent candidates out there somewhere. Hell, I found one on a large cock site of all places though I suppose stranger places could be found...

    One of the most important lessons i've learned is that you get exactly what you expect in life. That goes for relationships too.
     
  10. HazelGod

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    Well, the reciprocity was implied, pretty lady. I have always been the independent type, content to be alone, needing no one to complete my life.

    I was looking for the same in a mate...someone who would appreciate me in her life not because I filled in some piece that was missing, but because I took her whole being and made her something greater. The sentiment is a little tough to state concisely in words...but when I said need, I meant it in the literal sense, as there are some people who are utterly incapable of being happily alone. I had no desire to become entangled in some co-dependent mess.
     
  11. ManlyBanisters

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    I settled - at a much earlier age than this woman is talking about. I tried to convince myself that wasn't the case, but it was. And it was a mistake. The little things that 'did not matter' became serious issues when other stresses were put on the relationship, for both of us - because, despite his insistance to the contrary, I believe he settled too.

    I'm finally in a reciprocal relationship where I find my man lacking in not one area and now I understand the difference.

    Very true. So much of what we do is reacting that expectation can dictate the course of events.
     
  12. whatireallywant

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    I won't settle, but I'm different from the author of that article. I have never wanted children, and the thing I want most really IS a successful career! (well, that and lots of sex! :biggrin1:)

    I would like to find someone to love, and yes, even possibly marry, but I have a few non-negotiables. Now, there are some things that there is wiggle room on - like he doesn't have to be drop-dead good-looking (although that'd be nice...) But he MUST have similar views to mine, and he can't want children.
     
  13. Principessa

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    Hi HollyBlue, I have missed your intelligent posts!

    I agree with everything you said, having been there, done that myself; with a man I dated for far too long. :frown: :12:

    I settled once, never again. I know, I deserve better. :cool: It's a shame the woman who wrote that article felt she had to settle.









     
  14. invisibleman

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    Amen to that!!! Never settle. Always be the muse.
    Besides, you never know who you may meet in life. There are kindred spirits out there for us all. And there is polyamory as a possibility. Why put all your eggs in one basket when you can scout many other baskets and feast for days?
     
  15. B_New End

    B_New End New Member

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    How odd, I was looking at Holly Blues profile a few hours before she started posting again... it said her last post was Feb 25th, so I assumed she was gone.
     
  16. DC_DEEP

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    I understood that, jason, and I'm not simply trying to be contrary. But framed explicitly in that context, the "settling" concept is even more horrifying to me. It seems a bit like a "reverse corollary" to the old adage, "having a child to fix a defective relationship is the worst reason to have a child." It rarely works, and usually causes more problems and heartache than it solves.

    Under ideal circumstances, raising a child is difficult. Circumstances are rarely ideal. Too many people enter into that lifelong contract without really pondering what it entails. That's terribly selfish.

    You are correct, I do not feel that "biological imperative to reproduce." But it seems to me that those who do should have higher standards for finding a mate, not lower standards. If I pick a clunker, I'm the only one who suffers. If I have another life, for whom I'm responsible, I have the obligation to avoid subjecting that dependent to my less-than-desirable choices.

    In general, children are bright and observant. They will know if their parents are together out of convenience or out of love. I'm not sure what kind of damage it does to a child's psyche to grow up knowing "my parents are only together because they feel they have to be, because of me."

    If someone is not capable of being a good, self-sufficient single parent, they should not plan to be one (as did the author). Putting a selfish desire to procreate ahead of the best interests and welfare of a child is just wrong. Finding the right person with whom to make a baby would seem to be a prerequisite, not an afterthought.
     
  17. amadeupname

    amadeupname New Member

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    When someone loses his or her fantasy of finding someone who complies with an exhaustive list of qualifications and demands that is not what I would consider "settling." That's called growing up.

    The trick is to separate what is important from what is not.

    Compromising on character, getting into a relationship with someone who is disrespectful, abusive or unkind.... that is what I call settling. That is the kind of settling we can do without.
     
  18. DC_DEEP

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    Now, there's the crux of the matter.

    I know a lot of people who think things like "he leaves the toilet seat up," or "he leaves the cap off the toothpaste," or "he's too short," or "we're the same age, and I only date younger..." are important. Considering what's at stake in a relationship, those kinds of things are underwhelmingly unimportant.

    I can't grasp the idea on even a very basic level, but for some people, appearance is much more important than character.
     
  19. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    For once I agree with New End. Welcome back Holly! So good to see you again!

    It's interesting you say that given your sub/dom relationship. I assume the one you're speaking of above is not that one?
     
  20. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Do you think people get less picky as they get older? Is there a difference between men and women in that regard as the author suggests?

    I think people tend to get more set in their ways as they age and the introduction of a new person into one's life, complete with foibles and habits, becomes more difficult.

    I do think women tend to get less picky as they get older. Men, not so much. Our society tends to reflect this. Many women seem to fear age a great deal more than men. I have heard many of my female friends and relatives privately say they dread approaching or turning 40 because they fear they will lose their looks. When I try to politely say something to help, I get a response along the lines of, "... but you're a man! Men just get more handsome/character/distinguished as they age. They don't need to worry about getting lines/wrinkles/cellulite/saggy boobs (have to admit they have me on that last one). You don't understand."

    Maybe I don't.
     
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