Sunday, July 14, 2013

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough—Lori Gottlieb

My friend, who is working this summer in Chicago in a law firm before beginning her second year of law school, found this book on a shelf in the apartment she's subletting for the summer. The apartment belongs to a married couple. She, finding it amusing to have discovered this book in the apartment of this married couple, suggested that one of us read it as our "Instruction Manual." I took up the challenge.

I would say first off, the title is somewhat misleading. I wouldn't say that Gottlieb is necessarily arguing that women settle for "Mr. Good Enough;" I would say rather that she's arguing for women to temper our expectations, specifically in relation to expecting Prince Charming (and potentially giving up a man we'd be happy with in order to do so).

The book grew out of her own experiences as a 41-year-old never-married single mother. (She'd written rather publicly several years earlier about her decision to have a child, as she was running out of childbearing years, and then finding a partner afterwards.) She'd found that after having her son, it wasn't as easy as she was hoping to find someone that she thought she could make a life with. Part of this was because of her own perceptions of her worth and value for other people, and part of this was because of her expectations for finding a man. After much conversation with friends (both married and unmarried) and relationships experts, she realized that she had unrealistic ideals of what she wanted. Even as a twenty-something, especially one who was raised on Disney movies and romantic comedies, I can find the value in these points.

There were some especially poignant moments, that I've heard from girlfriends or considered myself:

Another married friend, Henry, who's 36, said that while some men are afraid of commitment, most aren't. They want to get married as much as women do. Often, he said, it's just a case of the guy not being into that woman, but also not wanting to give up the perks of the relationship. "He knows he's not going to marry her," Henry said, 'so he says, 'I'm not looking for anything serious right now' or 'I'm not sure I want to have kids' or 'I'm focused on my career right now,' which he thinks is telling her that if she wants this relationship to lead to marriage, she should look elsewhere. But women think the guy is confused and she can change him, when really the guy has made up his mind." [p. 29, emphasis mine]

The messages about love that we take away from the media are as contradictory as they are counterproductive. If the typical love story goes like this--Boy meets Girl, Boy and Girl hate each other, Boy and Girl exchange witty banter, Boy and Girl grudgingly realize they love each other, Boy and Girl live happily ever after (although we never see this part)--what message does that send? Should we look for the person who annoys us initially or who attracts us initially? And if love comes when we least expect it, does that mean if we actively seek love, it's not true love? (p. 41)

Dr. Broder says he sees a heightened sense of entitlement that previous generations didn't have...many women today seem to be looking for an idealized spiritual union instead of a realistic marital partnership. (p.131)

Fairy tales are to romance what fireworks are to the night sky. They are transient states...and while temporarily thrilling, not what one builds a life around. [p. 146, quoted from a Dear Prudence article]

Overall, an interesting read about being realistic with our expectations, rather than "holding out" for the fairy tale, movie-magic moments that we've come to imagine our lives will be.