Talk about strange bedfellows.
My husband and I recently watched Arranged, the indie drama about two girls–one Muslim, one Orthodox Jew–who bond over their similar experiences as they each work with their parents to arrange their marriages.
Oddly, when we settled in to watch Arranged, I was halfway through Lori Gottlieb’s controversial book Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough. Gottlieb is a regular contributor to The Atlantic, and she got her book deal after she made her argument for “settling” in its pages back in 2008. (Where, oh where, did I recently read that this is why people write for The Atlantic–so that they can parlay their 4-page articles into book deals???)
Gottlieb tosses the word “settle” around like the fireball she knows it is, but her point is sound: too many women are completely unrealistic when it comes to pursuing love, and they need a reality check before it’s too late. (Because for women who want biological children, there is such a thing as “too late.”)
Gottlieb advocates “settling” because it gets our attention–don’t we all know that settling is bad? But for Gottlieb, “settling” means not making do with a ho-hum husband, but realizing that the man of your dreams, the one who scores a perfect 10 in every category–including being super-hot and six-foot-four–exists only in your imagination. But if you want a happy marriage, you’re going to have to find a man in the real world.
(The article’s tone is sensationalist and attention-getting: it’s no wonder it remains one of the Atlantic’s most-commented articles. And such comments! But the tone of the book is thoughtful. I recommend the book.)
Back to Arranged. Per their custom, Rochel and Nasira are meeting eligible men, all selected by their parents. The different religions have different courtship processes, but the basic idea is the same. We see these women go on a lot of first dates–some of the guys aren’t terrible (but some are). Awkward conversations, nervous laughter, and men who talk, and talk, and talk–about themselves.
Rochel gets this advice from the matchmaker: she’s not looking for Mr. Perfect, because Mr. Perfect doesn’t exist. She’s looking for someone who’s good enough: a man who’s solid in the fundamentals, who she feels at ease with. This is the kind of man with whom you can settle down, build a life, have children, grow old.
Which is exactly what Gottlieb–the areligious, liberal, feminist writer for The Atlantic–says. You shouldn’t just settle for anybody–it’s not okay to settle for just anyone. But if he’s thoughtful, kind and considerate–a good friend and companion–this is the kind of man you can build a life with. Gottlieb discounts the fireworks, because that’s not what marriage is about: “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.”
And all the Jewish grandmothers said, Amen.
According to Gottlieb’s definition, I settled when I got married. I married a great guy, but he’s not perfect. In heels, I’m taller than he is–that was definitely not a trait on my list! But he’s solid in the fundamentals, where it really counts. He is thoughtful, and kind. He’s a terrific father. And there is no one else I’d rather run a mundane nonprofit with. If this is settling, I’ll recommend it to anyone.
Take it from Gottlieb. Or from the wise grandmothers. Either way, the advice is the same: don’t be picky, demanding and unrealistic. Not when you’re dating, and definitely not after you’re married. Look for a man who’s solid in the fundamentals–and if you’ve already found him, be grateful.
Because it’s far better to have a great guy in the real world than a perfect man only in your dreams.