More Than a Checkbox

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I was in high school and everyone was doing it. That is, making a list of the qualities our Mr. Right must possess. Forget the clichés--these lists went beyond merely tall, dark, and handsome to include minute details: adventurous yet patient, ambitious yet family man, chiseled like a Grecian god with, of course, the heart of a lion. After a painstaking hour of scribbling, I held up my full sheet and thought to myself, “He’ll have to be a deity.”

This was years before Lori Gottlieb conceived “Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough”. At my first glance at this book, I could feel my skin crawl as though someone were scratching their nails on a chalkboard. Settle? But what about my education, my dreams, my full passport, and big life plans? Wasn’t I supposed to find someone to match or better me, to keep my standards high?

Settling is a word that implies lack, as if suddenly I would be hooking myself to the ol’ ball and chain - a bleak prospect. Furthermore, settling has often resulted in unhappy and damaging relationships. And by the way, doesn't everyone yearn for a love that draws us out of ourselves into a grand adventure?

Still, while settling might not be the answer, neither is the list of qualities.

The list reveals something telling - women often fall in love with an idea and not with a concrete person in reality. In this interview, Ms. Gottlieb explains her reasoning behind advocating that women "settle." According to her, women sabotage their own happiness when their expectations extend beyond reality. For example, she shares that women are more likely to magnify trivial details (such as an odd Austin Powers impersonation) and overlook important issues (such as shared values) when evaluating a potential long-term romantic partner. In a survey, she asked whether women would be happy in love if their mate possessed 80 percent of their ideal qualities. Ninety-three percent of women replied in the negative.

Furthermore, when asked about what could be some reasons behind why a woman wouldn’t go on a second date with a prospect, women listed upwards of 300 various items that would hold them back. The “red flags” in question were often small concerns, such as “he wore a brown belt with black shoes and had funky style.”

And we women complain about the “lack of good guys” and “no dating.”

A recent Pew study observes that in 2010 only 44% of Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 were married. If marriage is something we truly desire, perhaps Ms. Gottlieb is on to something: it’s time for an attitude shift. Authentic love isn’t the result of a checklist about the precise specifications of our date's fashion sense. Maybe it's time to stop intellectualizing our idea of Mr. Right and look at Mr. Right Here with a more realistic eye.

Let's take a minute to give some honest thought―what are those qualities that make for relationship satisfaction within a long-term relationship or marriage?

Photo via flickr user signora oriente

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