Settling For Mr. Good Enough

This week my brother directed me to a fascinating article that has garnered a fair amount of attention. It’s written by a single mom who had a baby using donor sperm, and is now looking for a husband to care for her and her child.

What is controversial about this article is that it flies in the face of modern feminism, arguing that all women would be happier if they were married. Whether we’ll admit it or not, even the most independent of women secretly desires a man to partner with her in life, if for no other reason than pure pragmatism.

But what is most surprising about the article is the author’s solution to this problem: Settle. According to her, there’s no use waiting around for Mr. Right if our high standards are getting in the way of finding a mate. It’s not that we should marry a complete jerk, but perhaps we should trade in tall, dark and handsome for short, chubby and reponsible.

What follows is an excerpt from the article, which appeared in The Atlantic Monthly (a secular publication):

When we’re holding out for deep romantic love, we have the fantasy that this level of passionate intensity will make us happier. But marrying Mr. Good Enough might be an equally viable option, especially if you’re looking for a stable, reliable life companion. Madame Bovary might not see it that way, but if she’d remained single, I’ll bet she would have been even more depressed than she was while living with her tedious but caring husband.

What I didn’t realize when I decided, in my 30s, 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’re looking at it from the vantage point of a single person, once you take the plunge and do it, you’ll probably be relatively content. It sounds obvious now, but I didn’t fully appreciate back then that what makes for a good marriage isn’t necessarily what makes for a good romantic relationship. 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. Marriage isn’t a passion-fest; it’s more like a partnership formed to run a very small, mundane, and often boring nonprofit business. And I mean this in a good way.

I don’t mean to say that settling is ideal. I’m simply saying that it might have gotten an undeservedly bad rap. As the only single woman in my son’s mommy-and-me group, I used to listen each week to a litany of unrelenting complaints about people’s husbands and feel pretty good about my decision to hold out for the right guy, only to realize that these women wouldn’t trade places with me for a second, no matter how dull their marriages might be or how desperately they might long for a different husband. They, like me, would rather feel alone in a marriage than actually be alone, because 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.

If you’re interested in reading the whole article, click here.

On some level I think there is sound advice in this article. Far too often, women have unrealistic standards for their husbands, standards which not only make dating a total nightmare, but make marriage deeply disillusioning. Women must instead accept the reality that they’re only marrying a human being, and it’s going to be hard at times. But if your husband is faithful and dependable, then you’re actually a pretty lucky gal.

That said, there are several things that concern me about this article, the first being that the author has never actually been married. I myself have never been married, but from what I’ve heard, marriage is pretty hard even in the best of circumstances. With that in mind, I wouldn’t want to be tied down with someone I only feel lukewarm about. Given the divorce rate, that just seems foolish. I am therefore wondering if her experience with marriage is too limited to speak authoritatively.

But in addition to this concern, I don’t like the mentality that it feeds. While I think that her advice has some good points to it, I found myself feeling increasingly panicked as I read it. She described the desperation of women who are willing to settle more and more with every passing decade, and I found myself thinking, “I can’t let that happen to me! I have to get married NOW!”

Granted, there is a part of me that was created by God to desire such a partner, but that desperation is alarming. The idea that we should find a husband by any means necessary reflects an absence of trust in God’s sovereignty. No, the author is not Christian, but when it comes to believers we cannot let panic about marriage direct our path. We must resist the urge to take full control of our lives and instead trust that maybe, just maybe, God might know what He’s doing.

Again, I am not saying that means we should lock ourselves indoors and wait for Prince Charming to come knocking, nor am I advocating that women should have unrealistic dating standards and hold out for Jesus Christ himself. But, we should never become so desperate that finding a husband becomes a way of life, a need so great that almost any guy will do.

What do you think? On this particular issue I must admit that I am in the same position as the author herself, so if you’re married and you have some insights for us single girls, we’d love to hear them. Take a look at the article and write your thoughts. I would appreciate having a godly perspective on marriage from people who have actually been married.

Either way, read the article–this is where our culture is headed, so we need a ready response. You will most certainly have conversations with your single friends at school or work about this very thing, so be thinking about how you might respond. How might you speak truth into the lives of these women, or yourself?